The extranet is used to share company information privately with suppliers, partners, customers, vendors or other external users. The network utilizes Internet technology to provide a secure and private way to share data between a business and a third party. The information is typically shared via a web browser that requires authentication for access to the data on the extranet.
Main Components of the Extranet
The extranet’s primary concerns are security, privacy and dissemination of information. The primary components of the extranet include: Firewall server management, message encryption, virtual private networks (VPNs) and digital certificates for user authentication.
Primary Uses for the Extranet
Many companies use the extranet to exchange large volumes of data with a company. This can be used with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Collaboration with other companies on product designs or other development efforts is also a common use of the extranet. Partner companies may communicate with companies and share news. Some companies have even developed training programs together when interests overlap and shared them through the use of the extranet.
Extranet Benefits for Companies and Personal Users
Extranets may become useful when companies need to share information with external clients, but may not want to grant access to the general public. The client may not be privy to sensitive company information, but they may have access to pertinent information regarding pricing for retailers, wholesalers and resellers. The extranet may provide information on a product’s special features or instructions on how to use the company’s product. Specifications or resources for product representatives may also be located on the extranet.
Client pages and their special information are password protected. For instance, clients may ask a company to design a special semiconductor processor for their latest smartphone. The information regarding this processor may be explained in a .pdf file or other document. Pricing information regarding the processor and the dates for the production completion may be outlined and placed on the extranet for viewing.
The extranet eliminates the need for mailing documents or physical delivery of documents. Since the site is password protected, client’s proprietary information will be safe from external viewers. Before a conference call, information may be placed on the extranet for easy download, printing and viewing.
How to Adopt the Extranet
Hosted extranet is affordable and easy to set up. With this method, there are no servers to maintain and no software to install. Companies pay on a monthly basis to have access through a web-based extranet. The desktops can be customized, along with announcements, document management, calendars, task management, forums and polls.
Companies may hire an IT expert to build a customized solution for the consumer. This solution is more expensive and requires a specialized staff to maintain the extranet. In general, companies may spend thousands of dollars, and the customized solution may take months to implement.
Other companies may use specialized tools such as Microsoft Sharepoint to build extranets. This solution is not completely custom, but the software can save companies some money from building an extranet from scratch. An IT staff is required with this solution, as well as, dedicated servers.
Common Problems with the Extranet and How to Overcome the Problems
Many companies often experience registry errors. The problem manifests as slow PC performance, startups, system freezes and hardware failures. A variety of solutions are imposed to repair problems with the internet. One of the most common problems, registry errors, may be repaired with registry repair software. Companies may also hire an IT professional to assess the problem and recommend a solution. With hosted extranets, the maintenance is typically included in the monthly fee. Other solutions will require hiring an IT professional.