Over the past decade, there has been phenomenal growth, not just in the use of the Internet, but also in the technologies that support and enhance its use. The Internet has an enormous impact on most organizations, providing new ways to transact business with customers and suppliers, spawning new products and delivery mechanisms such as online music and opening new markets around the world. No matter the size of the organization or the industry it is in, every business musttake the Internet into account.
The Internet is a global collection of interconnected networks using a common set of protocols - specifically TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/internet protocol). Protocols are rules that govern how communication takes place. By sharing the TCP/IP protocols, these disparate global networks can communicate seamlessly, acting as one big network. It is important to remember that the Internet is not physical place ; there is no up or down. The Internet is the structure that supports the software. The software that we run using the Internet (e-mail, a web browser, peer-to-peer file sharing) provides us with the benefits we see and the problems we face.
Advantages of Internet are:
a. Expands market
b. Supports different ways to communicate
c. Supports different business practices
d. Provides cost-effective solutions for organizations
An intranet is a private website aimed at an organization's internal staff. In essence, Internet websites are aimed at the public at large and intranets are aimed at a controlled set of users. An intranet includes content and information that is only of use and value for the members of that organization. The need to have an intranet is driven by the need for security, privacy and controlled access. Much of the information within an organization is private : that is, it is intended for use only with in the organization or only by certain members of staff. Organizations need to communicate some information solely to their staff. Intranets were born in response to these needs when organizations opted to build websites with in the internal networks protected by their firewalls. An intranet is essentially a private version of the Intranet : the organization is responsible for the content and maintenance and the users are solely the staff.
Intranets have followed the various stages of web development. Initially , they were simple publishing websites, used mostly for unidirectional communication. With the advent of integrated collaboration platforms, intranets have become customizable portals where the staff can find valueable information related to human resources, finance and various projects. They can also use intranets to interact on collaborative projects.
Companies use intranets to share a wide range of information. For example, Cisco systems use its intranet to provide new employees with quick access to information about the company structure, policies and operation, as well as training and completing human resources paperwork. For a company that has grown extensively by acquisition, the ability to bring new employees up to speed quickly was of critical importance, Intranets can also be provide access to meeting minutes, key presentations that might be reused by different sales people and information on the current status of manufacturing operations - in short, any document - based information that might be usefully shared between organizational members.
An extranet is similar to an important excepts that is allow selected users from outside and beyond the company's firewall to access the company's data and collaborate with its employees. The organization is again responsible for the content and maintenance of the websites, but it includes information that would be of interest to people who are affiliated with the organizations, but not part of it. Customers and suppliers are the most likely partners in this regard. For eg. Li and Fung1 , a global sourcing company that supplies companies like The Limited and Abercrombie and Fitch, uses and extranet to connect its partners in manufacturing, sourcing and distribution.
By providing shared access to documents through the use of groupware tools, Li and Fung is able to manage quality in a global manufacturing operations that it does not directly control. Goods in a plant in China can be viewed over video conferencing technology by managers in Hong Kong, for example in order to quickly resolve and quality challenges. This results in lower travel costs, faster servicing of customer orders and improved quality.
Challenges of intranets and extranets:
1. Content maintenance: Content on intranets and extranets comes from the organization, not the Internet. The business must create and maintain this information. Maintaining content is costly and requires dedication of resources to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of the information. Out of date content is a threat to the organization as it means that decisions are made issued based on on inaccurate information. Yet increasingly organizations are finding that the appetite for maintaining content is waning as the novelty of the medium wears off and new policies to enforce content quality are necessary.
2. Security violations:
Extranets, while they are private, are intended to be accessed by people outside the company. Because they are often linked to internal systems, if someone gains access to the network, it is easier for them to do change or steal information.
3. Connection issues:
Compared to the proprietary tools that provide similar services (for example, Lotus Notes and MS Exchange), collaborative applications, such as discussion lists provided over intranets and extranets, are not as sophisticated. Built-in data replication is not available in an intranet and extranets. As a result, all users must be connected to the intranet in order to access it. Offline support can be important for mobile users who do not always have telecommunications access to connect to the intranet.
4. Evolution of standards and technology:
In the short term, there are risks associated with the emerging nature of the technologies. Programming standards for the web are immature and subject to change. This can result in the need to redevelop applications as standards evolve. Consider web pages. Several years ago, frames were the latest and greatest in web development, They allowed content to change in one part of a window while remaining constant in another. Today, frames-based pages are out of fashion. They are too clumsy in their approach and have been replaced by more sophisticated tools, such as embedded menus. Such changes in Internet standards create the need for updating intranets and extranets as well.
5. Lack of back-end integration:
The Internet developed largely as a communication and access tool. Because the web has developed largely as a means of posting document-based information. The back-end integration (linking applications running on the intranet/extranet to other corporate systems, such as the general ledger, manufacturing and so on) remains weak. The lack of these links also presents a security concern. For example, do we want to provide outsiders with direct access to our manufacturing planning system ? If the extranet is used for ordering, it is efficient to have the orders directly linked into manufacturing planning. Therefore, integration while maintaining security remains a challanges.
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