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What's the difference between an extranet and a VPN, and what common uses does each one serve? What technology stacks are often use to implement each?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Extranet is outside the firewall, private not public (DMZ), but only open to certain people/companies/oranizations.... https, instead of a vpn client connection.

Intranet is inside the firewall, and private, sealed off from the internet. You can use VPN to access the intranet securely though.

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Ahhh, so vpn is actually a secure, binary protocol and not a type of network? That makes sense! – pnongrata Jun 13 '12 at 19:27
VPN connects a network (your computer from home for example), and will use the public Internet as a backbone to another private network (your office's network) using a secure encrypted tunnel. Thus it will seem you are at your office on the network but you are really not there (just virtually). VPN is not a protocol, though it uses several to achieve this connection. – Logman Jun 14 '12 at 2:36

They are names for very different concepts.

A VPN is a "virtual private network", a piece of software that creates an encrypted communication between two (potentially) far-away computers such that nobody in between can see the contents of the communication.

An extranet is something of a made-up term, referring to a web site that a company publishes for the benefit of its vendors, partners, or customers. The name "extranet" was derived from "intranet", which is a web site that's intended for use only within a company. That term itself was sort of perverted from "Internet", which is literally a network of networks (web sites came around long after the Internet per se was created).

So an extranet is really a web site with a specific purpose. It's not a technology for setting up communications between computers like a VPN is.

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OK - so the VPN is a private intranet, but one that can span large geographic locations and even authenticate connections from the outside; and an extranet sounds like the same thing as an intranet but one that is configured to allow connections from vendors, business partners, etc. Is this the gist of it? – pnongrata Jun 13 '12 at 19:10
VPN is a secure encrypted connection into a private network. – Logman Jun 13 '12 at 19:16

A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network of computers linked using a secure “tunnel” connection over a public network such as the Internet. An extranet is a private intranet based on Internet and World Wide Web technology and standards that is accessible to authorized outsiders. A VPN is a method of securing a network, whereas an extranet describes a type of network in terms of its users, in this case, a firm and authorized vendors or partners.

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