An intranet is a network where employees can create content, communicate, collaborate, get stuff done, and develop the company culture. An extranet is similar to an intranet, but also provides controlled access to authorized customers, vendors, partners, or others outside the company.
For many, understanding the difference between an intranet and extranet can be confusing—especially for those who have never used them before.
Intranet and extranet software supports two different areas in a business, but has similar goals: to improve how employees work with clients and each other. Sometimes they are combined in the same software, other times, separately.
Once integrated into a business model, these portals can make day-to-day activities more efficient, more streamlined, better connected, and more productive.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before you plan on implementing extranet or intranet software, you need to understand how these platforms work, what their features do, and how they will benefit your business. The better you grasp these concepts, the more likely you'll reap their advantages.
The prefix intra means within or inside. Therefore, an intranet is the company's digital workspace that centralizes and streamlines every person, document, tool, conversation, and project in your company.The major difference from an extranet, however, is that an intranet is used internally. While an extranet allows businesses to communicate with clients and vendors, an intranet allows employees and colleagues to work together in a virtual space—for the most part, no outside parties are involved.Businesses use intranet software for a variety of reasons—like extranet software, a company intranet streamlines daily activity, organizes people and data, improves internal communications, and increases employee engagement. It also solves many challenges for remote teams and large organizations by connecting staff with colleagues, information, and projects, no matter where they are.Strong intranet software is packed with features that improve three main areas in your business: communication, collaboration, and connectivity. When you prioritize all three, your staff will work better, smarter, and happier. Let's take a look at how these features work.
There are many reasons why it might be beneficial for your business to implement an intranet.
The intranet is your digital workplace where employees chat directly with colleagues, access department information, and collaborate on projects as efficiently and successfully as possible.
When you provide your business—no matter the industry—with modern tools to streamline these efforts, you create an informed and connected staff, which in turn, optimizes your company's success.
For more details on intranet software, uses, benefits, and more, check out this article: What is an Intranet?
If an intranet is a digital workplace for internal communications, an extranet is a digital platform used for external communications.
Think of it this way:
"Extra" refers to any contact or activity outside of your business, such as clients, vendors, and suppliers.
Therefore, an extranet is a private network where these individuals (clients, vendors, suppliers, partners, etc.) can communicate with you and your employees in a closed digital workspace. Extranet software serves an extremely important role, as it allows for private communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing, document sharing, and data transfer between partners and organizations.
An extranet supports a variety of needs. Large volumes of data can be exchanged between parties via extranet software, for example, thus facilitating easy collaboration. These collaboration tools are particularly useful for companies that need to brainstorm or communicate frequently with clients and customers. It saves hours of time in comparison to email and telephone. Extranet software also monitors and fixes potential bugs or issues that can occur with a company's products or services—almost like built-in quality control.
There are many reasons why it might be beneficial for your business to implement an extranet.
Extranet software plays an integral role for companies that conduct business with other organizations. Sharing large bulks of information, collaborating on projects, and discussing private information with individuals outside of your company can be done in one place. This streamlines projects and creates a pleasant experience for your clients and partners.
Although intranet and extranet software is relatively new, these two mega platforms have advanced rapidly in the last 20 years.
Frontier Technologies was the first major company to release an intranet platform. It was back in 1996—seven years after the invention of the World Wide Web—when Frontier Technologies launched Intranet Genie. Intranet Genie was the first platform to combine document management and messaging for internal communication.
Though Intranet Genie was a revolutionary step in advancing how companies worked internally, it was a clunky platform, difficult to download and even more difficult navigate.
Intranets and extranets evolved from networks that were simplistic in design with minimal augmentation or tweaking capabilities. Companies and their clients or vendors could communicate and share small documents, but that was the extent of it.
So, what can you expect from your intranet these days?
To put it lightly, modern intranet and extranet platforms look and function entirely different than what existed years ago.
Today's platforms are far more versatile and flexible. Intranet and extranet software has multiple communication options, project management tools, document storage, and integrations. In many ways, they're becoming a B2B necessity that simply can't be overlooked any longer.
Sharing large files is easier than ever, real-time conversations are possible, and two-way sync calendars keep everyone on the same page. Intranet and extranet software are full-fledged digital, interactive, collaborative communities for you and your customers. Every action is intuitive. Every feature supports your people.
In the past, intranet and extranet software were two separate entities.
Multiple programs were typically involved, and getting them to communicate and integrate was next to impossible in many cases.
Today, intranet and extranet software live in harmony as part of modern intranet software—one of the biggest advancements to hit the professional sector in recent years.
One of the top benefits of intranet software is that it combines intranet and extranet into a single package, cutting out communication and integration issues of different software platforms. Platforms such as Communifire are equipped with features that enable collaboration with internal employees and external stakeholders.
This way, you can communicate with clients, vendors, employees, and colleagues all in the same place, which saves a great deal of time, money, and energy. Other internal processes such as sales and marketing are also incorporated, with the end result being a "one-stop-shop" digital workplace where you can address a variety of different business needs.
Intranet and extranet software are no longer mutually exclusive, and they're highly beneficial when properly implemented. With intranet software, you can ensure that both internal and external processes are carried out in a smooth manner.
Learning how to use intranet software is easy, and the sooner you get started, the more your business will benefit. Download the free guide below to learn more about launching an intranet for your organization.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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