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In today's fast-paced and interconnected business landscape, collaboration between organizations, partners, suppliers, and customers plays a crucial role in driving success. Traditionally, extranets have served as a secure means of facilitating communication and information exchange between two organizations. However, with the rise of modern technologies, the relevance of traditional extranets has been called into question. In this blog post, we will explore the changing landscape of extranets, the emergence of modern collaboration platforms, and how the Cloud Connexa AppHub is revolutionizing the way organizations interact and share access to private applications.
The Evolving Role of Extranets
Extranets have long been the go-to solution for organizations seeking secure communication with external parties. They employ data networking solutions to interconnect the private intranets of the two organizations and offer controlled access to specific applications on a company's internal network. The need for collaboration with partners and third parties remains evergreen, but the way it is achieved has evolved significantly.
The Rise of Modern Collaboration Platforms
While traditional extranets have long been the standard for secure external collaboration, modern technologies have introduced new and more user-friendly alternatives. Modern collaboration platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint, Atlassian Confluence, and Slack not only allow collaboration within a company but can easily extend the collaboration to external parties. They can meet the needs of some organizations that were typically fulfilled by the use of an extranet solution — and do so in a more intuitive and seamless manner. For example, Slack's shared channels allow two organizations to collaborate effectively within a single workspace, fostering real-time conversations, file sharing, and more.
The Case to Go Beyond Collaboration Platforms
While modern collaboration platforms offer great convenience, they might not fully replace the traditional extranet's capabilities. Modern collaboration applications are limited to features like file exchange, messaging, and wikis. When an organization requires access to a partner’s systems, such as inventory applications, ERPs, or custom software, traditional extranets remain the preferred choice.
The true value of having an extranet between businesses gets unlocked when business processes between the two companies are made more efficient by integrating IT systems. This requires secure access to private APIs, applications, and systems that are outside the capabilities of normal team collaboration platforms.
Some examples of extranets used for process integration are:
1. Supply Chain Management
A manufacturer and its suppliers can use an extranet to share real-time inventory data, production schedules, and order statuses. This helps streamline the supply chain process and ensures that all parties are informed and able to act promptly on any changes.
2. Vendor Collaboration
A retail company can set up an extranet to collaborate with its vendors. This allows vendors to access relevant sales and inventory data, making it easier for them to manage their stock levels and respond to demand fluctuations.
3. Customer Support Integration
A company that outsources its customer support to a third party can use an extranet to share customer data, support ticket information, and knowledge base resources, ensuring a seamless support experience for customers.
Creating Extranets Between Private Networks
You can create extranets between private networks in one of two ways:
1. By using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create a secure tunnel between networks.
In this approach, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) acts as a secure tunnel, connecting the private networks of different organizations. VPNs use encryption and authentication to ensure data privacy, making it a cost-effective and widely adopted method for establishing secure extranets.
2. By using MPLS or a dedicated line.
These solutions offer maximum data privacy and security but come at a higher expense. MPLS networks provide a dedicated, private pathway for interconnecting networks, making them suitable for organizations with stringent security requirements.
Dedicated connectivity between the extranet networks ensures maximum data privacy but also incurs the highest expense. In addition, firewalls, access control, and authentication systems are needed to ensure security. Creating an extranet solution requires upfront planning, design, and considerable expertise.
The Modernization of Extranets with CloudConnexa AppHub
Cloud Connexa AppHub presents an innovative solution that modernizes traditional extranets and streamlines collaboration between organizations. It simplifies the process of sharing access to private applications, mirroring the user experience of modern collaboration platforms.
Using AppHub, organizations can invite external parties to access private applications by sending an email invitation. Upon acceptance, the external party can sign up for a Cloud Connexa account and create their private overlay network. Users, application servers, and networks connected to the external party’s own Cloud Connexa private overlay network gain access to the shared private application instantly, effectively fostering collaboration and integration in a secure and efficient manner.
3 Benefits of CloudConnexa AppHub
1. Simplified Collaboration
AppHub eliminates the need for complex planning and design typically associated with data networking involved in traditional extranets. It streamlines the entire process, making it as easy as sharing files on any modern collaboration platform.
2. Enhanced Security
All data communication happens within Cloud Connexa, completely isolated from the internet. The user accessing the shared application is connected to Cloud Connexa, ensuring that the data communications are secured all the way to the user’s device.
The external party getting access to the private application does not need to deploy or manage any data networking hardware. All that is needed is the installation of the OpenVPN Connect App on user devices. AppHub offers a cost-efficient alternative to leasing dedicated lines and other traditional extranet solutions.
Modernizing Extranets with CloudConnexa AppHub: Key Takeaways
While the traditional extranet has played a significant role in facilitating secure external collaboration, modern technologies have paved the way for more intuitive and efficient solutions for team collaboration. Cloud Connexa AppHub represents the future of extranets, enabling organizations to go beyond basic team collaboration. By simplifying the process of sharing access to private applications, AppHub empowers businesses to streamline business processes by integrating the IT systems in each company.
OpenVPN® is the market-proven leader in secure virtualized networking. Our cloud-based platform enables organizations to maintain secure communication between their distributed workforce, IoT/IIoT devices, and the online services they rely on daily. Built on the market-proven OpenVPN protocol, the solution combines advanced network security, encrypted remote access, and content filtering into a virtualized secure network that provides the best of VPN and ZTNA security.
With over 60 million downloads of our core open-source software and over 20,000 commercial customers, OpenVPN is recognized as a global leader in secure networking.
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