January 5, 2011

Weigh Your Options Before Setting up an AS2 Connection

By: Barbara Prince, IDX Administrator and Data Quality Analyst, IDEA

EDI over the Internet via the AS2 direct-connect technology continues to grow as businesses with high volume EDI traffic urge their trading partners to implement a direct connection for their eCommerce needs. An AS2 request from a highly influential business partner may put extra pressure on a company to set up a direct connection in an effort to maintain that relationship, but it’s important to evaluate these considerations first:

An AS2 direct connection requires a dedicated EDI solution for your AS2-enabled trading partners, in addition to the method you use to exchange electronic documents with your non-AS2 partners. That infrastructure – software, hardware, firewalls, certificates, complex testing – and the expertise to manage it may or may not exist in your company. Managing two or more EDI systems can be time consuming. For example, you must monitor Message Disposition Notifications (MDNs) daily to ensure mission-critical documents are delivered, and AS2 certificates must be renewed periodically, lest they expire and document transmission halts. If you decide to set up a direct connect, an alert system should be employed to inform your tech support team if your AS2 connection goes down.

When moving EDI documents via an AS2 direct connection, you lose visibility to those transactions along with the ability to obtain and report traffic statistics. AS2 connections are similar to a pipeline – you open the spigot and data flows. A document received through an AS2 connection is pushed straight to your EDI sub-system, which could cause complications if a trading partner sends you a document type your translator is not set up to handle, or if it is a document you don’t wish to receive. The EDI documents that flow through the AS2 connection are separate from your other EDI traffic, so you won’t be able to gather, compare, and report on valuable EDI traffic statistics with your AS2-enabled trading partners using tools such as the IDX Tracker.

An alternative to setting up an AS2 direct connect is to use a hybrid solution such as Industry Data Exchange (IDX). IDX can be used for business-to-business managed services and to establish a direct connect for select high-volume trading partners. This B2B eCommerce solution enables you to comply with AS2 requests from your key trading partners without adding the infrastructure. IDEA will exchange set-up information with your trading partner, conduct testing, establish and maintain certificates, and ensure the AS2 connection is always online. Your AS2 and non-AS2 traffic will be visible through the IDX Tracker so you can continue to monitor your traffic flow and compile valuable traffic statistics on all your EDI documents in one location.

As with your B2B managed services, IDEA’s customer support team can answer your questions about AS2 set-up and maintenance. Please contact your account manager to learn more about outsourced AS2 services hosted by IDX.

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