How to Create an Organizational Intranet or Extranet Network with WordPress

Via:MyTutorialGuru.com

Many organizations–from companies, to non-profits, to loose collaborations, and more–need a digital space to themselves that is private. Somewhere they can post messages, status updates, or anything else they feel is necessary to keep them all on the same page and moving forward.

Many organizations choose to use what is called an intranet (or extranet) to accomplish this task. In today’s post, I’ll be going over how you can create both with WordPress.

What is an Intranet (or Extranet)?

An intranet is a computer network that uses internet protocol technology to create an internal network for members of an organization to share information. Or in other words, it’s sort of like a private internet for a group or company that lives on a local server.

Similarly, an Extranet is the same thing only it lives in the cloud and is usually used when the group or organization in question is distributed and cannot easily access the same local server.

Why Use WordPress for an Intranet?

A lot of times having an intranet is about having easy to access documentation, announcements, and training materials. All of which can be easily accomplished with even the barest bones WordPress blogging installation. With a little effort though, WordPress can even match some of the more advanced features of fully fledged intra and extranet services/platforms.

Such as:

  • Providing a company directory
  • A company calendar
  • Collarboration tools
  • Private social networking
  • Downloadable company documents
  • Project management
  • and more

The main difference between those and WordPress being that most (maybe even all) of those services/platforms require a per person, per month fee that can quickly add up. With WordPress, you basically just need to pay for your startup costs–which include hosting (for extranets), theme, and plugins–and you’re done!

Setting up a Basic WordPress Intranet

In order to create a local intranet you will first have to create a local network for either Windows, Mac, or Linux. They you will need to do a local installation of WordPress that your network users can log into.

Since Windows and Mac are by far the more popular options here I’ll include some basic steps for accomplishing this below. I did not have a Windows machine or network available to test this out on but I was able to get the Mac version to work.

If for some reason either method does not work for you I would consult the more detailed networking documentation on either Apple.com or Windows.com.

Create a Windows Network

install wordpress locally windows

I couldn’t find any documentation for how to create a Windows 8 network on the Windows website but the following should work for Windows 7.

1. Make sure each computer has a router and network adapter. Most laptops come with a wireless network adapter already installed.

2. Set up your routers using the latest version of Windows Connect Now or the setup disk that came with you router.

3. Using the Help and Support options, add each device or computer you want included to the network.

4. Create a homegroup and turn on your file and printer sharing options.

Detailed instructions for each of the above steps can be found here.

Next, follow these instructions to install WordPress Locally for Windows. When complete, those within your local network should be able to access this installation of WordPress.

Technically speaking you now have a WordPress intranet, but the theme and plugins you choose to use on this WordPress installation will ultimately make or break the experience.

Create a Mac Network

installWPLocalMAC

Thankfully, creating a network with Macs is a bit easier than with Windows.

1. Click on the Airport icon in your top menu (on the right).

2. Select, “Create Network”.

3. Name your network.

4. Give your network a channel.

5. Connect your other computers to this new network using their Airports.

Next, follow these instructions to install WordPress Locally for Mac. When complete, those within your local network should be able to access this installation of WordPress.

Again, this is technically already a WordPress intranet at this point. However, it has none of the functionality that usually denotes one. You’ll have to choose the proper theme and plugins to craft the intranet experience you and your organization is after.

Need (or Want) a WordPress Extranet Instead?

There are a number of reasons why you might opt for an extranet instead of an intranet. Perhaps you have a distributed team? Perhaps you want everyone to easily be able to access your private network from home? Or perhaps it’s just your preference.

The easiest way to do this of course is to set up a regular hosted WordPress site but use a plugin to limit site access. With this type of setup literally anyone you invite could be a part of your extranet and nothing outside of the scope of operating and managing a typical WordPress website would be required.

From a security standpoint however some may feel this is too open and wish to restrict access even further. To do this, you will need to edit your WordPress install’s .htaccess file to limit the IP addresses with access to your install.

You can use the following code:

order deny, allow
deny from all
allow from 111.222.33.44

Replacing the IP address above with your own of course. If more are required simply create a new line for each one.

Adding Intranet Features & Functionality via Plugins

By following the instructions above, you now have a WordPress install that can function as your organization’s intra or extranet. What really makes it one though is what you do with it from here.

The plugins I’ve listed below are a great start (and a few optional ideas) to getting any WordPress intranet off the ground. Any additional features can most likely be found in other plugins either via the official repository or through a third party.

All-In-One Intranet

All In One Intranet

The number-one thing you need for an intranet is privacy. It doesn’t really work if just anyone can view and/or login to your WordPress site. That’s why this simple, free plugin is most likely essential to getting your intranet up and running.

It’s three main features are:

Privacy–make sure only approved users can register and log in.

Login redirect–instead of going to their profile in the backend of WordPress when they login, your users should probably hit the homepage (or any page you decide) upon logging in. This makes that easy.

Auto Logout–for all those users who might leave the intranet up on their device and walk away.

There is also a premium version of this plugin with many more features available.

Price: FREE | More Information

WordPress Multisite

WordPress multisite isn’t a plugin. It’s a free feature of WordPress that can be activated. What it does is allow you to create an unlimited number of WordPress installs under just one–among many other cool things.

As it concerns intranets and extranets, WordPress multisite is a great way to give specific subgroups and teams their own space while keeping everything tied together and manageable by a single super admin and sub admins.

Check out Kevin Muldoon’s fantastic guide to WordPress Multisite here on the ET blog.

BuddyPress

BuddyPress.org

BuddyPress is a powerful, free plugin that adds allows you to turn your WordPress install into a social network. This has seemingly endless possibilities for practical application within a WordPress intranet. Especially when combined with Multisite.

Check out Andy Leverenz’s introduction to BuddyPress here on the ET blog.

Price: FREE | More Information

bbPress

bbPress.org

bbPress is a free WordPress plugin for easily creating forums. Since gathering feedback and encouraging conversation is a huge part of what intranets are generally used for, bbPress is a natural choice.

Price: FREE | More Information

BadgeOS (and BadgeOS Community Add-on)

BadgeOS

BadgeOS allows you to add achievement badges to WordPress. This feature could be a great way to reward participation.

Price: FREE | More Information

New Blog Templates Plugin

New Blog Templates Plugin

For anyone who opts to use multisite, this plugin will allow you to provide ready to use templates for anyone in need of their own digital space within your larger intranet. With a single click you will be able to deploy them a new blog area where they can then customize further if need be.

Price: $19 | More Information

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is the most advanced form builder for WordPress. An organizational intranet will no doubt have many uses for high quality forms that putting Gravity Forms to use makes a lot of sense.

Price: $39 | More Information

Knowledge Base

knowledge base

Documentation is often key to any intranet. Knowledge Base makes creating and organizing an online knowledge base easier and more attractive than simply using blog posts.

Price: $20 | More Information

CollabPress

CollabPress

CollabPress offers you the ability to track and manage an unlimited amount of projects right from within WordPress.

Price: FREE | More Information

It’s hard to say which type of WordPress theme is right for your particular intranet because I don’t know what you plan to use it for. You could want to put an emphasis on documentation, or an internal social network, or a forum, or announcements, or any number of other things.

Ultimately, there are just too many options to list theme examples for all of them–let alone multiples for each. That said though, I’ve included a few themes below as “inspiration” in case you are still having trouble seeing how this particular WordPress use case (intra/extranet) could look like in action.

 P2

P2 theme

P2 is a free WordPress theme designed with micro-blogging and status updating in mind. It’s the perfect theme for posting quick updates to the team.

P2 has also been child themed by those looking to refine the design and keep the essence of what P2 turns WordPress into. Two notable child themes are Mercury and Houston. Both are also free.

Price: FREE | More Information

Helpful Intranet

Helpful Intranet

Helpful Intranet is another free option by the folks at Helpful Technology. It’s available for download on GitHub and it powers a showcase website which functions as its demo–so you can see how its been designed to be put to use.

Price: FREE | More Information

Kleo

Kleo

Kleo is an example of a theme designed specifically with BuddyPress in mind. This kind of styling could save you a lot of time customizing things for your users.

Price: $63 | More Information

Divi

Divi

Divi is designed to be flexible and beautiful no matter what you use it for. I’m confident it would work quite well as an intranet theme too.

Price: $69 | More Information

As I mentioned above, these are far from the only themes you could use to style your WordPress intranet or extranet. They’re just a few ideas to get the ball rolling. You can use any theme, including BuddyPress themes, bbPress themes, Multisite themes, knowledge base themes and more.

To be honest, I might even try experimenting with some free WordPress themes out of the directory before dropping a lot of money on a fancy premium theme. The main reason being, it is probably more likely that your average plugin will be compatible with say, TwentyTwelve, than whatever monster you pick up at Themeforest. Just a thought.

WordPress is a great platform for creating an organizational intranet. With the tools and styling available to WordPress users via plugins and themes there’s really not much it can’t do.

Are you interested in using WordPress as an intranet? Have you done it already? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below.
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Posted on August 2, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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