Intranet vs. Extranet: Breaking Down the Differences

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

27 Nov 2023

According to Gallup, only 32% of employees in the United States report feeling engaged at work. For businesses, this statistic presents a major problem, as a lack of engagement can affect morale, productivity, and retention.

One of the biggest keys to promoting employee engagement is giving employees the internal communication tools they need to communicate and collaborate effectively. When employees feel like they’re informed and part of a team that has their back, engagement comes much more naturally.

To this end, many businesses leverage private networks like intranets and extranets that allow employees to engage and share information.

But what are the key differences between intranets and extranets? And which type of network is the best solution for your business? Below, we’ll cover the ins and outs of both resources to help you decide.

The differences between an intranet and an extranet

The main difference between these two resources is that company intranets primarily cater to internal employees while extranets also include external stakeholders.

But there are several other important differences between the two that are also worth noting:


  • Focus: Primarily internal communication and collaboration
  • Purpose: Enhance communication, information sharing, and collaboration among employees within a specific organization
  • Users: Limited to internal employees and authorized personnel
  • Access: Restricted to users within the organization’s private network
  • Security: Emphasis on safeguarding sensitive internal information, typically protected by firewalls and other security measures
  • Functionality: Supports a wide range of internal operations, including document sharing, company-wide announcements, employee directories, and collaborative tools.


  • Focus: Extends beyond internal operations to include external stakeholders
  • Purpose: Facilitate communication, information sharing, and collaboration with external partners, vendors, clients, and other authorized parties
  • Users: Includes both internal employees and external stakeholders with granted access rights
  • Access: Secure login from outside the organization’s network
  • Security: Places emphasis on securing sensitive data while allowing controlled access to external parties; utilizes encryption, authentication, and other security protocols
  • Functionality: Supports collaborative efforts between internal and external parties, enabling shared access to specific resources, documents, and information.

Pros and cons of using an intranet

Now that you know how an intranet differs from an extranet, what advantages can it offer a business like yours? Let’s examine some of the benefits and drawbacks of intranet software.

Pros of intranets

Intranets centralize company resources, strengthen team cohesion, and boost overall productivity. They’re a great way to promote cultural alignment and are a highly efficient tool for disseminating information to team members.

Thanks to features such as public shoutouts for employee recognition, mediums for social networking, and personalized user feeds, modern intranets like Workvivo help companies create a culture where everyone feels valued and included.

Since traditional intranets exist on a private, secure network instead of a public network, they also offer a high degree of security against unauthorized access. This limited access helps companies safeguard sensitive information shared via their employee intranet.

However, modern intranet systems such as Workvivo can also support remote workers by offering remote access to the network while still ensuring strong security via a comprehensive information security management system (ISMS).

Cons of intranets

As mentioned above, traditional intranets are often only accessible via your company’s internal network, so they’re limited to internal communication. Implementing a company intranet also requires proper onboarding and training for employees to get the most out of it – and to prevent information silos within the intranet.

Without proper updates, intranets can become stagnant repositories. To keep employees engaged, it’s important to keep the intranet updated with new and relevant content.

While adopting any new technological solution is bound to present a few challenges, it’s important to keep in mind that businesses can sidestep many of the drawbacks of traditional intranet systems with more modern platforms.

Pros and cons of using an extranet

Because extranets expand access to more than just your employees, they come with their own unique set of advantages and drawbacks to consider.

Pros of extranets

As a platform that’s accessible to both internal and external parties, extranets can simplify B2B communications, streamline supply chain management, and enhance client/vendor relationships. In this way, they can offer more flexibility, allowing companies to grant controlled access to any external parties with an internet connection (regardless of location).

This also makes extranets a great tool for supporting remote work, as they can serve as a digital workplace for remote team members to log into. Given that 27% of employees now work remotely at least part of the time, this can be a major advantage for many businesses.

Cons of extranets

Since extranets are externally accessible, any information shared via an extranet can potentially be exposed to unauthorized access. While some extranets include several security features, there’s simply no way to completely secure information shared on a public network.

Extranets also create complexities when it comes to managing user permissions. These user permissions are vital for ensuring the platform’s security, but they can be a hassle to keep up with if your extranet is accessible to a large number of users.

Choosing the right option for your company

So, between an intranet and an extranet, which is the right choice for your company? The answer to this question ultimately depends on your priorities and how you intend to use the platform.

Here are a few important questions to consider.

Who needs access to the information and resources?

If you only need to share information and resources with internal employees, an intranet will be the most secure and efficient option. However, if you also want to share information with clients, vendors, and other external stakeholders, you’ll need to use an extranet accessible via a global network.

What level of security do you need?

Since traditional intranets are only accessible via your company’s internal network, they offer more security than extranets. If you plan to use the platform to share sensitive information, an intranet is the safest option.

Of course, it can also be helpful to use your company intranet to share information with external stakeholders and remote workers who may not have access to the internal network. If this is a priority for your company, you’ll want to use either an extranet or an intranet platform such as Workvivo that offers remote access coupled with strong security and authentication features.

What is your budget?

Depending on factors like the number of users you have, the features you need, the type of hosting (on-premise or cloud-based), and the level of support required, some solutions cost upward of $15,000 to $100,000 or more. Before you commit to a solution, consider the upfront and ongoing (monthly or yearly) expenses, including maintenance.

What features does your team need?

Consider your team’s specific requirements, such as document sharing, task management, real-time messaging, and collaborative tools. In many cases, a reliable intranet will provide all the collaboration tools you need to succeed (unless you’re looking for a heavily customer-facing solution).

Additionally, keep an eye on emerging trends like AI integration, chatbots, and advanced analytics, which can further enhance productivity and streamline operations. Evaluating these features in the context of your team’s workflow will help you choose the most suitable platform for your needs.

What are the goals of the platform?

Be sure to consider your immediate needs and the future scalability and adaptability of the platform you choose. Companies can have diverse objectives for an intranet or extranet platform, ranging from improving internal communication to strengthening partnerships with external stakeholders. By aligning the platform’s capabilities with these long-term goals, you can ensure that your choice will continue to support your company’s growth and development in the years to come.

Workvivo: Modernizing the intranet experience

Intranets aren’t new. However, many of the intranet solutions that have been around for years are now stale and outdated – which is a big part of why many employees report getting limited value out of their company’s intranet.

Workvivo has modernized and enhanced the intranet experience with our advanced employee experience platform (EXP) with a social intranet designed to promote maximum engagement.

Our user-friendly collaboration tools and emphasis on social features drive employee engagement and help your company create a platform that employees genuinely enjoy using. This modern, culture-driven design yields high adoption rates, improved collaboration, and better engagement with the platform.

If you’ve decided that a company intranet is the right solution for your organization, don’t settle for a clunky and outdated platform. With Workvivo, you can create a modern social intranet that your team members will love!

Try Workvivo today to explore a better internal network

When it comes to facilitating employee engagement and efficient internal communication, a modern and feature-rich social intranet platform is one of the best tools you can use. With Workvivo, it’s easier than ever to create a fully customized company intranet to promote collaboration and engagement.

Sign up for a free demo of Workvivo today to see how our employee experience platform and social intranet can boost productivity and streamline company communications!