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A private network that allows a company to share information with other businesses and customers outside of their internal network.
Extranets transmit information over the Internet and require a user to have a password to access data on internal company servers. In many cases, the external partners are able to view all or most of the content on the company’s intranet and have the same access and security rights as local users.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a company set up an extranet?
Extranets can be set up in a number of ways. Many companies use an external website to maintain their internal resources, which they can then give their partners or external employees access to. In most cases, this option means the system is maintained by an external Software as a Service provider, who is responsible for maintaining the network and ensuring updates are applied when necessary. It also allows a great deal of flexibility in terms of access rights and the location of employees and other users. For an internally stored resource, such as a local server, companies can also set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This provides an encrypted connection to your internal resources, allowing external users access from anywhere, even over public Internet. With this configuration, the company maintains their resources and can set their own access rights and restrictions. There are also services available that can extend an internal network across multiple sites, allowing companies with more than one location to share resources across their entire organization.
How secure is an extranet?
Any time you open your network to external resources, you incur additional risks. However, if you use a trusted extranet solution, the connection to your server should be highly secure and you will have complete control over who can utilize that external connection. Provided you select an extranet resource that meets or exceeds your company’s data security standards, properly vet employees and partners with access to your extranet, and effectively manage their rights and permissions, your extranet should not pose a significant threat.
Can extranet users access all of the same files and programs as intranet users?
They can have complete access, but they don’t have to. Your system administrator can set up specific access rights and rules based on internal vs. remote use, user categories, or even at the individual user level. Just as your internal employees may each have different access to programs and files, so too can your external users.
Additionally, some third party, web-based software may restrict access to a specific location, often any computer on a company’s intranet, or coming from their IP address. Depending on the setup of your extranet, external users may or may not have access to these services. If you’re using a VPN service, external traffic should be routed over your internal network, meaning their Internet activity will come from your location and IP address, so they should be able to access these services the same as your internal employees.