VAN vs AS2 - Which is Better for Sending EDI Documents?

Choosing between VAN and AS2 for EDI documents depends on cost, interoperability, and security. AS2 offers fixed costs and direct data exchange, reducing expenses and enhancing security. While VANs support various protocols, AS2's growing adoption by enterprises makes it a preferable choice for many.
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There are currently two ways of exchanging EDI documents. The first involves subscribing to a third party known as a Value Added Network (VAN), while the second involves using the AS2 protocol. Sure, there might be a few other less-known options, but these two are, by far, the most widely used. But which of these two options is best for your business? Let's examine some key considerations: Cost, interoperability, trading partner onboarding, and security and control.


When you subscribe to a VAN's services, your cost will largely depend on the volume of data you transmit through their network. This is usually calculated per kilo-character, which measures the number of characters you include in your document.

Most VANs offer pay-as-you-go, monthly, or annual subscription models, but all these models still revolve around the per-character pricing concept. So, for example, when you subscribe to a monthly subscription, you'll usually be entitled (or limited, you look at it) to a certain number of characters per document.

You'll need to pay a premium when you exceed that limit, which can happen quickly since most character computations include spaces and delimiters.

Since your cost will vary depending on the amount of data you send, as your number of trading partners and, consequently, the number of transmissions (or size per transmission) grows, so will your costs. Before you know it, you'll already be spending thousands of dollars per month.

On the other hand, if you choose to use AS2 or Applicability Statement 2, you have a fixed cost. This cost is incurred only at the beginning when you build your AS2 system. This would mostly involve the cost of your hardware (which can be zero if you deploy to the cloud), the operating system, and the AS2 application.

Of course, there are also maintenance/administrative costs, but they're minimal. Once you have your AS2 system set up, there's no limit to the amount of data you can transmit.

This predictable, all-inclusive pricing is one of the major reasons why companies like Matisse Footwear have started replacing VANs with AS2 solutions like JSCAPE MFT Server. The higher the volume of EDI data you transmit, the greater the cost savings you'll realize against a VAN subscription.

Discover how AS2 can optimize your EDI costs. > Schedule a free JSCAPE MFT Server demo today and see the difference yourself.


Another major consideration when choosing between a VAN and AS2 is interoperability. In all likelihood, you will be transacting with several trading partners, each employing a different method of communication.

The advantage of using a VAN is that most VANs support a wide range of communication options, from modern Internet file transfer protocols (like FTP, FTPS, SFTP, and even AS2, among others) to more traditional methods like T1/T3 leased lines and dial-ups.

This extensive support means that as long as your trading partner is also subscribed to the same VAN, you should have no problem exchanging EDI documents with them. Of course, if your trading partner is using another VAN, you should either ask them to subscribe to your VAN or subscribe to theirs.

Unfortunately, an AS2-only solution doesn't have that capability. It will only allow you to exchange data with trading partners that support AS2. It's worth noting, however, that a growing number of companies have already shifted to AS2. In fact, several large enterprises will not transact with you if you're not using AS2.

Walmart, for example, requires all of its suppliers (which number to the thousands) to transact with them via AS2. The shift to AS2 adoption by large enterprises like Walmart, Amazon, 3M, Hyundai, Lowe's, Microsoft, and several others has already reached critical mass and has, in turn, created a domino effect on their suppliers and trading partners.

Thus, if your trading partners are not yet using AS2, there's a good chance they will soon. Not all AS2 solutions are AS2-only. In addition to AS2, JSCAPE MFT Server can exchange data with a large and growing selection of network services, including:

  • FTP
  • FTPS implicit
  • FPTS explicit
  • IMAP
  • OFTP
  • POP3
  • SMB
  • SMTP
  • WebDAV
  • TFTP
  • AFTP
  • AS2
  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon AWS
  • BoxDropbox
  • Google Cloud
  • Google Cloud Storage
  • Google Drive
  • IBM Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure File Service
  • Microsoft Azure Blob Service
  • Microsoft Azure Data Lake

This extensive selection will help you cater to many trading partners and address interoperability issues.

Trading partner onboarding 

Trading partner onboarding is establishing a connection with your trading partner, setting up the necessary configurations, testing connections to see if exchanges go through as expected, and ultimately rolling out the connection to production.

The onboarding stage is crucial because if it's not done properly, actual business transactions in production can malfunction or even fail. This can lead to costly delays or faulty transactions that can, in turn, be disastrous to your or your partner's business.

One problem with onboarding trading partners through a VAN is that you have very little control over them. If the people in charge of connecting you and your trading partner are not well-trained, the onboarding process could take several months. It doesn't help that your VAN will have to deal with the intricacies of your system and your trading partners.

Such a lengthy delay is no longer acceptable today, as it could result in missed opportunities and perhaps even loss of business. More so because there are far better alternatives.

Most AS2 solutions are not that easy to onboard with either. You must struggle with access credentials, keys, From and To headers, URLs, etc. However, because you'll deal directly with your trading partner during the onboarding process (instead of with a middleman), the process can still be much faster than onboarding through a VAN.

JSCAPE MFT Server can accelerate onboarding even faster. In addition to its highly intuitive interface, MFT Server comes with a special feature that greatly simplifies the exchange of trading partner credentials, which can, in turn, accelerate the onboarding process.

Onboarding through the JSCAPE MFT Server is so fast and easy that it only took Matisse Footwear approximately one week to move, evaluate, configure, and deploy the JSCAPE MFT Server into production.

Security and Control

Speaking of control, the level of control an AS2 solution like JSCAPE MFT Server provides you over a VAN can be invaluable, especially from a security and compliance standpoint.

When your data has to go through a third party, not only is it exposed to greater risk because of the larger attack surface, but you also have very little control over the level of protection being afforded to it. The risk gets even higher if your data is stored with your VAN.

With an AS2 solution like JSCAPE MFT Server, your data doesn't have to go through a third party, which reduces your attack surface.

In addition, the JSCAPE MFT Server comes with many security features, such as multi-factor authentication, data-at-rest encryption, SSL/TLS data-in-motion encryption, and many others, adding even more security layers to your AS2 exchanges.


Many businesses and entire industries are now moving from VANs to AS2 solutions, so it's important that you adapt accordingly. You do not want to be left behind. If you decide to use AS2, choose a tested and proven solution. We highly recommend JSCAPE MFT Server, one of the leading AS2 solutions today.

Try it out

Should you wish to give JSCAPE MFT Server a test run, you can download the FREE Starter Edition from here:

Download JSCAPE MFT Server Trial

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