Intranet refers to the network that facilitates communication among the staff of an organization. It is comprised of several private computers in an organization interconnected with each other through a network or networks (Mitchell par. 1). An intranet allows efficient communication and information sharing, thereby enhancing the “knowledge base” of employees and workgroups (Mitchell par. 1).
Just like the Internet, the intranet makes use of the usual network technologies such as the TCP/IP, Ethernet, WiFi, browsers, and web servers (Mitchell par. 2). TCP/IP refers to Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol that connects the host on the Internet and allows transmission of data (“TCP/IP”). Usually, an intranet network includes the Internet but a firewall separates them so that computers outside the organization cannot access the intranet (Mitchell par. 2). According to Kayne, besides the use of protocols similar to the Internet and navigation (par. 2), the intranet also uses HTML and functions under the local area network (LAN) (par. 1). It has no gateway to or from the Internet (Kayne par. 1).
Intranet improves the efficiency of business processes through its application in publishing, document management, training, and email. Benefits that can be derived from intranet are:
- improved internal communication,
- efficient sharing of resources and best practices,
- quality customer service, and
- marked decrease in paperwork.
Although the benefits offered by the use of intranet are beyond doubt, there are still disadvantages accompanying it for the management, security, and productivity. On the level of the management,
- there is a fear of the management of losing control over data, resources, and staff and
- existence of unidentified expenditure and complications.
Security of the company can be breached by
- unauthorized access,
- exploitation and misuse of access, and
- packet sniffing.
Productivity can be affected by intranet because of
- excessive presence of information,
- overload of data lessens productivity, and
- users can create their web pages.
According to Kalakota and Whinston, the advantages of using the intranet are:
- ease in publishing (excellent for internal publication, it can easily be deployed since the browser is compatible with any operating system),
- low budgetary cost (with TCP/IP networks already established in many companies, additional costs for servers and networking is not much),
- comfortable to use (users within the corporation have existing web browsers, they can immediately access data from the internal websites),
- low maintenance (storing the data in a single location would not entail much cost with the addition of new information or updating previous ones which can be accessed immediately),
- scalability (ability to deliver information system using the cheaper platform, adjust the “computing resources upward or downward” as the need arise, and
- fast software dissemination (with web browsers installed, no additional expense is incurred for finding users, transmitting new client software or providing upgrade support (88-90).
The identified disadvantages of this system are the following:
- applications are not as strong as the “traditional groupware” (i.e. no ingrained “data replication or directory services” as in other packages like Lotus Notes),
- short-term risk (few tools to link intranet server to database and applications grounded on back-end mainframe), and
- fewer back-end integration (different applications for E-mail and servers which are combined in groupware) (Kalakota and Whinston 88-90).
Intranet environments are custom-made to fit the “business model” (management and operational needs) of the organization (Kayne par. 2). For instance, requisition requests addressed to the Accounting Department sent through the intranet will conserve time and resources and save money for the company (Kayne par. 5). Specific pages can be restricted to employees by encrypting them with passwords (Kayne par. 5). Moreover, “(p)payroll, receivables/payables, and budget reports” can be stored in the intranet (Kayne par. 5). It is used by corporations as a “productivity tool” but other private entities such as schools and non-profit organizations also employ them (Mitchell par. 4).
A basic intranet system is composed of an internal email system and/or message board or forum for the exchange of ideas while the more complicated ones would involve “Web sites and databases containing company news, forms, and personnel information” (Mitchell par. 4). Although this system is considered invaluable in business operations, its true merit is hard to “quantify in terms of time saved or return on investment” (Mitchell par. 5).
Numerous companies utilize intranet in their business operations all over the world. Some of them are Bank of America (USA), Bankinter S.A. (Spain), Barnes & Noble (USA), British Airways (UK.), Campbell Soup Company (USA), IKEA North America Service, LLC (USA), and Ministry of Transport (New Zealand).
Extranet refers to an exclusive network that makes use of Internet protocols, network connections, and outside telecommunication systems to share some of the company’s data and processes with selected outside entities (e.g. vendors, suppliers, business partners, customers). Extranet, then, is a private intranet but its system is laid out or established over the Internet or other available system but prohibits access by the public, and usually administered by at least two administrators within the organization (e.g. “Al-jawazat” networks).
Extranet boosts business profitability with increased communication among companies resulting in increased daily transactions. An extranet, there is a gateway to and from the Internet (Kayne par. 1). An extranet can also be seen as an extension of the intranet wherein the firewall is opened to a limited number of companies to access the organization’s system (Mitchell par. 3). The parts of the extranet are as follows: server, DNS, gateways, firewalls, and media (cables/wireless).
The benefits offered by extranet are
- enable transmission of the huge amount of data and
- access to services by several companies offered by an organization (i.e. a company operating an online application for several affiliated banks).
Other benefits offered by extranet are:
- increased productivity (automatic placement of order when inventory falls to a certain quantity),
- reduction in a margin of error (allow customers to access transaction history),
- flexibility (partners and clients can transact at a convenient time),
- timely and accurate information (outright updating of information such as price, or immediate publishing of “hot information” before it becomes outdated),
- shorter marketing time (making data such as specifications available partners or clients faster),
- lesser inventory (connecting inventory system with the supplier enable a company to order only when needed, thus, avoiding over-stocking), and
- establishing loyal customers (providing accurate data makes it easy for customers to transact, thereby keeping them satisfied and loyal) (The Benefits 1-2).
Observed disadvantages of using the extranet are
- it is too expensive to implement and manage in an organization and
- it poses a big risk for companies with regard to confidential information.
Kalakota, Ravi and Andrew B. Whinston. “Intranet.” Electronic Commerce. California: Addison Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc. 1997. Web.
Kayne, R. What is an Intranet? WiseGeek. 2009. Web.
Mitchell, Bradley. “intranet.” About. 2009. Web.
“TCP/IP.” Webopedia. 2009. Web.
The Benefits of an Extranet. AllBusiness. 2009. Web.