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Construction and Management Issues for Intranets

 article about Construction and Management Issues for Intranets
The definition of Intranet should be well known to you people by now, as we have already discussed the benefits of implementing one. The following issues should be considered when trying to implement an Intranet for the first time:

 

CONSTRUCTION  ISSUES:

 

      Deciding which services are best suited to an organization

 

This is something, which should be considered planned well before starting to implement an Intranet. Because of Intranets simplicity of technology and use there are various services available, which might be of use, some might only fancy your work and wont give you anything worthy for the cost you may incur over them.

 

So it is necessary to have a critical appraisal of organizations requirements and the services available. E.g. a critical decision to be taken may be to implement email services or web based services to pass an order to the supplier. Both the facilities have got their own advantages and disadvantages, which should be analyzed, in detail before committing to a certain type of service, as an example, powerful reporting features like how much orders have been passed to a supplier, which supplier is costing you less, will not be available from the Intranet if you have implemented an Email service only to pass orders, a web service on the other hand can provide you with extensive reporting facilities as mentioned. But an Email service would certainly cost less as compared to the Web Services.

 

You may have to decide have one or combination of or all of the following services: -

 

1.       Information and Sharing and Access Services (e.g. Search Engines)

2.       Transaction Services (Microsoft Transaction Server or .Net services)

3.       Groupware services (e.g. Lotus)

4.       Language translation services (e.g. MS Office Translation Services)

5.       Customized Services

 

      Architectural and Scope considerations

 

Depending on the type of services which you have decided to implement, the architecture of the network may not only vary as per the organizations requirement but also because of the services requirement, e.g. you may not be able to run Linux based servers if you want to utilize the power of OLE, or ASP lets say.

If you want to integrate your Intranet with your existing MIS, which is running Oracle for Linux, and then you may (thought not necessarily) also have to use Linux as your web server as lets say you are using PHP for Linux or C script for Linux. In such scenario you need to decide which flavor of Linux are you going to use (e.g. RedHat, Slackware, Caledra etc.) and each of these have specific hardware requirements Linux specially may not run properly if installed on un-listed hardware.

 

Exactly the same way some specialized networking devices may be required lets say you dont want to spare a proxy server to provide connectivity to Internet in this case you may use an Internet Connection Sharing Gateway Device which will perform the same task for you.

 

Scope considerations, comes when you want to bound your services to a certain periphery. This is something extracted out from the requirement specification of the organization and the needs to build an Intranet.

 

Scope considerations vary from deciding from number of users to the degree of functionality a service may provide. E.g. if your network cannot accommodate more than 100 users, or lets say you dont want it to, then optimizing your web server for such a limited amount will certainly increase its efficiency and throughput.

 

Whereas, you can also configure the web services to not to execute certain type of scripts and apply different level of restrictions on various services.

 

      Scalability Considerations

 

When deciding scope you should also cater for future scalability, again it may cover from extending number of users to number of services or services functionality.

 

Whenever ever purchasing a license for any hardware or software, or any hardware device that may restrict services unnecessarily, try to have planned before what type of extensibility those hardware and software accommodate for you.

 

For example, your organization wants to implement Intranet in one/few department(s) only as a pilot i.e., and it has got expansion plans as well i.e. willingness to extend to other departments afterwards. Assume that there are 4 out of 6 departments which you want to integrate initially, purchasing 4 ports switch costs you lets say Rs. 800 and 8 ports one costs you Rs. 1000 now which one should be purchased the 4 ports one or 8 ports one. Considering the fact that there will be 2 more departments left to be integrated in the future it wont be wise at all to purchase the 4 ports switch because in future you will need to purchase another 4 ports switch which obviously will cost you Rs. 600 more, because an 8 ports one will give you 4 more ports for additional Rs. 200.

 

Normally financial consultants will consider it a worthless expenditure to spend even Rs. 200 at that time, but they cannot think of two implications that may occur in the future expansion:

 

1.       Unnecessary additional expenditure, which could have been saved

2.       Complex Integration between two switches will be required; you need to put a high bandwidth cable between two switches to integrate them, so it provides you the same speed as that of a single switch.

 

This causes another implication e.g. your switches support up to 100 Mbps max. so you cannot put a cable of higher bandwidth than that, it will be useless and waste of the cables bandwidth. Instead the internal rate of transfer within a switch is done on what we call ASICS fabric which provides over 500 Mbps up to 32Gbps internal transfer of data, thus two integrated switches are in no comparison with a single switch when it comes to transfer speeds.

 

Such matters should be considered well before planning into network hardware, it is the same for Intranet software, there is no need to purchase restricted users licenses rather an enterprise wide license of such products should be availed so maximum number of users can avail the services.

 

Enough with the construction issues now we will have a good look at some INTRANET MANAGEMENT ISSUES:

 

      Security Issues

 

Much cannot be spoken about those issues, these issues are everywhere, but for Intranets they become really specific. As an example following can be considered:

1.       Restricting Number of users according to the requirement, this will stop additional users from logging on the system remotely (ACL)

2.       Restrict Services to process only required type of Data, redundant services and functionality should be disabled

3.       Only required protocols should run

4.       Users can be restricted to Specific clients (ACL)

5.       Service wise restrictions, services can be configured to provide services to specific users only.

 

Though the above list is not exhaustive in any manner but it gives a gist of what can be done to secure your intranet, more details on this issue is beyond the scope of this article.

 

 

      Firewall Maintenance

 

If and only if one is installed you will need to maintain it a lot, the basic definition of a firewall should be known, a piece of software or hardware which helps in filtering data.

 

Maintaining firewalls is more than a routine task, it can be easy and hectic both, depending upon the number of services and protocols running over the network.

e.g. if only two communication ports are used then the administrator can simply put two on and rest off, but what when your network is utilizing over 300 (its normal, really normal) different types of ports in this case you wont like to enter 300 different ports for enabling, you would rather try to block the known danger ports because it will be easy to do as compared to the first option.

 

If second option is utilized which is normally adopted, then a routine maintenance of your firewall is needed every time a vulnerable port is identified.

 

Also, as and when your network scales you also need to update your ACLs(Access Control List) as well.

 

If a new service is programmed for such type of networks then the developers should consider the fact that dynamic (random) selection of ports to make connections wont do any good to the network administrator.

 

      Auditing Information for Future development

 

It is nowadays easy to log different (infact all type of) network activities, the same data can be used to predict future needs of the network plus the weak areas can also be identified.

 

There are several auditing software available as well which may help network administrators in performing the aforementioned tasks. Normally those software come as an extension to different Intranet services, you only need to enable them to put them to work.

 

It is necessary to know that enabling such auditing services result in a notable decrease in networks and servers performance.

 

 

      Content Policy Establishment

 

Organizations should create a policy pertaining to usage of Intranet, the term Content refer to what ever data is transmitted over Intranet it can be emails, web pages etc.

 

A good example can be, Restricting employees to not to use the Intranets email service to send and receive personal messages, this can be achieved by restricting the email server to send and receive messages to and from specific addresses.

 

Employees can allotted a specific quota of time to use different services e.g. from 9-2 only web service can be accessed, email service can only be accessed from 3-4 or something like that.

 

The new technology allows to filter different types of contents which may be helpful in lets say restricting the employees to play network games in work hours.

 

The above were some thought of issues, they may vary and some new ones may come to thinking depending upon the organizations scenario, but if above are well taken care of, then there is no chance that the organization goes to loss because of implementing such a Network. The new issues can only be derivatives of those base issues and the solution inherently will be the variations of the above-mentioned solutions.

 

 

 



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