Intranets, extranets, and portals: what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between an intranet, an extranet and a portal? The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings.

What is an intranet?

An intranet is a private website, accessible only to staff of the organisation that runs it, designed to communicate and share knowledge more effectively across the business. A good intranet makes it a piece of cake for staff to find the information they need.

Intranets can be hosted ‘on-premise’ – on your own infrastructure and equipment, in which case you pay once for a perpetual licence for the software – or in the cloud, in which case you pay a monthly subscription to have it maintained remotely.

Most businesses are moving towards secure cloud-based intranets, because cloud hosting offers a number of advantages – not least removing the need to maintain your own servers and infrastructure. Hybrid options are also available, where legislation (such as that governing financial institutions) or other business practices require certain elements to be hosted in-house.

Our Kira intranet solution, built on Microsoft SharePoint, comes in both cloud and on-premise versions, and can work as a hybrid of the two. Kira works out-of-the-box, and can be customised to meet all your business’s needs. Users of Kira include Standard Life, Tesco Bank and Cairn Energy.

What is an extranet?

An extranet is essentially an intranet with secure access added for specific, authorised people outside your organisation. For example, in order to make it easier to share information, a business might give its partners and vendors access to their extranet.

If you already have an intranet in place, turning it into an extranet should simply be a matter of granting access to the outside users you want to include.

What is a portal?

A portal provides a way for authorised people to add, edit and update their information held on a larger, secure system.

A housing association, for example, might have a large system to manage its tenants’ needs.

It might not be appropriate to give tenants free rein on the system, for a number of reasons: apart from issues around what information they can access, the system itself may be too complex for ordinary people to use without training.

On the other hand, letting them update certain details, such as their phone number or email address, would save time and money for the housing association.

In that case, a tenant portal would give tenants a user-friendly ‘window’ onto the system that only reveals the information they can edit.

Our PortalPlus and TenantPlus solutions provide this type of access. Read our Estuary Housing Association case study to find out more about how TenantPlus fits into their system.

Thinking of creating an intranet, extranet or portal? We have twenty years’ experience in the field, and solutions right for any size of business. If you’d like to discuss your needs, drop us a line.

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