Or is it?
New approaches and technology are now challenging the concept that intranets must be stored within your organisation's direct structure.
For instance in Australian government there is Govdex. This wiki-based extranet system meets secret level Federal government provisions and is free for government users.
It doesn't stretch this system too far to consider it as suitable as an intranet platform for any small government agencies with no intranet budget.
As it is wiki-based it provides basic content management functionality, including a news tool and discussion board - which is more intranet functionality than most smaller agencies can claim now.
For example I've recently worked with another area to implement a secure Govdex wiki space as a micro intranet for a key community within my agency. This will expand into an extranet over time, but it functions now just like any other intranet platform.
Govdex isn't the only option on the horizon.
LinkedIn, a business networking site, is planning to release a series of work-related tools to support collaboration between staff members. These would sit in secure areas of LinkedIn, but on the intranet.
This was discussed in a recent New York Times article, At Social Site, Only the Businesslike Need Apply
One new product, Company Groups, automatically gathers all the employees from a company who use LinkedIn into a single, private Web forum. Employees can pose questions to each other, and share and discuss news articles about their industry.
Soon, LinkedIn plans to add additional features, like a group calendar, and let independent developers contribute their own programs that will allow employees to collaborate on projects.
The idea is to let firms exploit their employees’ social connections, institutional memories and special skills — knowledge that large, geographically dispersed companies often have a difficult time obtaining.
Behind LinkedIn, other start-ups are also entering this space, providing for significant innovation to best address organsational space needs.
This is very interesting news for anyone with a small budget and need for a significant intranet.
Rather than investing in building or buying a content management system, developing social tools or managing intranet hardware and software, simply use openly available software to facilitate it.
So what would it take to make you consider building your intranet outside the firewall?