The difference between an intranet and an extranet is:
An intranet is a network where employees can create content, communicate, collaborate, get stuff done, and develop the company culture.
An extranet is like an intranet, but also provides controlled access to authorized customers, vendors, partners, or others outside the company.
For many, words such as intranet and extranet can cause a fair amount of confusion. It can be difficult to differentiate between the two, especially for those who have never used them in the past.
Intranets and extranets are two different things, and both can be beneficial to businesses in any industry.
Once integrated into a business model, these portals can make day to day activities more efficient, more streamlined, better connected, and more productive.
Understanding the differences between extranets and intranet software isn't as difficult as you might think, and it requires little more than a brief background on each. The better you can grasp these concepts, the more likely it is that you'll benefit from putting them to use.
To better understand how an extranet works, it can be helpful to break the word down.
"Extra," for example, refers to anything that is crucial to your business, yet exists outside of it — such as clients, vendors, and suppliers.
An extranet is basically a private network designed specifically to allow these individuals (clients, vendors, suppliers, partners, etc.) to communicate with you and your employees in a closed virtual space. Extranets serve an extremely important role, as they allow for private communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing, document sharing, and data transfer between organizations.
An extranet can be used to meet a variety of different needs. Large volumes of data can be exchanged between parties via extranets, for example, and they can also be used to create collaboration. The latter is especially useful for companies that need to brainstorm or work back and forth with clients and customers, and it can save hours of time in comparison to using email and/or telephone. Extranets are also used to help monitor and fix any potential bugs or issues that can occur with a company's products or services — almost like built-in quality control.
While extranets certainly have a history, they're still a relatively new addition to the world of most businesses.
In the past, these networks were relatively simplistic in design and allowed for minimal augmentation or tweaking. Companies and their clients or vendors could communicate and perhaps share light documents, but that was about the extent of it.
Today's extranets, on the other hand, are far more versatile and useful. In many ways, they're becoming a B2B necessity that simply can't be overlooked any longer.
Given the fact that technology has advanced at an exponential rate over the course of just the past decade, it should come as no surprise that the extranets of today are an entirely different animal from what was available to businesses years ago.
Sharing large files is easier than ever, real-time conversations are possible, and sharable calendars help keep everyone on the same page. An extranet can be viewed as a full-fledged virtual, interactive, collaborative community for you, your clients, and your customers.
There are a great deal of reasons why it might be beneficial for your business to implement an extranet.
Much like an extranet, an intranet is a private, secured network designed to facilitate collaboration and make it easier to communicate and share documents in real time. The major difference between the two, however, is that an intranet is typically used internally. While an extranet allows businesses to communicate with clients and vendors, an intranet allows employees and colleagues to work with each other in a virtual space — no outside parties are involved.
Businesses use intranets for a variety of reasons ... because just like extranets, intranets can help streamline day to day activity, help organize people and data, improve internal communications, and increase employee engagement. They're also very effective for remote employees, as they will never lose the ability to collaborate with each other like they could in a traditional office setting. As companies become more and more decentralized, intranets hold more importance in the business landscape than ever before.
For more details on intranets, uses, benefits, and more, check out this article: What is an Intranet?
In the past, intranets and extranets were two completely separate entities.
They may have both been used by forward-thinking businesses, but carrying out this task was often easier said than done.
Multiple programs were typically involved, and getting them to communicate and integrate was be next to impossible in many cases.
Today, intranets and extranets live in harmony as a part of social intranet software — one of the biggest advancements to hit the professional sector in recent years.
Social intranet software combines the concepts of intranets and extranets and rolls them up into a single package, cutting out communication and integration issues of different software platforms.
In 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 can also be incorporated, with the end result being a "one stop shop" virtual space where you can address a variety of different business needs.
Extranets and intranets are no longer mutually exclusive, and they're highly beneficial when properly implemented. With social intranet software, you can ensure that both internal and external processes are carried out in a smooth manner.
Learning how to use social intranet software is easy, and the sooner you get started, the more your business will benefit.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions and author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. He’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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