An intranet is a private computer network that uses Internet protocols and network connectivity to securely share any part of an organization's information or operational systems with its employees. Sometimes the term refers only to the organization's internal website, but often it is a more extensive part of the organization's computer infrastructure and private websites are an important component and focal point of internal communication and collaboration.
An intranet is built from the same concepts and technologies used for the Internet, such as clients and servers running on the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP). Any of the well known Internet protocols may be found in an intranet, such as HTTP (web services), SMTP (e-mail), and FTP (file transfer). There is often an attempt to employ Internet technologies to provide modern interfaces to legacy information systems hosting corporate data.
An intranet can be understood as a private version of the Internet, or as a private extension of the Internet confined to an organization. The term first appeared in print on April 19, 1995, in Digital News & Review in an article authored by technical editor Stephen Lawton.
Intranets differ from extranets in that the former are generally restricted to employees of the organization while extranets may also be accessed by customers, suppliers, or other approved parties. Extranets extend a private network onto the Internet with special provisions for access, authorization and authentication (see also AAA protocol).
An organization's intranet does not necessarily have to provide access to the Internet. When such access is provided it is usually through a network gateway with a firewall, shielding the intranet from unauthorized external access. The gateway often also implements user authentication, encryption of messages, and often virtual private network (VPN) connectivity for off-site employees to access company information, computing resources and internal...