For a company with a widely dispersed team of employees, vendors, affiliates and of course customers, extranet portals offer an extremely cost effective communication and coordination mechanism. Thing is that it is either dangerous or astronomically pricey to allow these outside groups access to an internal company network, otherwise known as an intranet. External web, on the other hand, are a safe and cheap virtual meeting ground for both sides.
It allows those on both sides to transfer documents and share information, and a project manager can keep tabs on the entire operation. Employees outside can use it to access tools such as company web mail, and get the latest updates on group calendars and tasks. The best part is that since it is a web based service, there is no geographical limitation.
If this sounds appealing, there are two ways to do it. The first method is to do the implementation in-house and set up the necessary servers and software, plus the IT staff to look after it. The second method is to contract with a hosted solution provider.
Obviously, the second one is a lot simpler and involves no hardware/software, installation costs or additional staffing requirements. Bear in mind that the basic purpose of external web portal is to provide access to selected people on the outside while denying it to everyone else. So a hosted solution is the better alternative in case the company doesn’t have expertise in securing and firewalling networks from the outside.
The use or applications of this type of portal can be of many different kinds, like a portal for customer service. Customers would get usernames and passwords, and would be able to log in to seek information, help and support from support staff. Another type would be where a group of health care companies and hospitals team up to share research information and case studies.
Manufacturers can put out demonstrations, product brochures and local area customer enquiries for sales agents and appointed retailers while a financial firm could provide real-time data and client account management to brokers. There’s no end to these types of varied applications, and each has its own advantages. For companies who prefer a web-based hosted solution, there’s no need to worry about the technology or investment.