Setting up a Home Intranet

While a business setting up their own intranet would install quite a few individual component products (web server, language, database, mail server, domain server etc), there is a much easier alternative to achieve an equivalent result at home. To set up a home intranet quickly and easily you can download and install one combined package onto one computer and then make a one line change in a file on each of the other computers so that they are directed to that computer for their intranet access.

There are a few alternative packages available that allow you to install a web server environment onto your own computer. The one I recommend is XAMPP which has versions available to run on Windows, Linux and Mac. This package contains everything you need to set up your own intranet site and much more. It includes Apache web server, MySQL database, both PHP and Perl programming languages, phpMyAdmin (for maintaining your database), Webalizer (to track visitors) and a range of additional optional products that you may or may not need. This package is not only free but it also takes a lot of the hard work out of configuring all of the various components to work together while still being easy to modify if your install requirements are slightly different from the default.

You need to install this on the computer that you are going to use as the server for your intranet. Unlike with businesses where there will probably be a dedicated computer where the intranet will run (possibly shared with other networking services), for your home intranet this will probably be on a computer that someone in the family also uses to do all their computer work on. Since this computer needs to be on for the intranet to be available the best choice for the computer to use is the one that is used the most as that will reduce the amount of time when the computer needs to be on to make the intranet available where it is not also being used for other purposes.

Once you have your web server installed you will be able to access it from that computer using http://localhost as the address. The person using that computer can now upload all of the content for your intranet simply by moving all of the required files into the public_html folder that was created by the server install.

At this point all of the computers on your home network can access your intranet but the way that they can do so is not consistent with the way people are used to accessing web sites. All of the network can access the intranet by typing in the IP address of the computer hosting the intranet in their browser address bar. The final step in setting up the intranet to be friendlier is to update all of the computers to reference the intranet using your own custom domain name instead of using the IP address.

Assuming that the computers on your network are running Windows we finish setting up the intranet by adding one extra line into the hosts file on each computer (there are equivalents for other operating systems but as most home computers run Windows I'll explain how to do it on that operating system). Note that this file will be in one of the operating system folders on your computer and the file does not have a file extension. You will probably also find a file called hosts.sam in the same folder which is a sample file showing you how the entries in the hosts file need to be defined.

To set up the entry in the hosts file you need to know the IP address of the computer you installed your intrant on and also decide on a domain name for your intranet. You then simply add the same line into the hosts file of all the computers on your network. So if the computer hosting the intranet has an IP address of and you decided you want to be able to access your intranet using http://home then you'd add the following line into each of the hosts files: home # our home intranet

You can leave the part from the # onward off if you want but I suggest that you put it there as a reminder of what that line is for so that you don't accidentally delete it if you ever need to do a cleanup of the file.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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