An extranet, similar to intranet, is a private online infrastructure or network, but shares relevant company information and/or processes with suppliers, business partners, buyers, etc. using Electronic Data Interchange. In other words, extranets are intranet extensions that are accessible by a company’s external stakeholders, but not all sensitive or proprietary company information is exposed. It’s like any other Internet site and can be accessed from any IP address, but non-registered users cannot access all the site’s contents. Extranet can be considered a cross between the Internet and intranet.
Extranets are used for e-commerce and sharing information. For instance, suppliers use the system to access online order details, inventory management and order-tracking details, etc. Companies, as a result, do not have to send the information across – the suppliers can fetch the same on their own.
At times, the extranet system could also be used by different company employees, when companies indulge in joint ventures or collaborate with other firms. For instance, an IT firm may have access to a bank’s Internet banking application, for management and maintenance.
Companies may maintain multiple extranet sites to cater to different external parties, based on the relationship nature and the parties’ requirements. Businesses can choose to implement and host the extranet system internally, or hire an application service provider’s services. Outsourcing is the more cost-efficient and feasible option.