Do you know what the difference is between internet and intranet? Or intranet and Extranet? They all sound about the same, and they all involve the interconnectivity of computers, but they also have very different purposes and operating areas. We’ll explore some of the similarities and differences between these three terms, giving you an idea of their purpose and benefits.

Internet

Definitely the most familiar term, the internet is what we all use every day to go online, check our email, read news stories, and post photos of dinner (well, some of us do, anyway). The internet is a global network of computers and servers where anyone can access them as long as they know the IP address of the computer or server they wish to access. Of course, it can get pretty difficult to remember all of the numbers for every website you’d like to visit.

For example: if we were to only use IP addresses, you’d have to type 23.252.2.51 to get to our site. This can be difficult to recall, so instead we use a domain name: http://networks360.net. Every website has an IP address associated with it, and a domain name is just an easier way for us to navigate to it. When we type in the domain name, a Domain Name Server (DNS) looks up the IP address for the domain name you typed and navigates your browser there.

Intranet

An intranet is a group of computers or devices that are connected to each other over a server, but they cannot be accessed by anyone outside the network. The network also cannot access the outside internet. The primary method of an intranet connection is that a single computer or server within an office hosts web pages that can be accessed by anyone connected to that intranet.

An excellent example of this is a home computer with a printer. The computer and printer are part of the intranet of your home. Anyone else, say with a laptop, that also has access to the printer is part of the intranet. However, someone with another laptop that is not connected to your printer or other computers is not part of the intranet, even if they were in your house. In an office setting, a group of computers may be networked in order to share data for projects, operate on a private server that manages email, and run certain office related programs or load special office only web pages.

Extranet

The extranet is identical to an intranet with the exception that certain authorized users can access the intranet from outside of it. An analogous example of this would be a website where you have to log in. You can visit the website as an anonymous guest and view some web pages, but in order to actually use the features or visit some specific web pages within the website, you must submit credentials to access those features.

An office extranet still maintains the intranet server within the office itself, but an outsider, either an employee working from home, or an independent contractor working for the company, can access that private intranet, which is located behind a firewall.