AS2 OR FTP: WHICH EDI PROTOCOL IS RIGHT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

By
Ben Metzer
August 27, 2023
5 min read
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AS2 AND FTP ARE AMONG THE MOST WIDELY USED PROTOCOLS FOR B2B COMMUNICATION. BOTH HAVE ADVANTAGES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS.

Most businesses today will find AS2 best suited for communicating with other trading partners, but that does not mean there aren't still plenty of scenarios where FTP works well. To help you decide which one is right for your business, we have provided five important considerations to make when pitting AS2 against FTP.

NON-REPUDIATION

Repudiation is a function that confirms whether or not the alleged sender of a document is the real sender. With the prevalence of cyber attacks modern businesses face and the sensitive nature of many EDI transactions, repudiation is incredibly valuable.However, FTP does not address non-repudiation. On the other hand, AS2 uses digital certificates to confirm documents are delivered exclusively to the intended recipient. These same digital certificates also verify that transactions are secure during transit.Each trading partner is responsible for generating their certificates and processing them once they are expired.

COMPATIBILITY WITH TRADING PARTNERS

Ideally, it should be easy to connect with your trading partners to maintain reliable communication. This is where things are trickier with FTP than with AS2.VPNs are great for ensuring secure communication within an organization, but using FTP over a VPN often comes with interoperability issues when two separate organizations are communicating.There are countless VPN vendors available, and your business is likely using a different vendor than your trading partners. If your VPN software isn't configured the same as your trading partners' software when using various FTP protocols, complications often arise. Fortunately, you can overcome most of these issues; it just won't be as straightforward and convenient as the process could be.AS2 has a distinct advantage in this area because it is designed to accommodate B2B transactions over the Internet. AS2 has better transaction management built-in, and in most cases, it is compatible with virtually all other products from different vendors.

MESSAGE MANAGEMENT

Message management is critical in B2B communication. You need verification that messages are not only received but also decrypted and received by the intended party.FTP falls short of AS2 in that it only sends a verification of the amount of bytes transferred after sending a document. FTP does not confirm the successful processing of an EDI message.However, AS2 provides you with confirmation, so you know for a fact a transaction is received and processed. You receive verification through the Message Disposition Notification (MDN) that verifies the message has indeed been extracted from the envelope and processed accordingly.

DATA SECURITY

Encryption is one of the most valuable aspects of an EDI transaction. Different protocols use various methods of encryption; some of which are stronger than others.A major downside to FTP is that it does not provide much security directly. Instead, you must rely on maintaining a secure connection through the use of a VPN or additional support from the FTPS (or related) protocol. These methods ensure your EDI transactions travel through a secure channel, but they do not encrypt the actual data, and they also come with additional cost and configuration requirements.AS2 encrypts the data within the EDI message, so your data is protected no matter how secure the channel it travels through is or isn't. Then AS2 also provides the option to encrypt the channel with SSL for enhanced security. Plus, AS2 also includes a process to ensure files remain unaltered during delivery.As a result, AS2 provides end-to-end security for your data.

COST

FTP is very useful and cost-effective if you only want transfer files through an existing secure connection within your organization. However, the costs significantly rise when you add the features required for B2B communication, such as message management and data security.AS2 has its own set of challenges, including costs, because it requires specific software, technical expertise, and certificate management. However, by outsourcing everything to an EDI service provider experienced in AS2 you can avoid the hassles and save money on the upfront costs of developing an in-house system.As your EDI provider, BOLD VAN allows you to use AS2 and FTP, along with a wide variety of other protocols, and you can manage everything from a single dashboard. Plus, you don't have to purchase any additional hardware or software to get started – all you need is an internet connection.Learn more about outsourcing EDI with BOLD VAN.

Ben Metzer
Engineering Manager, Layers

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