Extranet is that part of an intranet that is made available to people outside the organization. In other words, it as an extension of the intranet used by a company. The main aim of an extranet is to provide useful information to users outside the company in a secure environment.
Just like an intranet, extranet is also based on the use of a web browser. Extranet software helps to provide the required information on the computer of every extranet user, and one doesn't need any specialized hardware to make it fully operational.
An extranet has to ensure that the access to the network is fully secured. For that, special software is used to help in encrypting data and user authentication. Extranets can be built or purchased. When one builds an extranet on the basis of internal resources, one may require customized extranet software. The type of functions performed depends on the type of software used. Go for that particular extranet software that has the potential to fulfill your requirements straight away, or that can be modified easily to suit not only your current but also your future needs.
When an extranet is purchased from an application service provider, this service provider maintains the extranet software for your company. In such cases, take care to ensure that the latest security software is used, as security is one of the most important aspects of an extranet. Any loophole in security could allow non-authorized access to your internal network, and that can have serious consequences in the long run.
Extranet software is available in many different price ranges. The choice of this software could depend on several factors, such as the nature and volume of information to be shared, number of users, capacity of internal network, size of the company and nature of its business.