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Internet vs. Intranet vs. Extranet: What’s the Difference?

Sean Duffy

December 4, 2020 · 3 min read
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Last updated: December 2020

2020 caused many organizations to re-think how they do business. Suddenly, digital transformation was a top priority — as remote work and rapid innovation became the new norm.

Organizations had to maintain business-as-usual in a very unusual climate. And part of that meant evaluating their tools and technologies to ensure they were built to support a virtual work environment. One where security, productivity, and collaboration would not be compromised.

The company intranet was one tool that quickly went from a nice-to-have to a necessity. For many organizations, it became THE mission-critical tool for business continuity, crisis communications, remote work, and more. Unfortunately, for some organizations, however, 2020 shone a light on what their intranet couldn’t do, and left them wanting more.

Is your intranet doing everything you need it to? Learn 7 ways you could be using your intranet to your advantage in this eBook: Invest in the Right Intranet: Critical Steps to Consider When Choosing an Intranet Solution.

What’s the difference between an intranet and the Internet?

Before we dive into the uses and benefits of a 2021-ready intranet solution, let’s take a step back and define the term “intranet” in relation to some other technologies it’s often confused with.

Let’s consider these simple definitions:

  • The Internet is a globally-connected network of computers that enables people to share information and communicate with each other.
  • An intranet, on the other hand, is a local or restricted network that enables people to store, organize, and share information within an organization.

Besides the spelling and pronunciation (which might sound forced and awkward at times), there are key differences between the two, one of the most important being that an intranet is a platform that can be bought and sold (or built, in some cases), while the Internet is the underlying technology that enables its connectivity.

There’s one more type of ‘net’ to consider, and it relates to enterprise collaboration with external users:

  • An extranet is a web portal that is accessible by an organization and its external vendors, partners, customers, or any other users that require access to restricted information.

With an extranet, the host organization manages the site administration and content, and provides controlled access to internal and external members. Some example use cases for an extranet include a partner or vendor portal, a customer community, or a franchise network.

Email shouldn’t be the only method of connecting with your partners, vendors, and customers. Learn more about how to engage with your external communities

If you consider the prefix of each type of “net,” the distinction becomes quite simple:

  • “inter” means “between”
  • “intra” means “inside”
  • “extra” means “outside”

3 benefits of a next-gen intranet

In the past, intranets have gotten a bad wrap. Many thought of them as out-of-date, disorganized file structures that could only be managed by IT.

More recently, however, next-gen intranet technology has emerged. With more flexibility, capabilities, and user-friendly features, the intranet has become a core tool for communication, collaboration, knowledge management, and culture and engagement.

More specifically, the intranet can solve real business challenges that often slow organizations down. Let’s take a look at three areas where an intranet help save critical time, money, and resources.

  1. Create a single source of truth: An intranet gives organizations one place to securely share and store business-critical information. Employees always know where to look and can be confident they’re receiving the latest information.
  2. Increase productivity and collaboration: Using email and apps to manage work can be inefficient, time consuming, and even risky. An intranet can help streamline workflows and cut out the clutter so more work can get done.
  3. Connect and engage a remote workforce: The intranet has become a virtual workplace for a distributed workforce. Activities that can no longer take place in person are happening online and an intranet makes this translation easy and seamless.

Partners Healthcare is one example of an organization that used their intranet as the go-to tool for managing communications and bring their organization together during the COVID-19 crisis.

Vice President of Communications, Rich Copp said: “We had to get our arms around communications without hesitation. Our entire network of 78,000 needed one source of truth.”

Learn more

Is your intranet ready for 2021? It may be time to explore your options.

If a full intranet re-haul isn’t realistic, you may want to consider departmental solutions that are backed by intranet technology, but don’t come with the cost or complexity of implementing an organization-wide solution.We can help you navigate the next critical steps of your digital transformation. Book a demo to see if Igloo is the right fit for you.