Intranet and Extranet: Comparing Information and Data Dissemination

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  • 0:05 What Are Intranets and…
  • 4:21 Virtual Private Networks
  • 6:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jill Heaney

Jill has taught college-level business and IT. She has a Doctorate in Business Administration and an M.S. in Information Technology & Leadership.

Organizations rely upon intranets and extranets to share information, communicate with employees, suppliers and customers, and enable collaboration on projects. This lesson explains how intranets and extranets work. It introduces the topics of virtual private networks, tunneling and firewalls.

What Are Intranets and Extranets?

John is an engineer for an automobile manufacturer. He works with a team of engineers to redesign current models of vehicles as well as create new prototype vehicles. The design and development of a vehicle is a collaborative process that relies heavily on technology to connect engineers, project managers, suppliers and vendors together.

This collaborative process is made possible through the use of Internet technologies that link different systems and networks within an organization. John and his co-workers rely on two commonly used business networks that use Internet technologies: the intranet and extranet.

John uses the intranet, or a private, internal, corporate network that utilizes the Internet, on a daily basis. The intranet provides John and his co-workers with access to data across the entire organization. Company personnel can access this private network but someone like you or me, who are considered the public, cannot access the automaker's intranet. It is private and protected by firewalls (or hardware or software designed to keep threats and unintended visitors from accessing a private network). A firewall is like a security officer standing guard at a gate. The security officer can either allow or deny access.

It is common for companies to provide external access to intranets. John also uses the company's extranet, or private networks that are extended to users outside of the organization. An organization can use an extranet to allow vendors and customers limited access to its intranet. That means you and me could gain access to certain portions of the automaker's intranet through the extranet. Once again, firewalls are used to secure and limit access to internal data while also authenticating users. To gain access to the extranet, authentication will usually take the form of a user ID and password.

Are you wondering what technologies enable the use of intranets and extranets? Well, intranets and extranets make use of similar technologies to the World Wide Web. They use the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), Web pages, and Web browsers for access. They also use Web programming languages like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Intranets and extranets operate similarly to the Internet, making a transition to these networks very easy.

Entry to extranet sites can be gained by entering a user name and password.
Extranet Authentication

The Business Value

So why did John's automobile company decide to incorporate intranets and extranets into their business processes? Well, the intranet is a critical system that provides business value by enhancing communication and collaboration between John, his co-workers and management. It can reduce business costs by streamlining processes and creating more operational efficiency.

John relies on the intranet for a variety of tasks. When he needs to call his project manager but just can't remember his extension, he can use the intranet to find pertinent information such as telephone numbers and extensions of employees. If John wishes to move up from engineer to lead engineer, he can browse the intranet for job postings that may enable him to make the move. John can use the intranet to view his pay stubs, make changes to his tax deductions, review the company calendar for holidays and practically anything else he needs to know related to his job. The intranet is also a valuable tool for collaboration. John's team of engineers and designers can use the intranet to disseminate information and keep all team members informed. They can monitor the progress of the new vehicle project and make changes as needed.

Extranets provide business value by facilitating communication with customers, partners, suppliers and vendors. John's employer can leverage their partnerships to become more competitive. Extranets enable the organization to build and strengthen strategic relationships with customers and suppliers. Collaboration is enhanced for better product design, development and marketing.

A company can communicate with customers and suppliers through the extranet.
Extranets Strengthen Relationships

Auto dealers can use the extranet to check on production and delivery dates. They can place orders to meet customer demand. Suppliers can access information pertaining to new features or vehicle colors to match their own products. John, our engineer, could access the company intranet through the extranet to work on projects from home or while on business trips.

Customers could use the automaker's extranet to find specific information on their vehicle. They could look up maintenance records, recalls, warranty information or even the current value.

Virtual Private Networks

John's organization has multiple locations and a dispersed workforce. They require a fast, reliable and secure way to share information across networks. Their solution is to use virtual private networks (or VPNs) to establish secure intranets and extranets.

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