EDI data transport methods (protocols)
EDI data transport methods depend on various factors surrounding cost, security and compliancy that will determine which EDI data transport method you should use. If you are the follower in a trading relationship, the EDI data transport method will most often be determined by the driver. Followers have little say in the matter, and will have to bear any added costs to comply.
If your trading partner is indifferent to the data transport method, choose a protocol that offers an acceptable level security for your data. FTP and HTTP would not be considered secure, FTP/S and HTTP/S are considered secure, and EDI-INT is considered very secure. Taking into account all your trading partners, it is likely that you will end up using a mix of data transport methods.
A Value Added Network (VAN) is a third party intermediary network between trading partners. It serves a role of being a broker and forwarder of EDI data. It can be compared to a traditional post office, but the exchange of mail is done electronically.
Many of the VANs have different pricing structures which make it difficult to compare prices when shopping around. Generally, you can expect to pay a setup fee, monthly subscription fee and transaction fee. The setup fee can be hundreds of dollars; the monthly subscription fee ranges from $25 to $100; and the transaction fee will vary depending on volume in kilo-characters (KC). A kilo-character is 1,000 characters of data transmitted at a cost ranging from 5¢ to 25¢ or more per KC. Some VANs charge by the number of documents transmitted instead of kilo-characters. Pricing from VANs is very competitive, and some will offer a low monthly flat rate for guaranteed volume under a multi-year contract.
The VAN will determine the protocol to use, and will provide the parameters to login to your mailbox on their network. Most VANs interconnect with each other, meaning you only subscribe to one VAN. However, it is common to subscribe to more than one VAN because your trading partners will not allow the exchange of files using an interconnection.
Point-to-Point connections eliminate the need for a VAN and its associated costs. If security is not an issue, then the FTP or HTTP protocol can be used. FTP/S or HTTP/S should be used to keep the contents of your files secure. Using FTP/S requires software that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or less. Using HTTP/S does not require additional software, but you must know how to program in the HTTP language.
EDI over the Internet is a fairly recent technology developed by the Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (formed in 1996). There are three standard protocols used: AS1 via SMTP, AS2 via HTTP and most recently AS3 via FTP. The AS# stands for applicability statement. AS2 usage is the most popular of the three today.
The EDI-INT protocols (AS1, AS2, and AS3) are used by companies seeking the most secure Point-to-Point connection to their trading partners. While there are no transaction fees associated with EDI-INT, you will have to purchase software that can cost $500 – $5,000 or more for a standard PC installation. The cost is usually scaled to the number of trading partners, with some ‘lite’ versions being available at a lower cost if you use EDI-INT with only one or two trading partners.
AS1, AS2, AS3 is neither an invention nor replacement of the SMTP, HTTP, and FTP protocols, which have long existed before EDIINT. Companies can still transmit data via HTTP, SMTP or FTP without the use of AS1, AS2, or AS3. The goal of the technology was to standardize the way the message is packaged, secured and sent, so that all trading partners could use a standard way of transmitting the data instead of each of them using their own custom method of SMTP, HTTP or FTP. For example, a VCR can be guaranteed to connect to the television by using RCA cables.
Learn more about EDI transport protocols at professional EDI Academy courses