Magazine article Global Finance

Intimations of an 'Extranet'

Magazine article Global Finance

Intimations of an 'Extranet'

Article excerpt

Bjorn Olofsson of Halsokostcentralen, a manufacturer of health foods and natural remedies in Malmo, Sweden, is attempting to coax the company's suppliers onto the Internet so they can access his inventory and pricing information and sales records and leave their directions for him.

It will be a great improvement over the system, now being phased out, of dedicated lines and a modem pool, which he claims is a "nightmare" that has involved putting in dedicated lines and spending at least 30 hours of support time with each customer.

"Today I say, `Go to the local shop and buy an Internet package, install a modem on your computer, and call me.' That's all there is to it for them." So far, 12 of his 20 suppliers have taken him up on this. However, Olofsson's financial transmissions on the new system are as yet limited to billing data.

Halsokostcentralen is in the forefront of the next new trend in the development of the intranet. That's the extranet, extended intranet, or virtual private network-no one term has yet emerged-a secure, private piece of the public Internet that a company uses to exchange sensitive or strategic information with suppliers, customers, and shareholders. "You'll see it beginning in 1997 and exploding in 1998," says Stephen Leaden of Internet consulting firm Leaden Associates in New Windsor, New York. Companies are still at the point of developing their own intranets for the exchange of information within the company.

The problem is, of course, security. "How are you going to feel comfortable with proprietary information passing over a public network? …

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