For a Windows 95/98/NT LAN

Intranet Overview
For those of you that are unfamiliar with an Intranet, there now follows a brief summery what they are and why you may need one.

The simplest way to describe an intranet is to say that it is a 'private internet' site. Your pages can be produced using the same tools that are used to create your web pages for you web site on the Internet. They can contain all the features of web pages ie graphics, videos animations etc without any of the delays normally associated with the internet. The intranet can be based around a single PC, or a large number of PC's connected together on a network.

Do I need one? - A working example
Any business that generates information could benefit from an intranet. An example: You work for a busy manufacturing company that has a very large product range, but produces goods to order. As the range of products is very diverse people could 'forget' what the product looked like, (especially if it was a few years old) which features and modifications it supported or required etc. Looking through the filing cabinet for various documents can be pretty time consuming, and often the vital piece of paper would have gone missing. Duplicating paper copies and having your own local records often fails if the design changes as you need to be certain that all the paper copies are updated. Errors can easily occur. Large amounts of information may also be held on individuals computers, that would become in accessible if the computer was switched off when they went home.

An Intranet eliminates all this chaos by storing all your information in a central location, in a format that any type of computer equipped with a web browser can view. Using simple database scripts, company wide logs of items such as software changes, or new production methods can quickly be entered into the system by filling in a simple form in the web browser. This information can then be available from any computer on the network. These could be Apple Mac's or PC's. In fact any device able to display a web page! With the appropiate security arrangements the Intranet can be connected to to the public Internet, so salesmen on the road could find out the current stock situation of product x.

Having all the data on one central computer also makes it easier to back up. By converting all your data into web pages this information is made available to all your workers, requiring nothing more than a web browser. The intranet can link to PDF files, Word Documents, Excel Spread sheets, scanned drawings all of which the current crop of web browsers are able to display. (To display ms word docs in a web browser will need either word itself or a word viewer. The same applies to any type of non html file) As the site grows, and it will your menu system may not always be up to the task of locating certain items of information. At this point you will need a search engine.

How do I add a Search Engine
To add search to an intranet site you will need a web server as this will allow the processing of ASP scripts, (Active Server Pages). Now before you start to panic, setting up a web server is very simple. Infact, Windows 98 is shipped with a free one, as is Windows NT.

Web Server
Using a web server on your intranet opens up vastly more functionality. By running scripts on the web server you will now have the power to extract data from a database, add data to a database and run a search engine from within the web browser just like Yahoo or AltaVista to name but a few. Basically the ASP script can locate the required data from your intranet site and put it all together in the way that you want. The results are generated on the webserver and only get sent to the browser that made the request. As I stated earlier, Windows 98 is supplied with a free web server, called PWS, Personal Web Server. Windows NT has something called IIS, Internet Information Server. Using PWS on a Windows 95/98 network saves the hassle of setting up a Windows NT machine, which may not be economical for a small business. PWS could be set up on the very same PC that you use for your day to day work, and is ideal for use with a small number of users.