Google Sites as an enterprise intranet platform

Ian Hardenburgh considers the advantages and disadvantages of Google Sites for use as an enterprise intranet.

An Intranet can offer a lot to the enterprise in terms of content and document management for information workers needing to collaborate in teams. Depending on business need, an organization may require an advanced set of features in order to address these activities on at least a fundamental basis. And so long as the more advanced built-in reporting and workflow elements aren't necessitated, as can be seen with certain web application platforms like Microsoft S SharePoint, Google Sites can prove to be an extremely low-cost, yet effective, alternative to your more traditional CMS type of solution. Furthermore, given a serious commitment to some kind of integrated Google App Engine initiative, in order to fill the gap with some of its intranet deficiencies, Google Sites' scalability holds the potential to become relatively limitless.

Google Sites comes standard with Google Apps, the online productivity suite that is probably best known for its email, calendaring, and document creation products. Surprisingly though, Google Sites actually is centrally situated to all of them, when considering the fact that it can pull in content from both Google Calendar and Google Docs, and considering the idea that it offers numerous email integration capabilities. This is accomplished mostly through precompiled or custom (Google App Engine) scripts known as gadgets.

A user does most of his/her styling through a wiki-like interface that also allows for customized HTML and CSS web presentation. However, Google Sites WYSIWYG editor alone allows for your everyday user to perform many of the same design tasks that can be accomplished with any kind of markup language, not just HTML. In fact, outside of your more complex layout situations, it's probably better to use Google Site's GUI for development, as the internal mechanism for rendering code is a little bit dodgy.

Style and functional elements and Google gadgets for point-and-click inserting into web/wiki page...

Given Google Sites' development and design features, one would think it would make for an ideal platform for a company intranet. All the basic makings are there for creating and collaborating on documents, projects, team sites -- you name it. Additionally, an on-premise infrastructure is superseded by the idea that everything is hosted in Google's cloud. Conversely though, this ability to make Google Sites what you want can also serve as a disadvantage, as continuity across the enterprise becomes a concern.

The usual goal of each department, team or set of activities in an organization is to apply the same type of strategy for intranet site development throughout the company and to discourage information silos, in favor of sharing of knowledge across the enterprise. If control and standardization are important, your organization would be much better served through platforms like SharePoint, where rules permeate throughout each component. On top of this, most content management systems allow for access control down to each individual article or functional element.

As mentioned before, Google Sites certainly has the scalability to make up for this lack of standardization, but this is something entirely left to the organization employing its use. Notwithstanding, Google Sites at least warrants examination, as it can serve as a viable and easy-to-use communications tool amongst enterprise users.

See also:

10 myths about Google Sites debunked and dispelled