I’m reminded of the famous line from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke: ”What we have here is a failure to communicate.” I have found that many newly EDI compliant companies, as well some EDI veterans, are not aware that there are multiple methods of sending and receiving EDI documents.
Here are the 3 most often used:
FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
FTP is a standard protocol used to transfer data between a client and a server, so at least one party must have an FTP Server. I don’t want to get too "geeky," so I won’t go into all of the technical aspects of FTP. But basically, the server partner sets up the client partner with a login and password, and the client uses an FTP application to log in to the server and send/receive the EDI data, usually to and from a specific folder on the server. For secure transmissions that protect the login/password, and encrypts the content, FTP can be secured with SSL/TLS. SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) can also be substituted for FTP.
There are several standalone FTP programs available. Liaison Technologies ECS, on the other hand, in conjunction with Liaison Delta (the EDI mapping application), can easily be set up to automatically send and receive EDI documents to and from trading partners via FTP or SFTP.
Once FTP communication is set up with your trading partner, there are no transaction charges.
VAN (Value Added Network)(Value Added Network)
Using a Value Added Network, EDI documents are sent to one or more “mailboxes” set up on the VAN with which you have contracted. Using the ID on the EDI document, your VAN can determine which VAN your trading partner uses, and forward the EDI document to the trading partner’s “mailbox” on their VAN. Your trading partner then retrieves the document from their “mailbox”. All VAN’s interconnect with all other VAN’s.
Using a VAN is by far the simplest method of transferring EDI data to and from your trading partners. The Liaison VAN, for example, provides a user-friendly website, called LENS, on which you can view all EDI documents sent or received, along with the delivery status and other pertinent information to help you control your EDI processing. Different VAN’s have different methods of charging for the service, some of which may be somewhat complicated.
AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) is becoming more and more popular with many industries. It provides secure and reliable HTTP data transfer over the internet, using digital certificates and encryption. Each trading partner has its own digital certificate, which can be purchased through several providers such as GoDaddy and Verisign. Liaison ECS also provides the ability to generate a free self-signed certificate. Each certificate has 2 keys: The public version is sent to your trading partners to be used to encrypt data being sent to you. This data can only be decrypted using your private key, which is only on your computer. It works vice-versa for your trading partners.
Setting up AS2 connectivity with a trading partner might take some work, but once set up, there are no transaction charges. Many companies use a combination of methods as some trading partners require AS2 (think Walmart) and some require VAN. A good EDI consultant (along with powerful software like Liaison’s Delta/ECS package) will be able to set up any of these methods to satisfy your requirements.
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