Should you put your intranet in the cloud?

By Deane Barker on October 10, 2009

Intranet in the cloud : A nice rant about how more companies should host their intranets externally, rather than inside their own infrastructure.

I was recently pressed on the subject of a “hosted intranet” and why an organization shouldn’t outsource their intranet to “the cloud.” God forbid we let professionals who know what they’re doing maintain our second-rate, after-though, cost-center of an intranet!

It is baffling to me that the intranet isn’t hosted externally for more organizations. Well, I’m well versed with clueless executives with knee-jerk reactions around “security”, privacy, and “the way things have always been done” but I guess I’m naïve to have faith that more would start to embrace the 21st century. If these dolts can Facebook then surely there’s hope, right?

At first glance, this fits with my experience.  Intranets should be developed under the auspices of Business Communications, rather than IT.  Blend does continuing technical maintenance of two large-ish intranets, and in both cases, we don’t work directly under IT.  The IT staff of the companies involved are very helpful, but the intranet is not their primary concern.  They only get involved when there’s a problem.

However, my second reaction to hosting an intranet in a cloud is that intranets often (hopefully) get embedded deep into the technical infrastructure of a company.  With any luck, they’re more than just tacked-on news article generators, but instead integrate with internal tools and resources like scheduling, task management, Active Directory, messaging, and the like.

Integrating a system this deep can be hard to do remotely.  I was just looking at Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud the other day, which puts a cloud of machines local to your network.  While this would certainly work, there would likely be latency issues, and you have to ask what the point is, then.  If your intranet is crippled when it can’t talk closely with other, internal systems with crazy-fast response times, then what’s the point of having it in the cloud in the first place?