Navigating the world of EDI can be pretty daunting, especially with all the acronyms and document numbers used to identify nearly all actions in EDI. An important, and often overlooked, piece to EDI is communications. EDI can only work once it has the data to map and process so let’s talk comms.
The three most prevalent EDI communication protocols used today are: AS2, FTP and the good old VAN.
Applicability Statement (AS) 2 uses signing, encryption and MDNs (Message Disposition Notification) over the internet (HTTP\HTTPS) to send and receive data between two systems\companies. It has been widely adopted thanks to Walmart’s efforts in the retail sector. AS2 offers advantage over standard HTTP in that it includes increased verification and security using receipts and digital signatures and logging. At startup, AS2 can be pricey but in the long run it’s stability, ease of use and security make it one of the front runners in EDI communication protocols.
File Transfer Protocol is usually our go-to when creating new EDI setups. It uses standard network protocol to exchange files over a TCP/IP-based network like the internet. It’s typically more cost effective to put in place, is easy to maintain and is as reliable as your network connection. FTPS, not to be confused with SFTP, is an extension of FTP. It adds support for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) cryptographic protocols.
Value Added Network acts as an intermediary between two companies that want to exchange data. It’s a hosted service that charges fees based on the volume of data it transfers to and from your customers. VANs charge based on the number of kilo characters in the document. Typical charges monthly for the VAN are about $35 for monthly access and between $.02 and $.06 per 1000 kilo characters. The VAN is still widely used by many retailers.