Intranet & Networking
INTRANET & NETWORKING
1 Authored by: Palani Murugappan
Basics of networking
To fully understand and appreciate how the Internet works and why it works the way it
does, it would be better for you to have some basic understanding of what networking is all
about and how it works in general.
The previous part had highlighted some basic concept of what a network is. To recap, a
network occurs when more than one computer in linked with another. This linking can take
place within a premise or department and is often called local area networking or LAN
(usually within a kilometer radius). Today, many companies are using wireless LAN.
A link that occurs from one area to another far away (a few to thousands of kilometers
away) is known as wide area networking or WAN and is generally linked via cables and
Introduction to Intranet
Most of us would have heard of the Internet. What then is the Intranet? An Intranet is a
private network within an organization incorporating the standard protocols commonly
found on the World Wide Web (“WWW”).
As the use of the Internet grew, more people accepted its technologies and what it could
offer. This led to computer network administrators to apply the same technologies to
information and computer systems within their companies.
An intranet in other words is a local private network within an organization that also has
access to the Internet. It shares many characteristics of the Internet but fundamentally
One could also look at an Intranet as a mini version of the Internet confined within an
Difference between an Intranet and the Internet
An Intranet is different from the Internet based on the following ways:
The Internet is global and spans all countries. The Intranet is confined to an
organization only and is within a building or sometimes within the reach of wide
2 Authored by: Palani Murugappan
The Internet has more than a million hosts connected to it while the largest
Intranets would contain anything in the region of 100,000 hosts.
The Internet is available to be accessed by all and the contents within it are
generally made public. Thus, little security is required. An Intranet is private and
as such, security is high.
Any user attempting to access an Intranet would be expected to provide a user
(login) name and password which is verified by the system before allowing the
user to access it. In contrast, anyone can access the Internet especially via the
many cyber cafes around us.
No one owns the Internet and the rules and standards of operations are
established by consensus. An Intranet is completely controlled by the
organization that owns it.
Factors contributing to the growth of Intranet
Why should one use an Intranet? What benefits are gained in doing so? Below are some of
the reasons that have led to the popularity of the Intranet.
The growth of the Internet has prompted many to use the same technologies in
creating an Intranet. With the technological advancement of the Internet, the
same technologies could be applied to the Intranet too, allowing the transfer of
skills and software developed to the Internet to be used within an Intranet.
For the end users who are already familiar with the Internet, the learning curve
to use the tools and software used on the Intranet is short due to the similar
In developing an Intranet, the cost and complexity involved is usually less than
that required to build other types of network applications. This is the effect of
the widely available tools available and also the speed and simplicity of
developing HTML applications.
Many of the applications developed for use on the Intranet can be expanded for
use on the Internet too. For example, some of the information available to
employees may be extended to the customers via the Internet on the
company’s corporate website.
INTRANET & NETWORKING
3 Authored by: Palani Murugappan
Intranets can reduce the amount of paper usage required in business
procedures. It also allows organizations to exploit any information and
knowledge available such as documents and personal data.
More on Intranet
The growth of the Intranet has also a lot to do with the corporations relying on proprietary
hardware and software systems to network its computers, which is very costly and time
consuming. This is made worse if the same set of hardware and software is used in offices
around the world with little technical support available. Sharing information became
difficult due to different file formats used in different systems.
Thus, by using an “off the shelf” Internet technology, Intranets managed to fill the gap and
made internal communications with offices around the world simpler.
The Intranets use HTML (hyper text markup language) to create documents and the
transmission protocol TCP/IP to transmit information across the network. Data and
information is stored in one (or more) of the company’s servers and can be accessed using
a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator (two of the more popular
web browsers). However, access to the Intranet is limited to employees only and
sometimes extended to vendors or contractors.
As organizations thrive on information, access to it was never easy. Employees needed to
get approvals from their superiors to certain reports and these were never on time.
Now with the Intranet, employees can get access to annual reports, handbooks, schedule a
meeting, liaise with counterparts within the same organizations in different parts of the
world, review company’s employment policies, to name a few. This can be done 24 hours a
day for anyone who has access to the Intranet. Some of the more sophisticated Intranets
allow employees to access it via the Internet from the comfort of home or where ever they
Examples on the usage of Intranet
An example on the use of the Intranet is the sharing of printed documents such as
newsletters and general reports. Imagine how much it will cost to print these reports on a
regular basis! This is without considering the environment impact the paper has!
Yet another advantage that the Intranet can offer is the easy updating of corporate
information. For example, when the corporate directory of names, telephone and fax
numbers, e-mail addresses needs to be updates, it can be done with a few keystrokes and
4 Authored by: Palani Murugappan
Recently, video conferencing has made an impact for employees around the world to get
together at the same time and communicate with one another. Virtual one-to-one meetings
are also made possible with the more sophisticated Intranets. Costs can be saved in terms
of traveling and accommodation.
As more companies use high speed LAN, files such as video clips, animation and audio can
remain on an Intranet and delivered to employees’ desktop. For example, a speech by the
Group Chief Executive Officer can be stored and retrieved for a later viewing by
employees in different parts of the world in different time zones.
Despite all of the above, employees should realize that an organization can only derive the
full benefit from an Intranet if employees are willing to share information (nonconfidential)
with others i.e. an information sharing culture should be emphasized within
One way of achieving an information sharing culture is to have a change in attitude. Just as
how many people forward e-mail messages to others, the same culture should be
encouraged within the organization. Of course, this does not mean that one should resort to
spamming! Messages such as annual parties or a new company policy should be
disseminated to all employees who have access to the Intranet.
Introduction to Extranet
Now that you know what the Internet and Intranet are, the next step is to know briefly what
an Extranet is. An Extranet is a collaborative network which uses Internet technology to
link its businesses with the organization’s customers, suppliers, vendors or others that share
the same common business goals. An Extranet may have a private connection between two
or more Intranets. The information available on the Extranet usually has various levels of
accessibility to outsiders such as who gets access to privileged financial information,
research and development stages on new prototypes, etc.
Examples on the usage of Extranet
An example on the application of Extranet is the JIT (“just-in-time”) system pioneered by
Toyota Motors, Japan. The JIT system is a highly sophisticated system where to keep
inventories low, Toyota had allowed their vendors and suppliers of components to access
its system which will trigger and inform the vendors/suppliers that a certain component is
running low (or hits the re-order level). In this sense, Toyota does not require to have a
huge warehouse to stock parts for its vehicles. The JIT system allows for the delivery of
parts just before it is to be used.
INTRANET & NETWORKING
5 Authored by: Palani Murugappan
Another example is the use of paperless transaction between customers and their suppliers
or vendors. Initially at an earlier stage, this was made available via the Electronic Data
Interchange (“EDI”). However, as the cost of implementing this was high, it was beyond
the reach of most companies.
Many companies conduct training programs via their Extranet network. Training or
educational materials can be shared across many others who have access to this network.
Similarly, product catalogs can be shared among wholesalers, retailers and even some endusers.
The joint development of new project has been made easier by collaborating via the
Extranet. Project managers find it a lot easier to gather information and have control over
what is available to them with respective to the individual projects.
Security and privacy issues
While the Extranet can prove to be very valuable, it is also prove to unwanted attacks from
employees within the organization and others outside it. To cater for this, some of the
security and privacy issues that need to be addressed are as follows:
Companies are encouraged to use leased lines for transmission or privately
Create a Virtual Private Network (“VPN”) for transmitting data and information.
Use digital signatures and certificates whenever possible.
Use the Internet with encryption whenever possible
Implement firewalls for blocking or allowing specific addresses to be displayed
Importance of networking
Why has networking been given such high priority in the global world? For one, it is today
the new way of working not just with your immediate peers but also to the world of people
around us electronically. In terms of networking, many people still relied on the informal
method of networking i.e. “who do you know”. With the Internet and Intranet, there is an
enterprise wide repository where information can be accessed 24 hours a day throughout
6 Authored by: Palani Murugappan
This can be achieved “wirelessly” today especially with a mobile phone, PDA (“portable
digital assistant”) or a notebook (assuming you have the 802.11b wireless network access
built-in to your device).
Resource sharing has been expanded to many non-employees of the company too. Teams
of people working on a group project can do so without incurring traveling expenses or
Amongst the other reasons networking is importance is for the successful transfer of
information and communication especially for the corporate user. Many managers today
are able to use the newest application on the network but many departments still do not
communicate for the proper decision making due to much needed information being
unavailable. In view of this, the computer networks can play a role by converging the tools
required for storage of information and retrieving them at a later stage or time.
Computer networks can manage to reduce the barriers between information held on several
computer systems. It allows users to access remote programs and databases within the
same company or public sources.
Due to the optimal information and communication possibilities, computer networks may
increase organizational learning and the value of a person in the long term.
Some of the other long term benefits of a computer network are as follows:
Cost reduction in terms of sharing hardware and software resources.
High reliability by having multiple sources of supply.
The usage of PC based network is a cost saving factor as compared to using
Computer networks allows for greater flexibility due to the possibility of
connecting devices from various vendors.