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Intranets, Extranets & Portals: What's the Difference?

14 Nov 2019

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If you’ve been searching for intranet, extranet or portal solutions online you may know that one of these options could help business run more smoothly. But you may still be a little unclear on what the key differences are – and perhaps which solution might be right for you.

Read on below for a quick and clear explanation on the different platform types, and when they can be of the most use for your various stakeholders.

Intranet, or Intranet Portal

An intranet gets its name from the Latin word intra, meaning ‘inside’. The term refers to a private communications network and content management system (CMS) platform that’s accessible only from within an organisation.

Essentially, an intranet supports your teams in their daily activities and communications through several ways.

Social Elements

Social elements that support internal communication and collaboration. These can include news and announcements, real-time status updates, and comments and interactions with blogs or other content.

Communication and feedback can be enhanced both ways between leadership and teams. You might post positive customer feedback, for example, and run polls about new staff initiatives.

See Using Intranet Social Tools to Boost Engagement for more details.

Corporate Directory

A corporate directory that allows team members to quickly access details such as staff reporting structures via organisation charts, and to see at a glance the details of external experts and partners. This makes it exceptionally easy to find the right people with the right areas of expertise for a project or referral.

You can also add in relevant sections of an organisation chart to department or team pages to highlight relevant staff members and reporting structures within that department or team!

Document Management

Document management which stores vital documentation for the organisation in one secure, centralised location. This includes enterprise search functionality, to help staff members find exactly the information they need when they need it.

There’s no need to scramble to find the most up-to-date version of marketing assets like logos, for example, or the company’s internet usage policy. See Document Management Best Practices for more details.

Forms and Workflows

Automated workflows and user-friendly forms to help you streamline routine processes and to obtain important staff information.

For instance, annual leave forms and expense claims can be provided through an intranet platform to minimise the time spent on these processes.

The introduction of a modern intranet solution can have a number of flow-on effects including improving employee engagement, retention and productivity, as well as fostering a more connected business culture.

This type of platform has been traditionally hosted via in-house servers at the organisation’s premises (also known as an on premise solution), but organisations are increasingly turning to the advantages of an intranet that is hosted remotely in the cloud.

Cloud-based intranets can be more easily scaled, implemented and securely accessed by your team, and can also be more affordable to implement and update.

Related reading:

Portal, CMS Portal, CMS Web Portal or CMS Enterprise Portal

While an intranet is a closed system for internal use within the organisation, a portal is a CMS and communications platform that can also interact with external stakeholders. A key feature is the ability to integrate with third party systems that provide data or tools – in essence, providing a gateway or portal to these services.

These can include:

  • Customer relationship management services (CRMs) such as Salesforce, to help teams reach and connect with customers and potential customers.
  • Business productivity tools that enable employees to connect and work together, such as the messaging and collaboration software Slack.
  • Customer service software such as Zendesk, which can provide a built-in IT helpdesk for staff to submit tickets and questions about technical issues.
  • Document management services and file hosting services like Dropbox, to keep projects moving along and documents updated in the cloud to be accessed whenever they’re needed.
  • Industry specific integrations, such as connecting with a school management system to pull in student, parent and staff data.

With the right solution, you may be able to adapt an intranet into a portal by adding integration as you need it. Elcom’s CMS portal solutions, for example, can integrate with Dropbox, Salesforce, YouTube, Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365, Active Directory and more, and can be customised to integrate with specific platforms relevant to the organisation’s needs.

Portals can also include personalised interfaces for specific external stakeholders, such as suppliers, investors or school parents. These interfaces can be used to share and receive relevant documentation, forms, notifications, events and more.

Thanks to its flexibility, portal software is used within a vast variety of organisations in their day-to-day operations: from schools and universities, to healthcare providers, to financial and corporate companies.

As such portals can take on a myriad of formats including member portals, community portal and school portal.

Related reading: [Blog Post] 15 Enterprise Portal Features and Capabilities You Need to Consider

Extranet, or Extranet Portal

These days, extranet is considered somewhat of a vintage term when it comes to creating company networks. As intranet refers to ‘inside’, extranet is based on the Latin word extra meaning ‘outside’.

The term ‘extranet’ has been superseded by the term ‘portal’ in recent years, which is why you won’t hear extranet used too often. If you do, simply think of it in the same way as you would a portal solution.

Have questions? The team at Elcom would be happy to help with a free consultation for your organisation.

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