An intranet is a private network based on TCP/IP and belongs to an individual organization. It’s only accessible to that organization’s members, employees, or others with authorization. An intranet’s websites and software applications appear and behave like any other, but the firewall surrounding an intranet fends off unauthorized access and use.
How are intranets used?
Like the internet itself, intranets are used to share information. Secure intranets represent a large segment of the internet because they are much less expensive to build and manage than private networks based on proprietary protocols.
Intranet applications are similar to Internet applications like browsers, teleconferencing tools, or word processors. Unlike Internet applications, however, intranet applications reside on a local server. Some of these applications include:
- Content management systems (CMS)
- Document management systems
- Company directories
- Human resources management systems (HRMS)
- Internal communication tools (email, instant messaging, forums, etc.)
Intranet vs. other networks
An intranet is designed to allow a company to share information and resources with others in the company. This is in contrast to the Internet, which is publicly available to any user with a valid access point such as a modem or Ethernet connection.
When a company allows access to any part of its intranet to customers, partners, or suppliers outside the company, it is called an extranet. External users access an extranet with valid login credentials, and user access controls can be customized to specify which parts of the extranet can be viewed.
A virtual private network (VPN) functions similarly to an intranet in that it creates a secure way to access information. However, intranet does not require Internet access whereas a VPN is primarily used to securely connect to the Internet. If an intranet features an internet portal, it will typically use a VPN to establish that connection.