Intranet, internet and extranet are the three main enterprise network topologies today. The Internet is a network of computers which uses standard protocols for the purpose of sharing data and binds computers running on various platforms by making use of web browsers. The development of intranet and extranet which use internet protocols for data sharing from one computer to another has become possible only due to the popularity of web browsers. I now take a look at each of the three of them in short and then differentiate between them.
What is Intranet?
Intranet literally means internal internet and is used to signify a collection of private computer networks within an organization; be it a school, a non-profit group or a company, which allows easy communication between people and sharing of data within work groups. Intranets incorporate standard software technologies and network hardware like Wi-Fi and Ethernet. It allows internet access but is firewalled in such a way that external computers cannot penetrate into its network.
Uses of Intranet – Intranets have a very easy-to-use interface and find varied applications in delivering tools and applications to enhance workforce productivity. It is also being used as a corporate culture-changing platform which results in new ideas, increasing abilities of employees to perform faster and better and with confidence which fosters a high growth rate. Private communication is also made possible through intranet by special security provisions, encryption and decryption methods to connect one computer to another.
Benefits of Intranet – It is cost effective and promotes a common corporate culture by being used as a platform for development of applications to support business operations. Another added benefit is collaboration enhancement which means that team work is enabled due to information sharing. Intranet is also capable of linking different platforms together like Windows, Mac and UNIX by standard web browsers.
What is Internet?
The internet is a global connection of interlinked networks which links computers all over by using many electronic and networking technologies. Basically, it uses the internet protocol suite to accomplish this. The internet is free of central governance in both technological implementation and policies for access and usage because every network has its own standards.
Uses and benefits of Internet – The Internet allows flexibility in working hours and location due to availability of high-speed connections, web applications and owing to the fact that internet can be accessed by many wireless means like mobiles, data cards, cellular routers etc. from anywhere.
The Internet and the World Wide Web have proved to be a boon for promoting education due to low cost sharing of knowledge, ideas and skills. Similarly, businesses can grow as people can work effectively as a team due to sharing of documents and other information, ease of accessing other computers with or without use of security, authentication and encryption techniques. Also a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection through the internet extends the secure perimeter of a corporate network into the private network of employees’ homes.
What is Extranet?
Extranet is a private computer network which uses internet technology and allows controlled access from outside. It uses the public telecommunication system to securely and privately share part of a business’s information with suppliers, buyers, partners and customers by effective firewall, the use of digital certificates and other similar means of authentication and encryption as well as the use of VPNs which tunnel through public networks.
Uses and benefits of Extranet – It is used for sharing of large amount of information and exclusive product catalogues using Electronic Data Interchange. It is also used in the process of collaboration with different companies during joint development as well as for sharing data which is of common interest to partner companies. A major advantage of extranets is that they can be used to provide services that are provided by a company to other companies like online banking.
Intranet vs Internet vs Extranet
Intranet and extranet are communication tools developed for easy information sharing within workgroups. Extranet is an extension to intranets and opens the required firewall to provide controlled access to outsiders. Therefore to summarize, internet access is public, intranet access is private and that of extranet is semi-private. Everyone can use the internet but intranet is restricted to an organization and extranet is used for the purpose of data sharing between closely trusted organization. The data is fragmented in the internet, proprietary in intranet and is held in trusted circles in extranet.