Differences Explained: Intranet vs Internet vs Extranet

Looking to add intranet or extranet services to your company’s portfolio? Here’s all you need to know about intranets.

July 31, 2023
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As digitalization gets into every nook and cranny of the workplace, companies need different ways to control and manage it. That’s where the ‘nets’ come in.

The terms intranet, internet, and extranet are often used interchangeably as they are all based on the same technologies but differ in functionality. While the intranet is only accessible to members of an organization, the internet is open to everyone, and the extranet is an extension of an intranet.

The level of data protection attainable in each network plays a key role in influencing their use in business. Understanding the differences between the three terms is crucial to know what each entails and how they can enhance a company’s productivity. Knowing how each network works also helps a company safeguard its sensitive resources.

In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between an intranet, the internet, and an extranet, emphasizing their uses and effects on the company's overall performance and productivity.

What Is an Intranet?

An intranet is a private network setup for organizational communication, collaboration, and resource sharing. Employee intranets provide a secure information sharing, storage, and retrieval platform, and the intranet benefits a company by helping boost employee engagement and productivity.

An employee intranet enables members of a company’s workforce to conveniently access links, applications, and databases needed for their work.

A company intranet works by combining the following components:

  • Web server
  • Local area networks (LANs)
  • Firewall
  • Content management system (CMS)

The web server is based on internet protocol (IP) and functions to host the contents of the intranet. It manages data requests from intranet users. 

On the other hand, Intranet CMS enables the creation and publishing of resources on the intranet.

Thirdly, the local area networks serve as a portal for employees to access the company’s intranet.

Lastly, the firewall is intranet software that filters all incoming information requests and outgoing data packets to ensure they’re devoid of malicious codes or threats to the system. It’s an intranet tool that protects the information stored on the network and functions as a barrier between the intranet and the internet.

What Is the Internet?

The internet is a widespread network of interconnected computer networks. It is the network of networks. 

The internet enables information exchange amongst millions of computers and devices and provides access to various online services and applications via its cloud computing framework.

Like an intranet, the internet works through a set of standardized communication protocols, including Internet Protocol (IP) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP). However, it’s not a private network. It is a decentralized and distributed network accessible to everyone, irrespective of geographical differences.

Its key components include:

  • World Wide Web (WWW): A collection of websites accessible online.
  • Web Browsers: Software applications that enable internet users to access these websites.
  • Uniform Resource Locators (URL): These addresses identify specific web pages or internet services.
  • Search Engines: These are applications that enable users to easily find information on the internet by indexing vast amounts of web content.

What Is an Extranet?

An extranet is a regulated private network that leverages existing internal network infrastructure to provide an organization’s customers and partners controlled access to internal business information and resources. 

Extranets are extensions of employees' intranets, and they both share the features of limited access and firewall protection. However, an extranet is accessible only to external users who an organization has given specific credentials, making sensitive information inaccessible from unauthorized access.

An extranet enhances engagement, communication, and collaboration between an organization and its external shareholders. Its user interfaces, specifically for external users, make it easily identifiable, and the extranet landing pages make it easier for authorized third parties to navigate and access the resources they need.

What Is an Example of an Extranet?

A typical example of an extranet is a company’s supplier portal. 

A supplier portal is a secure online platform through which a company’s authorized suppliers can effectively collaborate on different aspects of the supply chain and business activities. It also has built-in communication tools for smooth collaboration with the company’s procurement team.

It works by providing each supplier with unique login credentials. Once logged in, each supplier can access relevant information such as product specifications, order requirements, delivery schedules, and pricing details. 

Each supplier is also privy to real-time inventory data on the portal, enabling them to make necessary changes to production and delivery schedules with current stock levels.

Is a VPN an Intranet or Extranet?

VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, is neither an intranet nor an extranet. It can, however, be used to securely connect different parts of both intranets and extranets.

It creates a secured private network over the internet through an encrypted connection over a public network involving two or more devices.

It achieves this via virtual data channels established between two endpoints preventing data breaches. So, contrary to being a means to share information like an intranet or an extension of the intranet like the extranet, they enhance security and protect communications over an intranet or extranet.

What Are the Uses of an Intranet, the Internet, and an Extranet?

A company’s intranet functions in the following areas:

  • Internal Communications: 

Companies can use the intranet as a central communications hub in an organization. Social intranet tools enable employees to exchange messages, share updates and collaborate on projects.

  • Document Sharing: 

It facilitates file and company resource sharing amongst a company’s workforce to ensure a seamless workflow.

  • Employee Directory: 

It is common for organizations to publish a directory containing the contact information of employees on their intranets, making it easier for employees to link up with one another.

  • Promotion of the Organization’s Culture: 

Companies can store and disseminate important company policies to staff through the intranet, ensuring that employees are always updated on the latest company policies.

  • Training and Development: 

Intranets can serve as a platform to host training programs to support employees’ career advancement.

Applications of the Internet Include: 

  • Global Information Repository: 

The main essence of the internet is to serve as a center for vast amounts of information and resources from all over the world accessible to its users.

  • Social Interaction: 

The internet enables communication across geographical boundaries via several tools, including email, social media platforms, and video conferencing applications.

  • E-commerce: 

The internet is a significant platform for the conduct of online shopping. On the internet, users can browse and purchase products online.

  • Entertainment: 

Internet provides users access to different forms of entertainment, such as music, videos, games, and online content from websites.

  • Research

Being a global information repository makes it a valuable tool for research and online learning, giving users access to academic journals and databases.

Applications of the Extranet Include:

  • Customer Portals: 

Extranets are helpful as portals to enable customers to monitor order status and access product information.

  • Collaborative Research: 

Extranets are useful for collaborative research and project development involving multiple organizations. Collaborators can share their findings, exchange data, and jointly work on projects through a secure platform.

  • Training and Certification: 

Extranets can provide a platform for delivering training materials and programs to external partners or customers, ensuring they have the necessary product knowledge to use products or services effectively.

What are the Similarities and Differences Between an Intranet, the Internet, and an Extranet?


While the intranet, internet, and extranet share certain similarities and dissimilarities, these features bind all three:

  • Network Technology: They all use Internet Protocol (IP) to transmit data between services.
  • Web Technologies: They can all apply HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to deliver web pages and resources.
  • Access Through Browsers: Users can obtain information on all three networks using web browsers.
  • Data Transmission: Each network type involves the transfer of data packets between connected devices.
  • Security Protocols: Each network has its security measures for safeguarding sensitive communications.


An intranet's relative advantages and disadvantages differ from those of the internet and extranet.

One of the key features of an intranet is access control. Admittance into intranets is highly regulated and is only accessible by authorized individuals within the company. Hence information is more secure. Other crucial intranet features include search functionality, integrations such as built-in email and messaging, flexibility, collaboration, knowledge management, task management, and project management.

An intranet differs from the internet and extranet in two significant ways which are:

  • User Base: Access to an intranet is restricted to internal employees and personnel of an organization, in stark contrast to the internet, which has a global user base, and extranets, which grant access to only specific external users like partners or customers.
  • Security: Intranets provide a higher level of protection because it operates within the company’s firewall, protecting information from public access. However, an extranet balances security and privacy by granting access to selected third parties while functioning over the public internet.

What Is the Main Purpose of an Extranet?

The primary purpose of an extranet is to facilitate collaboration between a company and its business associates in a highly secured and regulated online environment.

By creating a safe and controlled online environment for external partners, an extranet helps to streamline business relationships by enabling efficient information exchange, inventory management, and order processing.

In a nutshell, an extranet extends the company’s internal network to incorporate select external parties while maintaining the intranet's security measures and privacy policy.

Does a Company Need All Three?

A company does not necessarily need all three. 

The decision to incorporate all three into a company’s network infrastructure is largely dependent on a company’s:

  • Size
  • Specific requirements
  • Nature of operations

Smaller-sized companies may not need an extranet if they are not involved in extensive partnerships. They stand to benefit more from having internet connections for accessing public information and an intranet for internal communications and document sharing.

However, medium-sized companies will find an extranet very handy if they become involved in extensive collaboration with external partners or have to provide specific services to customers via secure online platforms. They will also benefit from having an intranet.

Conversely, large companies require all three since they maintain multiple business relationships and have complex workflows. Possessing all three networks helps them attend to their different needs.

Specialized industries like healthcare and finance, where security and privacy are top priorities, will benefit from having an intranet, the internet, and an extranet.

Assembly has the perfect guide to building an efficient workplace with the intranet. Try it today!

Assembly | The Intranet Your Employees Will Use

Find the Ideal Tool for Solving Your Security and Communication Needs

Organizations rely heavily on internet services, cutting across their internal private networks and extranet connections for information exchange and management. 

Generally, using the intranet, the internet, and the extranet can significantly enhance a company’s ability to deliver its products and services. Access to these networks efficiently integrates data processing and fosters collaboration.

Employee engagement and intranet go hand in hand. An organization must select an intranet that enables employees to get work done faster and more efficiently. 

Assembly offers a host of intranet collaboration tools that unleashes latent productivity within every organization. Book a free demo today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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