Gaining Online Advantage: Intranet, Extranet and Internet - part 11

 by Martin Belam, 9 February 2006

Intranet, Extranet and Internet

With the increasing amount of dealing with external companies the BBC now also requires application admin tools that previously would have only been for internal use, to be available outside of the BBC's network. An example is this voting tool, which sets up and publishes interactive votes on

In the past that would always be done by a producer within the BBC. However, now the BBC may find itself in the situations where an entire programme support site that requires voting may be done out-of-house. It still makes sense for them to use the same voting application as the rest of the BBC site, for reasons of security, stability and scalability, but how do they access it? These kind of tools are therefore gradually having to be moved into the extranet sphere.

If you require large scale collaboration across different business units and different territories, these are some of the issues that you may need to think about when choosing technical solutions. For example, if everyone on the intranet is meant to be publishing using the same CMS, then all parts of the business will require network access to that CMS.

The BBC's intranet - Gateway

For each content area or application on a case-by-case basis, you need to consider whether the content is strictly for internal use only, is content that may need to be accessed by staff when they are roaming, or by business and organisational partners, or is content that can and should be made freely available to the public.

This diagram shows how different parts of the BBC's online content fit along this continuum from public internet net to completely secure internal intranet.

Illustration of the continuum between intranet, extranet and internet

As you are putting together your plan for your portal or web presence, you need to work out where along this continuum your content sits, and provide the correct technological framework to provide it in that fashion.

Open Source software

Whilst we are talking about the technology framework you need to work out for internet, extranet and intranet content, I'd like to comment on an issue that is increasingly being raised - the value of Open Source software to businesses and organisations. The BBC uses quite a bit of open source software, and I think it is one of those things where, if it is the right piece of software for the job, can be an excellent and efficient means of getting things done.

There was one particular project I worked on where we were building an email distribution system for BBC News. We had one component of the system that we were trying to build in-house that consistently failed. In the end we replaced that component of the system with an open source bit of software, and that was the decision that then moved the whole project on and helped it to launch.

Open Source software can be very useful to a business, and the BBC itself has released some software back into the developer community, which can be found at

Continue to find out about how to decide whether it is appropriate for your web presence to offer levels of content personalisation to your audience.

Keep up to date on my new blog