Quarterly Journal on Management
From the publishers of THE HINDU BUSINESS LINE
Vol. 2 :: Iss. 3 :: February 1999
In Here Out There
Internet, Intranet and Extranet. What does it all mean?
As the 1990s draw to a close, it would only be fair to say that the internet has proved to be the buzzword of the decade. Every day, there are stories about the latest developments in internet technology. You may have also seen some other terms used such as intranet and extranet.
The internet is a global network of computers connected together. It is the world's largest computer network. It consists of millions of computers hooked together swapping information. These computers belong to - and reside in - major corporations, educational institutions, government departments and small businesses.
Because of its size, and the variety of computers connected to it, the internet has an amazing array of information to offer. Information on companies and their products, results of research conducted at the world's best universities, details of special deals at a local shop, or a biography of the teenager next door, can all be found on the internet.
For the last few years, people have been using e-mail and "chat" programs to talk to each other, and share information. Distant relatives are communicating by e-mail. People swap e-mail addresses the way they used to swap telephone numbers.
But a new use for the internet is emerging, and that is electronic business. Consumers are buying products like books, insurance and even cars over the Internet.
All you need to connect to the internet is a computer, such as a Pentium II processor based PC, a modem to connect to the phone line, an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to give access to the internet, and some free software called browsers to run on your computer. Speedy access to information and instant and cheap communication through the internet has led to an astronomical increase in its usage. Surveys say there are now over 60 million people connected to the internet with projections reaching 500 million by the turn of the century.
Businesses are using internet technology internally to communicate with their staff and employees. An intranet is, in effect, an internal company Internet. An intranet is where a company uses a web browser program to let employees share information, download files and publish details. Let's look for a moment at how Intel is using its intranet internally.
Intel staff around the world can check the Intel stock price, the time in other cities, look up the internal telephone directory, read internal newsletters, and more. Teams publish meeting details, presentations, meeting minutes, organisation charts, news, photos and more, all using the power of an "internal intranet" or intranet.
Companies can use an extranet to share information with their resellers and distributors. For example a reseller can check the product details, inventory level, delivery time, price and more by connecting to a manufacturer's extranet. Normally this is a password protected area of a company's web site.
Specialist IT research company International Data Corporation (IDC) has estimated that the typical return on investment for a corporate intranet is well over 1,000 per cent.
What's more, IDC's study showed that the cost of setting up an intranet is typically recovered within just six to 12 weeks.
It makes information available within an organisation over its own internal network using Internet technology.
While the internet includes tens of thousands of web servers serving up Web pages to everyone, an intranet works over an organisation's internal network with a few web servers serving up web pages that are accessible only to employees within the organisation.
Intranets offer many advantages over traditional internal computer systems. In particular, they are easy to use, and allow staff to use their PC to access data stored in other computer systems such as older mainframe databases.
Intranets give businesses the ability to let all employees access information that's been too hard to get at in the past. The sort of information that has traditionally been kept in centralised mainframes, or in spreadsheets or word processors on individual PCs spread around the organisation. Intranets offer a simple new way to make all this information readily available to everyone in the company.
Product information, company policies and procedures, human resources information such as employee leave records can be easy to find, read and print using an intranet.
An extranet allows a limited group of people outside your organisation - such as your suppliers or customers - to have access to information on your company network using Web browsers. For example, an extranet would allow external organisations to whom you give access (such as your stationer) to access orders directly from an internal stationery ordering system on your intranet.
So, start thinking about it now. Perhaps it's the time to get a PC for your home and start introducing your children to the future. Or maybe your business could benefit from making its safety policies or financial results available to all staff. Or maybe you'd like to reach a global market by putting up a Web site providing product details, or even selling your products over the Internet to worldwide customers. Or maybe you'd like to increase communication with your channel partners, and giving them an extranet. It will cement your relationship and make you a better business partner. Only one thing is for sure, whatever your businesses, there are many ways you can be using the Internet, an intranet or extranet to benefit your business.
Intranet - Benefits for businesses:
Extranet - Benefits for businesses:
Kanwaljit Singh is General Manager - Marketing, Intel. He can be reached at email@example.com.