If you’re reading this, you’re currently researching how to build an intranet with open source software – am I right!? Well, you’re not alone!
In this article I’m going to explain:
- How I’ve built completely free intranets with open-source software (multiple times).
- How to not get tricked by people offering “open-source” solutions.
- The advantages and disadvantages of these methods.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes – you should know:
Okay – I have to insert the shameless plug here. Did you know that we offer a 100% free-forever version of our intranet service? You can check it out here. As I’ll explain in this post, creating your own open-source intranet may or may not be the best option. Engynn’s free version can be launched in minutes, and is already loaded with tons of GREAT features.
The “Open-Source” Bait and Switch You Need to be Aware Of!
Okay – having been in the same position as you, I know how easy it can be to fall into a fatal(ish) trap!
Let’s be clear here:
Open source means a software that is FREE, allowing you to use, edit, or possibly redistribute the program. View more about the definition of open source here in this awesome FORBES article.
If you google “Open Source Intranet Software“, you’re likely to end up on a website that CLAIMS it’s software is open source, but it’s a lie, you are in danger of falling into a trap! If the website you find is not allowing you FREE and FULL access to download and edit, without limitations, they are NOT open source. These companies think you’re showing “buying signals”. They want you to sign up for their free software, all your data goes on their server, and once you hit their “free usage limit” you have to upgrade or risk losing ALL of your data. To be up-front, Engynn offers a free solution as well (albeit, much more better free features than our competitors/
HOWEVER – let’s be clear again: we do not claim to be “open-source”. This article is simply my way of helping you build an intranet using independent open-source software.
Great- So What Exactly IS The Best Open-Source Software?
In my days, I’ve traveled the seven seas and trekked the long deserts searching for a great open source intranet solution, and guess what – I’ve found it!
Here’s what you should know
The solution is super easy to use, but it still depends on your knowledge. If you don’t know ANYTHING about managing websites or internet technologies, the cold hard truth is there’s really no TRUE open-source solution that will get you started. If this is the case, I recommend using Engynn’s FREE version to get started in minutes. But, I digress.
The best open-source solution is probably not what you were expecting:
WORDPRESS!!!!! And it’s easier than you think.
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system that approximately 1/3 of all websites in the WORLD run on. WordPress is 100% free to download, and at the time of this article there are over 55,084 plugins (add-ons) available, most of them free!
I’ve built over three intranets for massive companies on WordPress, and it has worked like a charm! MANY people in IT or Marketing have experience with wordpress. This solution is literally as simple as creating your intranet like any other website and password protecting it.
What Are The Steps?
STEP 1 – Install WordPress on a domain – I usually set up a sub-domain, something easy for employees to remember like “intranet.companydomain.com”. Installation can be tricky, because typically, many people know how to manage a WordPress site, however don’t know the steps of installing it! If you’re looking for some help, we actually give FREE advice on getting started, and if needed, we can refer you to partners who can install your wordpress package for cheap. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and give us a day or two to respond. Did you know Engynn offers a FREE WORDPRESS TEMPLATE for intranets, with password restriction built in, you can learn more here.
STEP 2 – Lock Down The Installation – Assuming you don’t use our WordPress theme mentioned above, the next thing you need to do is ensure that your WordPress installation is ONLY accessible to logged-in users – you can easily create users in WordPress in minutes. This is effectively what turns your WordPress site into an INTRANET! The best way to do this is to install a word press plugin that will restrict your site to logged in users. My favorite is Restricted Site Access by Jake Goldman. However, there are many other options. Once activated, people who visit your intranet “site” will be forced to log in, allowing you to post materials that may not be appropriate for public viewing. It’s also a good idea to set your intranet website to NON INDEX, meaning search engines can’t find it when people search your brand name.
STEP 3- Build Pages and Add Plugins – Your intranet is NOW ready to be built. You’ll likely have a default WordPress theme installed, however you can add whatever theme you’d like, add content and pages, and even plugins.
Below are some of my favorite plugins for building intranets.
What Are The Best Add-Ons?
- WP PRO FORUM – Allows users to create discussions, communicate with each-other, add questions and answers, and more!
- ULTIMATE MEMBER – Allows you to create USER PROFILES, like you’re managing a social network! How cool is that!
- BUDDYPRESS – A really great tool for turning your website into a social network.
- BUSINESS DIRECTORY – Create a directory of locations in your business.
There’s really so many more great plugins – anything you can think of probably has a plugin available that will do it! I’ve built entire user shopping systems for employees, business reporting dashboards, and more.
You should know! Free Isn’t Always “Free”
So, I’m about to drop you with some knowledge, and bear with me, because I always HATED getting to this point in the article where I have to hear the negatives.
Now that we know HOW to build an open-source intranet, the question is, should we?
The answer might be yes, and it might be no. Here’s why:
- The time it takes you to set up has value! I’ve found that I typically spent over $1,200 in company hours setting up my “free” intranet. I could have just used a free software like Engynn.
- Don’t forget the whole point of your intranet is about cost savings and boosting revenue by improving communication and organization. Honestly, it might just be better to focus on the roll out and leave the tool development to experts like Engynn and even our competitors – we’ve spent thousands of dollars and man-hours perfecting our services to help you achieve what you want.
My First MALWARE Infection Using Open-Source Intranet Software!
I read about possible malware infections ALL the time when I was researching this topic.
“Yeah, that’ll never happen”, I thought to myself. And then it did – twice!!!!!!!!
If you don’t know what you’re doing, tread VERY carefully. There are MILLIONS of hackers/bots that will do their best to get into your password-protected areas. Once they do – you’ll be giving them access to infect your network, steal data, or much worse. Try explaining to your boss that your “no cost solution” is infecting employee computers. If you don’t know how to secure programs like WordPress, and other open-source intranets – just use a no-cost service like Engynn.
As a consultant, I get emails constantly asking questions like: “How Do I Build an Intranet with Open Source Software?” or ” How can I start an intranet chat server with open source software?” or “What are your favorite Open Source Intranet Solutions?“. Whatever form these questions come in – people are usually looking for the same thing. If you’re looking for an open-source intranet solution, the only TRULY free version I’m willing to recommend is WORDPRESS. If you’re unsure of how to install, manage, and keep WordPress secure – instead of falling victim to fake “Open Source”, you should try the free version of Engynn Intranet. It’s secure, easy to start, easier to use, and you can upgrade if you want to or need to!