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Intranet Ideas

Short, practical tips on building better intranets.

The difference between intranets and portals

Monday, February 14, 2005  

The words 'intranet' and 'portal'* are often used interchangeably by IT professionals, and their meaning seems to be evolving quickly. Here's what each term means to me:

An intranet...

  • Is an internal web site or web application
  • Is built primarily for employees
  • Is accessed securely
  • Is often accessible only on the company's internal network
  • Sometimes refers to the entire collection of internal web sites and web applications

A portal...

  • Serves as the internal home page for a company
  • Is the internal equivalent of or
  • Often consolidates many intranets
  • May include single sign-on capabilities
  • May or may not be powered by a commercial software package

So a portal is an intranet application in itself. The portal is on the collective 'intranet'. And the portal consolidates many intranets. No wonder everyone is confused.

*For the purpose of this article, 'portal' refers to an enterprise or corporate portal.

About the Author

I'm Chris McGrath, an intranet consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I've been working on intranets since 1997, and on plain ol' web sites for even longer. I run One Intranets, the firm that co-created ThoughtFarmer -- an enterprise collaboration platform for Windows-based intranets.