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What is an extranet ?

An extranet is a private website that provides restricted and controlled access to digital spaces hosting data or services. The access of the participants is controlled with a connection provided by the authority controlling the extranet, associated with a password. The connection can be deactivated at any time by the authority in case of loss of his access rights by one of the participants.
The features of an intranet are the same, except that it is a network within the organization and deployed inside its firewall without using a public (web) infrastructure.


(Illustration : Wikipedia source)
The security advantage of an extranet is that it avoids giving participants outside the organization access to the inside of the firewall and protects the core applications of the organization. A second advantage is that it avoids relying on weakly or poorly secured web tools such as messaging or public sharing platforms. The possible disadvantage is that an extranet uses the web infrastructure and therefore requires special attention to security of access, encryption of transactions on the web and security of hosting.
Extranets features include data storage, document exchange, and file sharing. The main uses are:
  • Shares of the company with its customers or suppliers (one speaks of customer spaces and supplier spaces).
  • The sharing between participants in a project (one speaks of project space).
  • Sharing between members of a committee, an assembly (board of directors, works council, etc.).
  • Collaboration within a network of partners, licensees, franchisees ...
  • Document collections in administrative or commercial processes.
Extranets have rapidly multiplied in large and medium-sized businesses, driven by customer services and the development of business collaboration. Their relatively high cost in development and maintenance has long deprived small organizations. Extranets now penetrate this target through vendors offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) turnkey tools that unload the subscriber from the costs and risks of development, maintenance, hosting, and backups.
Some Extranets are called Data Rooms (link) because they have advanced features that (among others) prevent the redistribution of information and trace each view.