If you are like most of our clients, you probably just think of the Internet as one big collection of websites. The fact of the matter, though, is that a lot of the web falls into distinct categories or neighborhoods – with many of the areas being “off-limits” to the public, and having separate, distinct uses.
If you aren’t in the business web design or IT business, this is something you might not ever need to take a lot of time thinking about. And so, we notice that there is sometimes a bit of confusion when we start talking about Internet-related terms like intranets and extranets. What do these terms mean, and how are they different from the Internet you know and love?
To help you cut through the confusion, here is a brief explanation of each:
You are probably already familiar with the Internet.
In basic terms, “the Internet” refers to the collection of websites, blogs, etc., that can all be accessed by the general public. Although some specific site and destinations might be blocked by a company or Internet service provider, the basic nature of an Internet site is that anyone with an address can log on and view content.
Intranets, on the other hand, are more restrictive.
Usually for employees of a company or members of a specific group, an Intranet is like a small, private Internet. In order to access it, you might need to be within a certain building, or to have a login and registration. The general idea of an Intranet is that it isn’t meant to be viewed by just anyone, and so the appropriate firewalls are in place to keep people out. One other way that they differ is that an Intranet destination will often load more quickly than an Internet page, because of the way they’re set up on local machines with fewer users.
An Extranet is a crossover between the two.
To be more clear, it’s typically a portion of an Intranet that has been made available for public access. There are a lot of reasons that an organization could choose to take this step, but it typically only involves a small piece of what’s available behind the firewall for users with higher permission levels. In other words, it’s a publicly available slice of the larger Intranet.
Beyond simply knowing the distinctions between Internet, intranet, and extranet destinations, it’s important to note that each has a different role to play in an organization. That’s because some information is better kept private and public, and vice versa.
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