Contributor(s): Chuck Bury

An extranet is a private network that uses Internet technology and the public telecommunication system to securely share part of a business's information or operations with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses. An extranet can be viewed as part of a company's intranet that is extended to users outside the company. It has also been described as a "state of mind" in which the Internet is perceived as a way to do business with other companies as well as to sell products to customers.

An extranet requires security and privacy. These can include firewall server management, the issuance and use of digital certificates or similar means of user authentication, encryption of messages, and the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) that tunnel through the public network.

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Companies can use an extranet to:

  • Exchange large volumes of data using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
  • Share product catalogs exclusively with wholesalers or those "in the trade"
  • Collaborate with other companies on joint development efforts
  • Jointly develop and use training programs with other companies
  • Provide or access services provided by one company to a group of other companies, such as an online banking application managed by one company on behalf of affiliated banks
  • Share news of common interest exclusively with partner companies
This was last updated in April 2007

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We kicked off a Sharepoint project a few years ago. I think we spent close to $3000 on trying to get a Sharepoint site up; about half of which was just on developer customizations. A complete disaster. We didn't fully implemented because it was too complicated and never adopted by our customers. I'm not the tech guy, but I am very much the revenue guy, and customer collaboration is a must-have. But unless it's simply to use, all the other bells and whistles the technology guys push matter less if no one adopts. That's the dirty little secret about Sharepoint and a lot of other collaboration apps. It has total disregard for the end-user. In theory collaboration can pay big dividends in terms of increased employee productivity; however, an important point missing here is that these tools need to be adopted in order to be useful, which means they need to be easy to use.. It should also be taken from the customer's point of view. What are they trying to do? Small consulting firms like ours are trying gain an edge on competition. We don't need to "collaborate internally" with software (just go walk 10 feet down the hall...). Big corporations needs SW for that. What small law firms DO need is to "collaborate externally" with clients, partners, suppliers... It's do or die on cash flow. And driving stronger relationships with clients through collaboration tools is a great focus. But all those features mentioned above matter nill if customers don't adopt them because they're too confusing. I've traveled a long road with SharePoint and Jive. You want to waste a lot of money and scare and frustrate your customers? The part all these software DON'T get is that all the features (file sharing, proj mgt, wiki, etc) are very much commoditized. First it has to be rock solid secure. Then must be easy, as in Facebook easy. Otherwise you're going to spend a whole bunch of time and money on complicated interface that customer won't use. We have a whole lot scars in this area, but saw the importance of "customer engagement". We now use Centroy. It's super easy, yet has all the fancy features boiled down like Apple. I'm not at all tied to these guys. Just a satisfied customer after going down a long road.