Extranets share protected information with business partners, clients, and special customers. Extranets are one example where the web can show measurable return on website investment. Extranets take advantage of the web's ability to share information in ways that other mediums simply cannot. It is unfortunate that complex and expensive content management issues have made it unrealistic for many companies to effectively utilize extranets. We have been able to utilize our NewfangledCMS to overcome these barriers. This has introduced our clients to some of the exciting and practical ways the web can be used to facilitate and enhance the way they do business.
Both intranets and extranets are just like any other website except that they require user name and passwords to access the information. Extranets are distinct from intranets in that they are intended for users outside the company (whereas an intranet's users are those inside the company). Extranets are used to provide information to business partners, clients, special customers, or anyone else who needs access to information that would not be appropriate for the general public's consumption. Extranets can contain special pricing information for retailers, resellers, or wholesalers. Extranets might contain detailed product specifications and instructions, resources for product reps, or information on their product's latest features. At Newfangled we use an extranet for maintaining password protected client pages. On our client pages we post company and client contact information, links to pdf files of project related documents (proposals, contracts, creative briefs etc.), production schedules, and layouts of work in progress.
Extranets provide an extremely convenient method for sharing information with business partners and clients. In our case, our clients know exactly where to find all of the information relating to their projects. The client page can be accessed by anyone in the organization who needs to review and have input into the project. Client pages can be accessed from anywhere in the world at any time. Often we may have conference calls with people from various locations and our extranet enables everyone involved to look at the same information on the client page.
Another benefit of this approach is that the extranet's content is always current. Printed material presents the risk that old, out of date information might be in circulation. In contrast extranets "live" in only one place, and therefore the content they contain is always the most up to date. Companies can save a lot of time and money by replacing frequently changing printed versions of information with extranet versions. For example, we met with one client who had a spiral bound book that contained information about each of their company's locations. This information changed quite frequently and every time it changed, they would have to reprint, recompile, and redistribute the books. This process is both inefficient and expensive. Additionally, confusion resulting from the fact that the older books were still floating around caused misinformation to perpetuate itself. Because of this confusion, the printed source (even the new versions) would often be considered suspect as no one could be certain that the information was still correct. People had to contact the one responsible for maintaining the book to make sure the information they had was correct.
The use of an extranet eliminates the inefficiencies of this process. Instead of maintaining a printed book, the extranet contains the information. This allows the person responsible for the information to keep the extranet current, and anyone who needs the information to access it from there. Additionally, the information is always available right when they need it, rather than of having to wait for an updated book, or a returned call to confirm information.
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