Intranet vs Internet vs Extranet: The Ultimate Explanation

Apr 28, 2022 | 0 comments

Just like you say tomato and I say tomahto, intranet vs internet vs extranet are the same, right? Although the names sound similar and share several features, there are distinct differences between the platforms. Here we debunk some of the confusion and provide simple-to-understand explanations. You will have a better understanding of how each platform works and the different ways they add value to businesses.

Ready to find out the differences between internet, intranet, and extranet? Let’s dive in.

What Is The Internet?

You already know what the internet is. After all, it’s an everyday part of our lives. We use it for communication, entertainment, and news. From banking to shopping and booking concert tickets, we also use the internet for managing our lives. Most of us take the internet for granted. But how does it all work?

The internet is a global network of computers that allows us to communicate and share information. It uses both wired and wireless communication (Wi-Fi, ethernet, and cable, plus 3G and 4G) to send and receive data.

The internet is a public network accessible to anyone. Currently, there are 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide, nearly 60 percent of the world’s population.

No one organization oversees the internet. Every computer has its own IP (internet protocol) address. And the IP identifies the computer’s location within the global network. A series of rules and standards known as protocols connect the various networks. Browsers such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge provide access to the world wide web.

How Businesses Use The Internet

Companies use the internet in much the same way we do outside work. Business emails, banking, research, and communication all happen over the internet.

However, your company website is also the public face of your organization. It’s used to buy or sell products and services, promote your business, and connect with customers and prospects. Plus, companies use the internet to monitor what the competition is up to.

What Is An Intranet?

Unlike the internet, an intranet is a closed network of computers. And it’s privately owned by an organization. Only those with the correct login credentials can access the intranet. Users can’t just stroll in and check out what’s happening. So, think of the intranet as a privatized version of the internet, only it’s exclusive to your people.

Companies use intranets to connect employees and share data, communication, and information within the business.

Both platforms use the same hardware, including routers, servers, and data network cables. And both use similar architecture and data-sharing protocols.

Furthermore, intranet sites look and act like any other internet website. However, they tend to be more task-focused than the promotional company internet site. Intranets are designed to solve business challenges, from internal communication to collaboration or sharing knowledge. Simply put, intranets are a central digital hub where staff go to get things done.

Your intranet site can be hosted on a company server. However, most intranets are cloud-hosted nowadays, allowing for anytime, anywhere access – perfect for hybrid and remote working.

Security is a crucial feature of intranets. The internet is notoriously vulnerable to hacking and privacy breaches. By contrast, your intranet is protected by a firewall and the latest two-way SSL encryption. You can have complete confidence your data is safe and secure.


How Businesses Use An Intranet

Intranets first arrived on the digital scene back in the 1990s. And you may well have encountered one of the early versions. Often dismissed as dull, clunky document libraries, intranets got a bad rap. However, the technology has evolved, and today’s intranets are flexible, versatile platforms your employees will love. Plus, they are super easy to set up. You won’t need a degree in computing to be up and running in no time.

Here are just some of the ways organizations use intranets to solve the business challenges we all face.

Improved Internal Communications

Connecting employees is always a challenge whether your people are in one office block or spread worldwide. And intranets make that task much easier. Company or team news and updates are shared on the dynamic intranet newsfeed. Furthermore, most intranets allow workers to set their own communication preferences with notifications and alerts. This is empowering for your people, and it cuts down on information overload.

Smarter Team Collaboration

Using email and apps for collaboration is not the most efficient way to get things done. And it can even be a security risk. Cut the clutter with a secure intranet. Project forums, private messaging, and IM threads streamline collaboration and boost productivity. You can even integrate your intranet with cloud solutions like Google Workspace, Office 365, and Salesforce.

Streamlined Business Processes

The intranet’s online workflows and processes will save you time, hassle, and money. Whether booking vacations, ordering supplies, or approving purchase orders, intranets are faster and more accurate.

Better Knowledge Management

Your intranet provides a single source of truth for all critical company knowledge. You can remove departmental silos with a centralized and searchable knowledge base. From SOPs to handbooks and policies, everything staff need to know is accessible to all, including on-the-go and remote workers.

employee engagement

Enhanced Employee Engagement

Modern intranets come packed with social features to improve employee engagement. Activity walls, follow-me functionality, hashtags, and emojis mirror social platforms staff already use. Everyone is updated with personalized newsfeeds, trending #channels, and company blogs. Plus, intranets help you identify what workers really think with pulse surveys and snap polls. Connecting and engaging with employees is a whole lot simpler with an intranet.

The bottom line is intranets help organizations stay connected, productive and secure. And because they are cloud-based, all employees can take advantage of these digital workspaces.

Can An Intranet Work Without The Internet?

The answer is yes, and no. Early versions of the intranet were local area networks hosted on the client-server, making them almost separate from the internet. However, these days most intranets are cloud-hosted and can only be accessed using internet technology. This offers several advantages, including anytime, anywhere access, making it the preferred solution for today’s hybrid workforces.

What Is An Extranet?

An extranet is an extension of your intranet to include selected third parties – think customers, vendors, or partners. These external parties can access the full intranet or only parts – the choice is yours.

Extranets use the same protocols and hardware as the internet and intranet. Firewalls and password-protected logins prevent unauthorized access. And allow you to collaborate securely and share information. You still manage the site and its content and control who has access, although you can choose to share oversight with your partners.

Say, for example, you have a customer who places regular orders with your company. Setting up an extranet means they can update orders, process invoices, and chat with the team. Improved customer service and satisfaction are obvious spinoffs.

How Businesses Use An Extranet

Here are some other examples of how organizations use an extranet.

  • Faster communication between suppliers and distributors in a distribution network.
  • Easier collaboration and communication for a franchise network with locations across several states or countries.
  • More efficient project management with subcontractors and stakeholders.
  • Better cross-team collaboration between government agencies.
  • Secure exchange of inventory data in an e-commerce site integration.
  • Improved onboarding for freelancers or contractors who don’t have access to the complete intranet.
  • Creating a customer community to share product updates and special offers.

modern intranet

Which Is Better, Intranet vs Internet Or Extranet?

Of course, the internet is vital for every business. With billions of users worldwide, your organization needs an online presence to showcase products and services to limitless potential customers. As a marketing tool, the internet is without parallel. Plus, the internet is essential for keeping on top of industry news, networking with like-minded professionals, and tracking the competition.

However, the internet has its limitations when it comes to business operations. The main disadvantage is you have no ownership or control. After all, the internet is accessible to everyone. Plus, cybersecurity is an issue. Hackers and fraudsters thrive in the open, unregulated internet.

Intranets come up trumps when it comes to safe and secure business operations. They have all the advantages of the internet for fast communication and data sharing, without the security drawbacks. Intranets are private networks under your control and ownership. Firewalls and password-protected sign-in safeguard critical company information. Your people can connect, collaborate and communicate in a completely secure environment.

Extranets are not relevant to every business. However, they offer the same degree of control and security as intranets. This makes extranets a great option if you regularly collaborate and share data with external parties.

Differences Between Intranet vs Internet vs Extranet

Here’s a handy table summarizing all the information we have covered. You can see all the main differences between the three platforms at a glance.

Feature Internet Intranet Extranet
Name Inter means between Intra means within Extra means outside
Definition Global network of computers, enabling users to communicate and share data Private network of computers with limited users restricted to an organization’s employees Private network within the intranet for communication & information sharing with external parties
Purpose Provides information & communication technology to all connected users Solves business problems, delivers safe and secure internal communication & data sharing Improves collaboration & flow of information between an organization & third parties
Network Access Open access Accessible only to employees Restricted access on a need-to-know basis
Type of Network Insecure, vast network with multiple users – the network of networks Closed, secure network between an organization’s workers – relies on the internet to work Closed, secure network between an organization & selected external parties – depends on the intranet to work
Ownership None Owned by the organization Owned by the organization or shared with third parties
Data Exchange Capabilities Can transfer unlimited data Can transfer only limited data Can transfer only limited data
Information All types of information are freely available on the internet Data is limited to company-specific information Data is limited to extranet-specific information
Security Relies on the internet user to secure their network Enforced by the organization with firewalls & password protection Enforced by the organization with passwords & firewalls, which separate the extranet from the intranet
Regulation Unregulated Regulated by the organization with policies & procedures Controlled by the organization or in partnership with third parties
Users Unlimited Employees within an organization only Limited to employees of all connected organizations

Intranet vs Internet vs Extranet Round-Up

Intranet, intranet, and extranet may sound the same. However, they are different beasts when it comes to business operations. They all use similar technology to communicate and share information. However, the fundamental difference is security. The internet is unregulated and open to anyone. By contrast, intranets and extranets provide secure digital workplaces.

Your people or selected externals come together to share resources, connect, and communicate safely and securely.

With hybrid working taking center stage, intranets and extranets are now mission-critical for many organizations. Find out more with MyHub’s free demo or 14-day no-obligation trial.

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