Intranet vs. Extranet: What’s the Difference?

By Amanda Pham
With the rise of the hybrid and digital workplace, we must rethink the ever-changing workplace norms to foster an innovative and inclusive work environment. However, among new emerging workplace strategies and new technologies, sometimes it is crucial to start with the basics. 

Although “intranet” and “extranet” sound quite familiar, they both serve a unique purpose in your organization. To help identify which one your workplace needs and to give a basic understanding of the two, we have provided the definition, examples, and benefits of each one. 

What is the difference between an intranet and an extranet?

An intranet is a private network that is used to help employees share information and knowledge, which helps improve communication and workplace collaboration among internal employees. 

On the other hand, an extranet is also a private network that allows external users (vendors, clients, etc.) access to information and knowledge among internal users. 

Helpful Tip: To clearly distinguish between the two, think of intranet similar to internal and extranet similar to external. 

While both private networks are used to help employees communicate, it is essential to note that an intranet is for internal users only, while an extranet includes both internal and external users. 

Benefits of an intranet

An intranet helps streamline internal communications and gives relevant internal updates so that employees can feel engaged with their organization with up-to-date news. 

Some benefits of using an intranet can be: 

  • Connecting and aligning your workplace by providing a single source of truth
  • Having information easily accessible by having all important announcements and documents in a centralized location with a search functionality
  • Improves employee engagement and collaboration by having an internal social network channel 
  • Creates a transparent culture and positive employee experience by connecting them with social features such as likes, comments, and shares

So what do these benefits look like on an intranet? Some examples could be: 

  • Decluttering inboxes by sharing company wide-announcements on the platform. Intranets can also have a “read” functionality that informs announcement makers that users have read the news or important piece of information
  • Leverage a detailed company directory to help employees reduce the time spent looking for information. A good directory can help employees understand the job titles of each individual, learn more about their co-workers them and know whom to contact for a particular situation 
  • Acts as a content management system to assist in having essential documents easily accessible in one location for internal employees 

Learn how an intranet helps drive engagement and improves communication

Benefits of an extranet

An extranet is a tool to help share information between both internal employees and external members in a secured private space. These external members are trusted third parties that can include customers, vendors, suppliers, and business partners. 

Some benefits of an extranet are: 

  • Ensure that documents and information uploaded to the platform are kept safe due to the private secured network
  • Reduce time spent doing business processes by having a virtual space to store documents such as invoices, billing, and all communications with third parties 
  • Improve customer satisfaction by having an accessible place for customers to come for support, locate important documents, and even connect with customer support 

To provide a better idea of how an extranet can be leveraged, some use-cases could be: 

  • Have an allocated single location to share news and important information with customers, partners, and vendors
  • Provide a secured method of exchanging confidential information such as billing information and business data with a secure private network 
  • Collaborate and share knowledge with third parties through document sharing and real-time updates 

Intranet or Extranet?

Now that we have a basic understanding of what an intranet and extranet is, you can now identify which one your organization needs. Do your employees need an internal provider network that can help them access important internal information, documents, and tools needed to perform their work. Or do your third party members require a network that can help them access important external company information, documents, and tools needed to do business with your company?

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