Good communication sets the foundation for effective teamwork. This applies to communication within companies, as well as to communication with people outside of the company. While an intranet connects employees inside an organisation, an extranet connects employees to external parties – a controlled private network to communicate with, and better manage your partners, vendors, suppliers, and select customers.  It provides direct access to required resources and services for authorised parties, without granting access to an organisation’s entire network. 

With an extranet, organisations can simplify the exchange of information across company boundaries, therefore providing a better way of exchanging the right information with the right audience. 

What are the benefits & features of an extranet?

  • Cooperation: An extranet enables the joint use of software applications and cooperation with other companies.
  • Transmission of information: Share exclusive news of interest to selected audiences that can be made available to them within a short time.
  • Data maintenance: Within a short period of time, data can be updated and made available promptly to authorised users. This ensures a high degree of topicality and transparency in data processing. 
  • Data transmission: Exchange large volumes of data using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). An extranet enables electronic data exchange of documents like delivery notes or order forms between business partners. This allows data transfer to be carried out independentlyof merchandise management systems, so data can be processed directly without manual entry and exchanged across company boundaries. 
  • Security: Because all extranet communications can be encrypted over a VPN, it provides a more secure method of data sharing than sending over the public internet.  It is not only necessary to make sure that unauthorised persons outside the company don’t access confidential information, but also to close security gaps within a company. It is further secured with firewalls & passwords. A firewall prevents unauthorised persons outside a company from accessing data on the extranet, whilst passwords prevent unauthorised persons (also within a company) from having direct access to data stored on the server.
  • Knowledge Management: Share product catalogues exclusively with wholesalers or those in the trade. Sharing of training programmes or joint development of certain applications in cooperation with other companies.

Your company could also provide access to a supplier for online ordering, order tracking and inventory management. Instead of sending information to suppliers, it lets them fetch it on a self-service basis. For example, a hospital providing local GPs with access to a booking system so they can make appointments for their patients. 

Whilst an extranet has many benefits, in a nutshell it can improve the customer experience, maximise knowledge sharing, keep information secure & confidential, provides the ability to receive real-time updates seamlessly, reduce silos, and save valuable time. 

Examples of extranets

Extranets can fulfil a variety of different purposes for enterprises and their collaborators. Some of the fundamental types of external networks are as follows:

  • Employee Information hub: For franchises and other enterprises with a large frontline workforce, extranets can be a useful tool for disseminating employee information. This can be a great way for sharing information about your company with employees and ensuring they see only what they need to know like time sheets for example. 
  • Financial Data extranets: When working with financial data, safety and security will always be a top priority. Extranets are one of the safest and most secure methods for sharing confidential information. They can help partners efficiently share updates and ensure that only the proper eyes have access to important metrics and sensitive material.
  • Integration extranets: an integration extranet keeps track of inventory and updates it instantaneously – a real game-changing tool for brands that sell products online. This data can be used for stock-taking purposes and ensures that information is easily accessible by multiple relevant parties.
  • Logistic extranets: Extranets can be particularly integral for companies within the e-commerce space. These platforms can connect suppliers to distributors to couriers to customers and keep these pathways open when an exchange or modification is needed. Logistic extranets can help enterprises improve consumer experience by ensuring customers can easily access real-time updates on their products and services.
  • Project extranets: When there are multiple parties involved in an upcoming initiative, an extranet can be an efficient and useful tool for managing the project. Cross-organisation collaboration is a mainstay for many industries from healthcare to retail to architecture and e-commerce. Customisable permissions and privacy settings help ensure that confidential information remains in the right hands.