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How to Create an Organizational Intranet (or Extranet) with WordPress

Posted on March 2, 2015 by in Tips & Tricks | 35 comments

How to Create an Organizational Intranet (or Extranet) with WordPress

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

Styling Your Intranet with WordPress Themes

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.

In Conclusion

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.

Article thumbnail via Ozerina Anna // shutterstock.com

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35 Comments

  1. Nathan,

    I never really thought of using WP like this before but I’m sure there will come a time when a client needs something like the systems you have presented here. It never fails to amaze me all the diverse ways WordPress can be utilized.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Adam

    • WordPress is a great solution for intranets I believe. With its easy to use plugins and support from its communities around the internet how could you really go wrong until you need more of an enterprise solution? CentralPoint by Oxcyon or SharePoint by Microsoft would be more of a better fit for this type of environment. Joomla also comes to mind when it comes to building a more complex intranet system. As an administrator for over 10 years I was impressed by CentralPoint after using it and reading the 2014 Gartner report.

  2. Great post! I tried (till blue in the face, blah blah blah) to get my organization to use WordPress for its Intranet and instead was saddled with DNN. So instead of taking about six months from start to finish, it’s taken two years.

  3. I’ve just set up an intranet using Divi, All in One Intranet, and Google Drive Embedder (both plugins from the very helpful Dan Lester). Placing files on Google is faster than FTP and more friendly, and they are then instantly visible on the site with no further action required. If required, the client can upload files to Google drive through a given page without a Google account. My client’s staff can now log in to a private site and access files from anywhere – and I can manage from anywhere too. I would recommend this solution.

  4. Interesting, the problem i have with this is that wordpress plugin support is notoriously flaky. So, if i opt for one of these solutions and need help in two years, will the developer still be around to help me? That being said, the current prices for many of these corporate file sharing/extranet solutions is so expensive that this warrants another look.

    thanks

    • Yes, but even if the developer isn’t around, you know that WordPress will be along with a HUGE community of other developers and users who could probably help you if a problem should arise.

  5. Great post! I am working in a big hospital and we want to migrate to WordPress using multisite. But I think to use a multisite solution for Intranet and corporate website. Do you think is a good idea?

    I want to use Divi for both projects and I think to create some templates (with Divi).

  6. I’ve been looking into creating an extranet. This is super helpful information – thanks!

    And yes, weird, cosmology, comparative mythology? Perhaps it takes someone like that to get all the connection the internet can make.:)

  7. Hi Guys,
    Given the topic I was surprised not to see the Canadian Simple Intranet solution listed. Worth a review of what they’ve developed. http://www.simpleintranet.org/
    Its good Eh!? 🙂

    From Brisbane, Australia

  8. Nice post though!!!

    This is awesome and it could bring me back to wordpress ,lols

    I ran to blogger but reading this, I will be coming back but seeking a nice host…….. Could you help me ?

  9. Very important information. Most firms used Windows product and other intranet package to power their intranet/extranet and I’m yet to see one from WordPress. However, thank you for this post, its very useful for small business agency like us!. Please, can you kindly do a re post on how to configure the intranet on Windows?

    Cheers 🙂

  10. Very interesting article! I have one question after reading (or many, but this one for now): How wise is it to have one (1) wp-site both as a public website and as a extranet for a SMB? I guess a visual login is a hazard for boots? Anyone have experience with this, and how did you go about?

    • Hi! I have the same question!
      Do you came to a conclusion? And if so, can you give me some advice?
      Thanks a bunch!

      • We use WP for both our external Websites and our Intranet. We have solved the security issue by simply installing WP on multiple different virtual servers. Security can then be tailored per machine.

        Also, by using Proxmox for the virtualisation, CentOS as the OS , MariaDB as theDB and WP for the sites we do not need to worry about the cost for having multiple virtual servers.

  11. Great post. Now I am wondering if there is a way using wordpress to create an online coud-based database – we are already running into the thousands of contacts and facebook likes, and we expect these to rise shortly into the tens of thousands. So this is about to become important. We have looked at the online databases available but they require expensive monthly payments which wouldn’t be a problem for the large companies but for a small non-profit like ourselves is beyond our budget. We came across only one free (shareware) online database but it is far too amateurish.
    Is there a way that we could use wordpress in some way to create a database?
    Pat

    • Have you tried Odoo? or maybe Elgg?

  12. This isn’t that bad to setup. Nice to know.

  13. This looks like it would be suitable for a small organisation where there is basically one/small number of people pushing out content to a single ‘group’ of staff, but i dont think it would be suitable for larger orgs where you need robust and properly authenticated content management and workflow which, in these times, is critical otherwise you essentially just have a website which is duplicating content that already exists either on the network or elsewhere, which isnt very efficient.

  14. This is very helpful. Normally people had to buy expensive software or get a custom built for themselves by paying top dollar to a developer. But with word-press cost of installing an intranet would come at a fraction of the above.

  15. Hi,
    I’m just setting up my intranet with DIVI and I’m going to use some of your advices, thank you very much.
    I’ve only a problem: my boss wants that every employee fills a time sheet of every activities. Activities are divided in areas and groups. How can I do it?
    thank you!

    • I use Ninja Forms with Divi. It offers front-end posting.

  16. Interesting ! going to propose this to the next meeting. I’ll even use some sentences of your article in my powerpoint presentation 😛

  17. Great resource! I remember seeing somewhere an article on how to use DIVI as a intranet (or extranet) site. It would be great to see an article like that.

  18. Nice work slipping DIVI in there as a viable option. I can confirm that it does in fact work well as an extranet especially when combined with a good WIKI plugin, buddypress, and wpmudevs Membership2 plugin.

  19. can you change intranet to extranet?

  20. Hi, the informatión on this article is very helpful, but i have a problem, my intranet with wordpress is ok, but when i tried to access like extranet (http:// my.public.ip/wordpress) the CSS are broken; how to solve that?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Hi David, sorry you’re having that problem. Personally, I’m not really sure why that’s happening. However, if you are an Elegant Theme’s customer and using an Elegant Theme, then you can go to our support forums and/or create a support ticket.

  21. Hi
    When do you think that the EXTRA theme will be?

  22. Hello,

    I have a blog on google blogger and I was wondering if I can make an intranet like, Intranet, myblog.com based on blogger in just under a subdomain. ?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Not that I am aware of. Unfortunately, Blogger is not a very flexible platform.

  23. Man are you speaking my language with this post! I’m actually in the process of creating a network right now for this open source project I’m launching. Although I’m building it by using the WP Rest API, I did create this client a while back with Node-Webkit https://github.com/adamapps/aDOM that allows you to access your WP install through the server-side UI. I just wanted to say that if you just create a WP Network and install this plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-force-login/ that forces everyone to login to view the site, you don’t have to login to your specific url on the network. Just send everyone to the root domain for the network and WordPress will route you to your account space according to your login credentials. Great post btw!

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Wow that plugin sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Hi,
    Do you know a plugin that can be add to an existing theme. With this plugin I would like to create an intranet + a member list page visible to all, so everyone can research for someone and see there info?

    Thanks a lot
    Nancy

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