The vast majority of EDI still occurs via VAN. The growth of flexible, low-cost approaches, such as Web EDI or EDI via AS2, has begun to change this situation but the VAN is still the preferred option due to the value- added services that the VAN providers can deliver. Often companies look to implement a hybrid strategy in which different types of EDI are implemented as appropriate to the business, but the VAN remains the core to these installations.
The VAN is simply a secure, private network where EDI documents can be sent and received between trading partners. An organisation will be provided with a mailbox. Documents are sent and received from there and the organisation checks the mailbox periodically to retrieve its documents. Most VAN providers offer an alerting service that informs the sender when messages have been sent successfully and notifies the recipient that they have a new message waiting.
In addition to secure communications, EDI via VAN delivers:
- Full mailbox service. Messages are automatically routed to the correct mailbox. Trading partners connect to the VAN to retrieve their messages
- Inspection and authentication of all EDI messages. The VAN will verify the identity of the trading partner and validity of the message
- Full audit trail. All EDI messages are tracked and recorded
- Message notification. Trading partners are notified when message enters their mailbox
- Ancillary services. VAN providers offer an extensive range of services including data backup and recovery, document mapping and compliance
The enduring appeal of EDI via VAN is based upon the value-added services that the VAN provider delivers:
- Community and trading partner enablement
- Back-office integration
- Management information
- Fully managed services