From a SharePoint Intranet to a Secure Extranet - No Code Required

Moving from public facing to extranet scenarios, however, introduces some particular challenges. The most pressing of these is achieving the security required to eliminate the possibility of data leaks. The content your business might be sharing externally could be intellectual property, confidential company information, or sensitive personal data such as investor, employee or patient details.


18 June 2013

I’ve had the good fortune of working with SharePoint™ since 2007 and, like most of you who’ve followed this platform’s evolution, I’ve been impressed with the ever expanding breadth of functionality it offers. Having first gained widespread use in intranet scenarios, Microsoft has made substantial improvements in its 2010 and now 2013 releases, which have helped to enable SharePoint’s broader adoption outside the firewall.

Looking at http://sps.cloudapp.net gives you an idea of just how many companies have made the investment in SharePoint for their public-facing internet presence. It’s clear from the variety of the sites listed that SharePoint allows web developers a great deal of latitude and creativity, disproving the notion that the SharePoint look and feel is hard to customize.



Moving from public facing to extranet scenarios, however, introduces some particular challenges. The most pressing of these is achieving the security required to eliminate the possibility of data leaks. The content your business might be sharing externally could be intellectual property, confidential company information, or sensitive personal data such as investor, employee or patient details. Whether through hacking, incorrect permissions, procedural failures, or as a result of not having sufficient rights management capabilities, the loss of confidential information can result in everything from a damaged reputation to lawsuits.

It seems clear that there are far fewer companies with a SharePoint-centric extranet than there are that use SharePoint for their public face. There are a variety of reasons for this in spite of the platform’s evolving capabilities. Here are a few of the most common challenges companies considering a SharePoint extranet face:

 

 

 

  • Complex Topologies: For their extranets, companies need topologies that better isolate user domains and external content. This can significantly increase the physical infrastructure costs, as compared to an intranet deployment. 
  • Development Time: Creating any website is a development activity that can take months and consume hundreds of resource hours. Once deployed, companies need the staffing and expertise to manage and maintain these extranet solutions. Unfortunately, skilled personnel experienced with SharePoint can be difficult to find and retain. 
  • Security: The investments needed to effectively eliminate the risk of losing sensitive information are substantial. Creating a secure extranet requires the development of rigorous processes, personnel with the time and training to enforce them, and systems to enable their implementation.


Gartner cites the development of user access governance processes and infrastructure as paramount in the move to an extranet. In their December 2012 report entitled “Securing SharePoint in Extranet Scenarios,” author Neil MacDonald assumes that “By 2015, 30% of SharePoint deployments opened up for extranet access will incur a loss of sensitive information due to a failure to manage the increased risk.”

It’s clear that implementing and managing a secure extranet can be a time consuming, expensive and complex project. While companies need a speedy, cost effective way to distribute sensitive information to an external audience, they also need a solution that has rock-solid security, an intuitive, comprehensive permissions model, detailed usage reporting, and control over the end-user experience.

Intralinks provides a compelling solution to these challenges.

Intralinks' platform for the secure exchange of documents provides an ultra-safe extranet environment which can be up and running in hours, and managed by business users – not IT. Deployed as a SharePoint farm solution, the Intralinks Connector for SharePoint synchronizes the contents of targeted SharePoint site libraries with Intralinks repositories. SharePoint site administrators can configure the connector in minutes using a familiar settings page. The connector also allows for the site administrator to manage Intralinks users, groups and permissions from SharePoint, while also tracking who’s been accessing which documents on Intralinks. In a tiny fraction of the time needed to build an extranet, site administrators can be securely publishing sensitive SharePoint content – with no development activities necessitated, no additional hardware to maintain, and no security infrastructure to purchase, install or manage.

Intralinks’ built-in sophisticated digital and information rights management provide the ability to tightly govern how sensitive data is exposed to end users, including the option to disable printing, file saving and screen capturing. Additionally, Intralinks’ audit reporting capabilities provide a robust, detailed overview of a document's lifetime and its usage by its intended audience.

I hope that I have now helped shed some light on the challenges companies face in implementing a secure extranet. I also hope that I’ve been able to show you that Intralinks provides you with the features a secure extranet needs in order to make SharePoint content available externally.

For more information on IntraLinks solution, please visit the Intralinks Connector for SharePoint solution overview page.