Intranet vs. Extranet: Differences & Comparison (With Examples)

In 1996, IBM was in charge of the digital operation for the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Tens of millions of dollars were invested to provide the world with Olympic news and updates. IBM used an extranet system to handle distributing event results to news organizations.

The system failed. Constant delays, crashes and errors. It was one of the first public failures of internet infrastructure. It also entered extranet into the lexicon.

Twenty-five years after the Atlanta incident, intranets and extranets have become reliable IT and business tools. This article breaks down the similarities and differences between these concepts.

Collaborative Tools

Intranet and Extranet: What is the Difference?

An intranet is a private network used by employees to communicate and collaborate. They can also use the company intranet to create content, complete their work, and engage in the company culture.

An extranet is a private network, too. It works similarly to a company intranet; however an extranet allows access to authorized users from outside the company. These external users may include suppliers and partners.

Similarities between Intranet and Extranet

Both allow organizations to share documents (especially large ones), calendars, and projects in a single location. Intranets and extranets also make it easier for customers, partners, in-house employees, and remote workers to collaborate.

Difference between Intranet and Extranet

An intranet is typically accessed through a cloud-based portal. Administrators assign a login, password, and permissions to employees. Once the employee is given access, they can communicate with co-workers, managers, and executives. The employee also has access to forms, documents, and company manuals within the scope of their permissions.

An extranet is accessed by authorized users through a secure, web-based login. It allows the clients, vendors, or suppliers to communicate with a business’s employees. The extranet only allows these authorized users to have limited access to the business’s documents and files.

For example, a supplier would be able to access their invoices and securely share product information with a manufacturing business. The supplier will also be able to communicate with the company’s customer service representatives and accounting staff.

What is an Intranet?

An intranet functions as a company’s private communication network. It’s a private website for employees with company news, information, documents, and business process tools that are critical for completing work. The intranet can be cloud-based, hosted on-site, or on off-site servers.

The first intranets came into use during the 1990s. At that time, companies realized they could adopt the same type of technology from the newly created World Wide Web and apply it for their own use to improve internal communication collaboration.

Companies were still relying on paper records at that time. If they were using electronic files, they were challenging for employees to use. A company intranet made it much easier for employees to locate the information they needed. Files could be found through rudimentary search engines for the first time. Some companies added resources like IT support tickets.

Over time, however, intranets did not keep up with developing technology. They were challenging to build and maintain. Many of them were thought of as online filing cabinets for documents as opposed to a valuable tool for internal communications and employee engagement. Technology has now caught up, and a modern intranet offers many valuable benefits to digital workplaces of all sizes.

 

What are the Benefits of an Intranet?

An intranet offers multiple advantages to a company. Some examples are listed below.

1. Boosts Employee Productivity

The intranet software suite of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools makes it easier and more convenient for employees to accomplish tasks. There is less time wasted looking for “how” to get things done and more time spent productively.

2. Creates a Transparent Company Culture

It is more important than ever that employees feel comfortable at work. When they can share their ideas and opinions, they have better, more positive relationships with their co-workers and managers. Employees then contribute more and have longer tenures.

3. Streamlines Employee Onboarding

New employee forms and onboarding material can be presented to the new team member in a neat package through the company intranet. Digital documents can be forwarded automatically to Human Resources when completed.

4. Connects the Company Across Multiple Locations

The company intranet is the central hub for the business. It connects employees working in the home office, as well as those who work from satellite offices, their own homes, and from the road. No matter where the employees are based, the intranet keeps them connected to the company and each other.

5. Helps Employees Find Information Quickly

A global search feature makes finding information using the intranet a quick and easy process. Employees can use the intranet platform to search through intranet content and other platforms such as Office 365 applications or Google Workspace documents. This eliminates the need to open multiple tabs or open several apps to search for something, and allows the intranet to be a central tool for information.

 

What are the Business Use Cases of an Intranet?

An intranet has several business use cases. The following are some common examples:

1. Job Board

Let employees know about openings within the company by posting them on a dedicated job board or through the employee social advocacy feature. Encourage current employees to share this information with their friends, family members, and personal social networks to get positions filled quickly.

2. Employee Recognition Center

It’s important to celebrate and congratulate employee milestones, the company social intranet is an ideal way to do so. Employees who go above and beyond can be recognized for their efforts.

3. Video Center

Provide employees with access to all the company videos in one convenient location. They can search for the training materials, marketing tools, onboarding resources, and more. The intranet will give employees access to internally hosted video material and have links to external video content.

4. Communities of Practice

Create a specialized community around a specific area of interest. Allow expert employees to share their knowledge by writing content, providing analysis and sharing their work.

5. Town Hall

A town hall gives employees a central location to hear company news and updates. Workers can ask questions or provide feedback through real-time chat.

 

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Examples of Intranets

The following are examples of intranets.

1. Randstad France: HR Services

Randstad is an international leader in the HR services industry. The company has 38 locations and employs more than 38,000 people. In 2016, Randstad worked with LumApps to build an intranet to connect 4,800 employees. Content is completely personalized to each employee, based on their business group. Employees have a their own dashboard they can personalize with calendar, news, weather forecast, and RSS feed widgets.

2. Imerys: Mineral-based Specialty Solutions

Imerys is a leading company in the mining industry. It employs more than 16,000 people at 250 locations. The company’s business interests include quarries, mines, processing plants, offices, and technology centers. Imerys and LumApps worked together to create an intranet that would connect employees worldwide. The intranet platform is fully integrated with Google Workspace and includes access to company content, news, business communities, and social discussions.

3. Schnuck Markets: Supermarket Chain

Schnuck Markets is a supermarket chain based in St. Louis, Missouri. The family-owned business has more than 14,000 employees in 113 locations across the US. Schnuck and LumApps worked together to develop an intranet that integrated Google technology. It included a centralized homepage, store pages, an executive corner, spotlight stories, and more. As a retail chain, mobile access was crucial. The intranet can be accessed through mobile devices by store employees.

What is an Extranet?

An extranet is a private network. It allows business partners, suppliers, and other authorized parties to communicate. The extranet is accessible to designated people from outside the company. It can be shared by more than one organization, such as a business that allows its vendors to access the company extranet for product and billing purposes.

The extranet is used for business-to-business functions. It’s ideal for exchanging large volumes of data between business partners. An extranet can also be used to monitor issues and deal with any issues relating to a company’s products and services.

What are the Benefits of an Extranet?

A company extranet offers several benefits. The following are some examples:

1. Reduces Errors

An extranet allows a company to give specific groups access to specific information. Everyone has access to the same information, which reduces the likelihood of communication errors.

2. Efficient Information Sharing

An extranet provides information access for key players, especially if it is time-sensitive. Price lists, special discounts, flash sales, and rush orders are examples of items that may need to be communicated quickly.

3. Increases Customer Loyalty

Extranets allow customers to review their orders, get information about products, and connect with customer service representatives. They can log into the system to find the information they need or get priority attention for their concerns.

4. Documents are Secure

Documents and information uploaded to the extranet are kept safe. They cannot be accessed by anyone without the proper permission and credentials. All versions of a document are conveniently stored in one place and located quickly.

5. Setup is Easy

Modern extranets need little to no help from a company’s IT department to set up. These extranets are generally cloud-based and user-friendly. With an easy-to-use platform, the modern version is more economical, too.

What are Business Use Cases of an Extranet?

When a company allows its vendors, suppliers, partners, and others access to its extranet, these parties can use it in many ways, including:

1. Customers Access Their Order History

In a retail business, customers can access their order histories. They can see their previous orders, how often they order products, and what quantities they have ordered. The customers can also see the amounts of their orders to reconcile with their own accounting records.

2. Price List Changes Communicated Right Away

No customer wants to be surprised with pricing changes. When prices have to be increased, they should be informed immediately. The new price list can be uploaded to the extranet where those affected can have access without delay.

3. Less Time to Get Products to Market

An extranet can help manufacturers get their products to market faster by making it more convenient for suppliers to review specifications and proposals. Clients and partners can see current information on projects in real-time.

4. Clearer Communication with Distributors

A company’s marketing or product department can use its extranet to update its distributors on its new pricing structures, product information, etc. The extranet gets the information out to the distributors quickly and efficiently.

5. Associations Share News and Updates with Members

Some professional associations may have thousands of members. Mass emails don’t work practically as a communication system. Extranet posts are more effective when the association wants to share news and information.

Examples of Extranets

Here are some examples of where extranets are being effectively used today.

1. Manufacturing

Suppliers who have access to their customers’ extranet can use the access to track their products. They can determine whether the customer should be ready to place a new order, track previous orders, and manage their inventory appropriately so that there is no supply interruption.

2. Logistics and Distribution

Suppliers and vendors can upload documents to the extranet for processing by a company’s accounting department. The extranet can provide copies of previous invoices and related material for purchase orders, if required.

3. Healthcare

An extranet allows different practitioners and care providers to share their best practices with the ultimate goal of improving patient care. It can be used to share research studies, images, drawings, written opinions, and other materials in medical settings.

Summary

An intranet operates within a company and is a private network used by employees. It provides the tools and documents they need to perform their work. The intranet is also used to help employees communicate more effectively.
An extranet is a different type of private network. It’s set up by a company, then outside parties are invited to use it for specific purposes. These authorized parties are granted access to certain documents or areas within the extranet only. They do not have the same level of permissions that a company employee does.

Author

Milton Herman
Content Writer

Category

Internal Communications Intranet

Published on

June 25, 2021