What is an Extranet, and How Do Global Brands Use Them?

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Amanda Jones

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There are various ways that brands can interact and deliver services to their customers.

Sometimes the privacy and security of these services and products is paramount, and extranets allow brands and consumers to interact via these safe methods and here I'll explain what an extranet is and how it can benefit your brand.

What is an Extranet?

An Extranet is a privately controlled portal created by a business, typically in a B2B setting, allowing them to share information with external business partners, clients, or stakeholders—in a secure and private way.

Here are two examples of how an extranet can work:

  • Data Sharing: An extranet may allow a business to share sensitive customer data with a partner company.
  • Business Enablement: Through an extranet, a company’s clients are able to place orders, enquire about delivery times, and make complaints.

Extranet Vs Intranet: How Are They Different?

An extranet and intranet hold many similarities; for example, they both enable data exchange, communication, and greater levels of efficiency. Furthermore, they are both private networks. But that’s where the similarities end.

With an intranet, users are typically confined to company employees, making it an entirely internal affair. Meanwhile, an extranet specifically extends outside the company’s virtual walls and provides accessibility to third-party users, clients, and companies.

Extranet Benefits: Why Do Companies Use Extranets?

Why would a company use an extranet instead of a file-sharing solution? Here are five good reasons why.

1. Simple data sharing and collaboration

One reason that brands would use an extranet is that data sharing between those who matter becomes much more simple. Without an extranet you're likely sharing data with outside parties via emails. This can lead to a multitude of long term issues such as outdated document versions, information being overlooked or even lost. Keeping all content updated within an extranet will ensure relevant data is easily accessible.

Meanwhile, file-sharing solutions have limited user interfaces. So providing a custom experience increases ease of use, findability of content, and overall productivity.

2. Secured documents

Another major reason is that the valued documents are safe and secure. With a robust extranet site, you can provide access control, allowing you to limit areas and files of your website.

An extranet even has the ability to provide an audit trail, showing who has been doing what within your network; file transfers will be done through SSL encryption, further ensuring the safety of important documents.

3. Increased collaboration potential

Hosting all of your relevant information within an extranet allows both external and internal users to access and work on the same content as needed.

Any strong extranet software will enable you to serve users on smartphone or tablet devices, increasing accessibility for users on the move, at home, or travelling. So long as there’s an internet connection, your stakeholders can access your extranet, and all the content, documents and data within it.

4. Training time is minimal (with the right extranet software!)

As content and data stored within an extranet may be accessed via a simple webpage, there is not much in terms of additional understanding or training that must be done by the external users.Good extranets provide intuitive experience for end users, and a flexible and intuitive content management experience for administrators.

5. Customization

Your extranet can be customised functionality-wise and visually, allowing you to portray your brand how you want to and decide how third-parties are allowed to interact with your confidential and proprietary information. In addition, personalizing the experience for different end user roles and personas delivers extra benefits.

Which Industries Primarily use Extranets?

If you’re looking for examples of industries that commonly leverage extranets, here are three.

High Tech and Manufacturing

For high tech product and manufacturing companies that sell goods through a distribution network, there’s a ton of information that needs to be shared and updated with retailers and partners on a regular basis. For example keeping updates on product pricing, new product information, delivery timings, and so forth.

Government Agencies

Public organizations often collaborate with each other. In order to facilitate these cross agency projects they need a secure and central hub from which to use the most relevant information.

Franchise Operators (Retailers, Hospitality, and more)

Franchises have standardized processes that are used at all of their locations whether they are local or across the globe.Spreading unified information such as product information, handbooks, user manuals, advertising instructions, corporate news, food hygiene materials, and so forth, can be a great challenge without the use of an extranet to house all of the information.

How Marriott Makes Use of Their Extranet

Marriott, a worldwide hospitality provider with a number of franchises and sub-brands, leverages CrafterCMS to power its extranet, enabling all corporate employees as well as franchisee owner/operator associates to access all brand-related content, policies, procedures, and data quickly and securely. Social collaboration capabilities enhances the experience and further increases productivity and loyalty, ultimately driving better customer experiences for all 30 Marriott brands across the globe.

Should You Build an Extranet?
Extranets provide a great link between the internal employees of a business and the external stakeholders that greatly rely on you and your information.

Because of this, an extranet will only be greatly beneficial to your company if you require these tight-knit and reliable content connections with third parties. For example, a small business that operates off their own resources with no third-parties may not find such great value in using one.

However, if your business needs to create better connections with your external force of stakeholders and partners, creating an extranet will be of immense help to get your business collaboration streamlined.

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