What Is Intranet?
The prefixes “intra” and “inter” are the keys to understanding the difference between two types of electronic communication. The first, “intra,” means within or inside. An intranet has connections only within a company or organization, for example. Sometimes this is referred to as a LAN, which stands for local area network if it has browser capability similar to that of the Internet.
The prefix “inter” means between, as opposed to “intra,” which means within or inside. The World Wide Web we use every day, which is sometimes called the Internet, is a network of electronic communications that is not contained within a company or organization. There is a one-way street of sorts between an intranet and the Internet. A company’s in-house network may be able to access pages on the Web, but the public will not have access to the company’s intranet.
In general terms, an intranet will use the same hyper-text transfer protocol as the Web, but the company’s internal network is protected from access by the public. The protection is provided in a manner similar to a firewall that provides protection when a person uses the Web browser on his or her computer.
At one time, teachers and computer experts referred to intranet and Internet quite often, in an effort to distinguish between the two types of network. In the past decade or so, intranets have acquired the common name LAN, now used almost exclusively to discuss such an internal network. Internet is the term used most often to discuss the world-wide communications network, though World Wide Web is more accurate.
The users of an intranet are the employees of the company or, in some cases, all the people in an office building who are given access to a particular network of work stations. With the proper use of programming languages, companies can construct applications that will allow certain tasks to be performed on the intranet. Generally speaking, the applications can be constructed to operate on the Mac platform, the Windows platform or the Unix platform.
The key benefit with a custom intranet is the efficient transfer of information and electronic documents between employees of the same company. This network does not have to be contained within one building, but can be spread among all the locations of a larger corporation. Again, this network is accessed by employees of a particular organization and is not available to the public.
These internal networks use transfer control protocol and Internet protocol (TCP/IP) in the same way that the better-known Internet does. Since the mid-1990s, the creation of more free software or inexpensive software for specific purposes has allowed many smaller companies to design an intranet for their purposes and put that network to good use. In some cases, companies may allow a few users outside the organization to access the internal network. This has spawned another “net” term, “extranet.” The prefix “extra” means outside or in addition to. In the simplest terms, it is possible to create a small network specifically for employees that works much like the larger Internet.