The difference between an intranet & an extranet

Helping employees better communicate and collaborate with each other is one of the key benefits of having an intranet and why so many businesses look to have them. Indeed, many of the apps and tools available for intranets focus on improving the flow of information within an organization.

But what if much of that communication and collaboration has to happen with external, third-party partners, suppliers or clients? Enter the extranet. An extranet is an extension of an intranet. Like an intranet, an extranet is a private network that is separate from the internet, but the difference is that it is available to selected users outside an organization, whether individuals or groups.

Intranets vs. extranets

When exploring digital workplace solutions, it is easy to confuse terms. Although the phrases might sound similar, intranets and extranets have unique differences. Below we break down both words and how they work together.

Intranet: A private enterprise network for employees within an organization. Intranets centralize documents, tools, information, and capabilities through one unified platform.

Learn more about intranet software.

Extranet: A controlled, private network allowing third-party partners to gain information, typically about a specific company or institution, and do so without granting access to an organization’s entire network.

Intranets and extranets perform similar functions, but for different subsets of people. Both platforms facilitate the exchange of ideas and encourage collaboration by providing nuanced communications pathways. Intranets do this internally, for colleagues within a singular enterprise. Extranets enable organizations to expand their knowledge-sharing capabilities by creating new exchanges with individuals or groups outside of the enterprise.

Some external networks can be built to facilitate a multitude of different partnerships, including those involving clients, customers, and outside stakeholders. Depending on the nature of the collaboration, leaders can grant and restrict permissions controls to limit what components of the platform third parties can access. In contrast, intranets are generally more open to the majority of users within the network, although specific security controls may still apply.

Extranets as your third-party collaboration hub

Modern extranets optimize third-party collaboration in a way that has never been done before. Instead of relying on emails and calls for project updates, external platforms provide collaborators with efficient updates in real-time. Additionally, extranets cut down on silos and offer transparency throughout a variety of cross-organization relationships, including those with clients, consumers, and contractors. Stakeholders who are looking to collaborate in a manner that is efficient and secure should turn to extranets as a multi-faceted solution for external partnerships. Just as intranets optimize knowledge sharing internally, extranets maximize the exchange of ideas between outside parties and your enterprise.

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