Internet vs. intranet vs. extranet: The key differences

What’s the difference between the internet, intranet, and extranet? And which network do you need? Discover similarities, differences, and use cases.

What we'll cover

Learn the difference between internet, intranet, and extranet. And discover how to use each for your business.

Internet, intranet, extranet — the words sound similar but these terms refer to very different types of networks.

These networks have very different security implications and business uses. So before you share essential company documents on any of them, it’s important to know the difference.

Understanding how to use the internet, intranet, and extranet helps to keep your resources secure and in the right place.

Intranet vs Internet explained

An intranet is a local, private network that only people within an organization can access. It’s a restricted network mainly used to share files and information securely within an organization. 

The internet is a global collection of computer networks known as the World Wide Web. This network is accessible to anyone.

What is the difference between the internet and intranet?

The internet and the intranet are both online networks. Their core framework is provided by internet protocol and World Wide Web standards.

The main difference between the intranet and the internet comes down to access.

The internet is a global collection of computer networks. It’s an open network, accessible to anyone with a device and an internet connection.

In contrast, the intranet is a closed, online network, only accessible to company employees. Employees use some form of login to access the company intranet. 

Extranet vs Intranet

As explained above, an intranet is a local network that only the employees of an organization get to access. And the internet is an open network that anyone can access.  

Extranets fall somewhere in the middle. They allow for some connections outside of the company but, like intranets, they’re not available to the public. 

Extranets are a way to give third-parties — including vendors, suppliers, partners, and customers — access to restricted information.

Internet vs intranet vs extranet

These three network types support a range of business activities. The information you decide to put on each of these networks depends upon the level of security required.   

Information you share on the internet is suitable for public consumption. Highly confidential information is best reserved for your intranet. And less sensitive data can be shared with trusted third-parties on an extranet. 


Why companies use intranet

Intranets have come a long way since the days when they lived on a server in the office. Many organizations have now moved beyond a traditional intranet. They’ve replaced clunky, outdated, desktop-based systems with a modern alternative.

Now, companies use intranets to share internal communications, support collaboration, and offer easy access to workplace resources. 

Intranets are helping to streamline the work of HR teams and improve employee engagement. They’re also helping organizations to share information securely with remote teams and frontline workers. 

For example, employees may need to access customer order details, review financial reports, or collaborate on new product development. In all these cases, an intranet supports productivity while keeping sensitive data secure.

Here’s a look at some of the ways a modern employee intranet can benefit your company:

  • Streamlined knowledge management. Companies can securely store and share important documents. Everyone — including remote and frontline workers — has the information they need to get their work done.

  • Network security. The best intranet software and web servers offer excellent levels of security. An internet firewall, data encryption, secure login protocols, and private servers protect intranet connections. So only approved personnel can access the network and its data.

  • Effective internal communications and collaboration. With a secure intranet, you make sure all workers receive company-wide updates. You give them the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with one another, too.

  • Improved employee engagement. The best intranet software supports employee engagement. It features employee feedback, recognition, analytics, and two-way communication tools.

Modern company intranet solutions, like Blink, keep employees connected. You can even track user activity and use workforce insights to measure employee engagement.

Read more: How to set up your employee intranet

Why companies use extranet

An extranet is a platform via which you can share resources and collaborate with partners. So companies use extranets to give trusted customers, partners, and vendors access to sensitive information. 

For example, if you have a customer who places regular orders with your business, they could use your secure extranet to update orders, process invoices, and message your team. It’s a reliable way to streamline your interactions while keeping data secure.

Some specific use cases for an extranet platform include:

  • Sharing financial data with your auditors and key stakeholders
  • Providing customer support via a help desk
  • Sharing access to key software with external partners
  • Collaborating on product development with engineering teams

In all these cases, an extranet solution supports productivity and helps you stay aligned with your partners.

Internet-hosted platform uses

Aside from the obvious day-to-day usage of the internet for browsing and email, many companies depend on the internet for vital employee functions.

For example, many businesses rely on cloud-based software to run their business and manage employees. That software often requires an internet connection.

Additionally, frontline teams may access a specific web portal to communicate with vendors and customers. They may also rely on the internet to access critical business information, such as customer databases or product manuals.

Here are some specific examples of when a company might use an internet solution:

  • Providing customer support via live chat or phone calls
  • Hosting virtual meetings and webinars with employees, partners, and clients
  • Delivering training materials to remote teams or workers in the field
  • Collaborating on projects with teammates and vendors across multiple locations

In all these cases, having reliable access to the internet can help your team stay connected and productive.

Intranets and extranets: which is right for my organization?

Intranets and extranets are part of many company workflows. But which solution is right for your organization?

If you’re looking for a platform that lets you securely share information with customers or vendors, an extranet is probably the best choice.

Extranet software allows you to collaborate with multiple external partners across different locations. And it’s ideal when you want to improve outbound or customer-facing comms.

However, if you need a way to share information internally with your workforce, an intranet is a better fit. This closed network offers the best level of security for sensitive company data.

An intranet can also support your wider organizational goals. It can act as an employee engagement tool, using comms and connection to drive employee engagement and retention. It can support workplace productivity, collaboration, and efficiency, too.

Intranets and extranets are both communication and collaboration tools. But they’re designed for very different groups of people. It may be that you need one or both of these solutions to meet your business goals.


Have you considered a mobile app?

Mobile employee apps are a kind of modern intranet, available on both desktop and mobile devices.

These apps are well-suited to frontline organizations, where workers don’t always sit behind a desk and don’t necessarily have a company email address. 

That’s because, when you use an app, frontline workers can access all modern intranet features on the go, from their personal smartphones.

They can take part in real-time communication, get critical company comms, access workplace resources, and use a variety of workplace software — all via a user-friendly interface.

Just bear in mind — some desktop intranets come with a mobile app. But unless you choose a mobile-first intranet, the mobile experience often lags behind that of the desktop version.

Mobile-first intranets offer exactly the same features and functionality on mobile devices as they do on desktops. So both frontline and office-based employees enjoy the same, great digital employee experience.

With a mobile-first employee app, you improve internal communication, employee productivity, and engagement for the whole organization, not just your employees based at HQ.  

Read more about the features and uses of Blink’s employee app.

Final thoughts: internet, intranet and extranet — what’s the difference?

You may use the internet, intranet, and extranet for company comms and operations. But think carefully about which information you put on each of these networks.

Use the internet when you want to share information with everyone. Use an extranet for collaboration with partners, customers, suppliers, and vendors.

And use an intranet as your secure digital workspace. This is a platform where employees can access resources, connect with one another, and follow company news. And where your comms and HR teams can easily and efficiently give workers all the information and resources they need.

How can Blink help?

Blink’s employee app is the ultimate employee network solution. With this cloud-based software platform, you can securely manage a range of business functions.

Communications, collaboration, HR functions, workplace resources — our super-app gives employees secure, mobile access to everything they need for their day-to-day work. 

In doing so, it helps frontline organizations improve employee productivity, retention, and engagement.

To learn more about how a modern intranet solution can support your digital workforce, explore Blink today.

Book A Demo Today

Get the only update with the latest news, insight and opinions for frontline champions: meet The Shift.

By submitting this form, you agree to be contacted about Blink's Products and Services. For more information, see our Privacy Policy.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
How a modern intranet experience fits the needs of your organization

Preview our app today

Watch 2-minute video

The Blink modern intranet

Discover how Blink's employee app modernizes the intranet and tears down the silo between the office and frontline.

Explore Product

The Blink modern intranet

Discover how Blink's employee app modernizes the intranet and tears down the silo between the office and frontline.

Explore Product

The Blink modern intranet

Discover how Blink's employee app modernizes the intranet and tears down the silo between the office and frontline.

Explore Product

The Blink modern intranet

Discover how Blink's employee app modernizes the intranet and tears down the silo between the office and frontline.

Explore Product