An extranet is a private network similar to an intranet, but typically open to external parties, such as business partners, suppliers, key customers, etc. The main purpose of an extranet is to allow users to exchange data and applications, and share information.
Reasons to use an extranet
An extranet can be a useful tool for the following business needs:
- using online ordering, electronic order tracking and inventory management internally or externally, with selected partners
- working flexibly to meet the demands of larger companies, by adopting new technologies and enabling the exchange of business information and transactions
- facilitating a cheap and efficient way for businesses to connect with their trading partners and suppliers, and allowing them access to the information they need 24 hours a day
- automating the trading tasks between you and your trading partners, in order to strengthen business relationships and integrate your business firmly within their supply chain
An extranet can also be used by staff working remotely, eg those in sales or customer support, or home workers.
Key issues to consider
Bear in mind that once you make parts of your business data available to trading partners, they will expect it to be:
- up to date
- secure at all times
Availability and security are key factors in the success of an extranet. You should define the group of your extranet users clearly and protect access by rigorous identification routines and security features.
You may also require significant resources to keep the content of the extranet accurate and up to date. This might involve staff training and using CMS to manage intranets and extranets.