Many organizations use our Google Apps Login plugin to securely protect a WordPress-based intranet – often a ‘multisite’ installation, making it easy to set up separate spaces for different teams to share information amongst themselves or with the rest of the organization.
WordPress is a great platform for your intranet – the only problem is that by default it is set up to power a public-facing site. So you need to choose your configuration, including a few third-party plugins, to protect your sensitive information from outsiders while making sure that it is easily available to relevant employees.
There is quite a lot of conflicting advice on the web telling you how to build your intranet, and of course this arises because people want their ‘private website’ to do different things.
Introducing our blog series
This five-part blog series will cover a basic setup for a typical corporate intranet – a simple, entirely private website for employees to share information.
The rest of this article will briefly discuss considerations to bear in mind while installing WordPress. The rest of the blog series will cover the plugins and configuration required to secure your website and start using it, including:
- Privacy – excluding unauthorized visitors
- Accessibility – ensuring authorized users can see your website and edit what they are supposed to
- User Management – making sure all employees have accounts and can login easily
- Extra Functionality – beyond simple pages and posts, some ideas for making an engaging intranet
- Google Apps Login – if your organization is on Google Apps, this bonus part will explain how our plugin can make your life as an admin easier
Considerations for your WordPress installation
We will not go into detail about how to choose a hosting company for your intranet, beyond a few high-level pointers below.
You do not need your own servers behind a ‘firewall’
If your organization already operates suitable web servers, then by all means just install WordPress yourself. You may have read advice saying that if you already have a private network then simply install WordPress in its default settings, and then restrict access to that webserver so that it can only be reached within your corporate network.
This might give extra security for a very sensitive intranet, but it’s not a recommended total solution. First, it means that configuration is distributed between the WordPress admin and the network administration team – technically you leave the whole site public from WordPress’ point of view, and have to hope that the network access restrictions stay in place over time. And secondly, it means that the site can’t always be accessed remotely by employees. In any case, it makes sense for employees to be logged into the intranet so that they can interact with it – add comments etc – without having to interrupt their flow because they weren’t required to login to start with.
It’s just a normal website
Having decided not to host the site yourself, you can look for any suitable hosting company. If they can host a ‘normal’ public WordPress site, and can allow you to configure it as necessary, including the plugins we will suggest in future parts of this guide, then they should be able to host your intranet. Just in case you have been advised differently, you do not need any special ‘corporate cloud intranet hosting service’.
Important factors in choosing a hosting company will be the level of technical support you require, as well as any important extras such as backup and restore services. If your intranet is essential to your business at all times, then it is important to have an understanding of what will happen if the server disappears. Will recent backups be restored automatically to new servers? In the worst case, you may want your own backup and restore facilities completely independent of your primary host.
Basic WordPress.com is not sufficient
Some hosting companies will not provide the level of customization that you require. As a minimum, you will need to be able to install your own WordPress plugins in order to enforce privacy. For example, the basic free version of wordpress.com’s own hosting service is very easy to sign up for – but will not allow you to add plugins or configure as a multisite.
We have talked a bit about ‘WordPress multisite’. You don’t need to go into the details in order to proceed with your first stab at an intranet, and you can always reconfigure your site later. Multisite simply describes a way of configuring your WordPress installation to make it appear like a network of different sites, which could even be styled differently, but which share the same fundamental userbase (and database, filesystem, etc). You also get a main ‘root site’ which technically sits above the others.
Multisite is a popular format for large intranets, and that’s why we will generally assume you have a multisite setup in this guide. A reason you might enable multisite is to provide different teams with their own spaces, which they might still allow other teams to view (but perhaps not edit). So your main ‘root site’ might sit at http://intranet.com/, and then your sales team has a site at http://intranet.com/sales, while your marketing team takes http://intranet.com/marketing. All employees can easily have access to view all of these sites, but it will also be possible to ensure only the relevant team can edit those pages, or even to hide entire subsites from certain teams.
The simplest type of multisite to manage is probably the sub-directory type (rather than sub-domains), and other than that the difference is unlikely to make a difference for an intranet. To find out more about this choice, and for the steps to take to enable multisite on your WordPress installation, WordPress’ own instructions are pretty readable – although they go to some length to ensure you make the right choices up front. If it’s a completely new site, don’t worry too much about that, as you can experiment for a bit and just start again if you don’t like where you end up!
In our next installment we will review the options available for making your intranet private. The next part is available here.
Since writing this intranet guide, we received a lot of feedback asking if there was a simpler way to turn WordPress into a typical corporate intranet instead of having to cherry-pick features from a series of free plugins. So we released our own All-In-One Intranet plugin. If you want to cut to the chase and set up your intranet quickly and easily, backed by expert support from ourselves, see more details and purchase here: All-In-One Intranet product page.