Since the start of the year, we've been seeing a dramatic rise in interest for AS2 from businesses across the board. AS2 is commonly used in enterprise B2B transactions. So why are more businesses, even SMBs, gaining interest in it? What benefits do organisations stand to gain from adopting AS2?
We already discussed what AS2 is in detail in the post "What is the AS2 protocol?", so you might want to read that first if you want a deeper background on the subject. Here, we're going to focus more on its benefits, both from a technical and business standpoint.
Enables transactions with large enterprises that require AS2
Several large enterprises like Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Lowe's now require trading partners to transact with them via EDI (electronic data interchange) and AS2. So, if you're a supplier or customer, you really have no choice but to adopt AS2 if you want to do business and exchange EDI documents with these large organizations.
While it's actually possible to exchange EDI documents using other protocols like FTP or even email, companies like Amazon and Walmart have already abandoned these methods in favour of AS2. One of the main reasons is because AS2 already comes with built-in capabilities that facilitate a more secure data exchange environment, which is essential to their governance and information security programs. We'll elaborate on these shortly.
More cost-efficient than VANs
If you've already started researching about EDI or perhaps are already using EDI, then, chances are, you already know about Value-Added Networks or VANs. VANs are companies that operate like post offices, i.e., they receive EDI messages from a sending trading partner and forward them to the receiving trading partner. Trading partners must subscribe to the same VAN (or at least to VANs that are interconnected) in order to successfully exchange EDI documents.
The problem with VANs is that 1) they're quite expensive and 2) they limit the level of control trading partners have over their EDI exchanges. AS2 addresses these deficiencies quite well. AS2 messages are simply transmitted over the Internet on HTTP/S. Because most companies are already connected to the Internet, they don't need to build a separate infrastructure for exchanging EDI. In terms of control, AS2 servers can be managed internally, by your own system administrators.
Because deploying and managing AS2 servers are much easier and more affordable than subscribing with VANs, it's more practical for companies of all sizes, whether large enterprises or small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Supports digital signatures
Digital signatures are a key feature of AS2 because they help enforce authentication, data integrity, and non-repudiation, which are essential in maintaining the integrity of business transactions. When you apply digital signatures, you'll be able to:
- ascertain that the trading partner who sent you a message or file is in fact the entity it claims to be (authentication);
- determine whether the message received by the recipient is in fact the message sent by the sender and not altered along the way (data integrity); and
- prevent a sender from disowning a transmission sent in the past (non-repudiation).
Another key security feature of AS2 is encryption, particularly data-in-motion encryption. Data-in-motion encryption enables trading partners to protect their data exchanges from man-in-the-middle attacks.
Once you send files over the Internet, you'll be exposing them to various network-based threats. Malicious individuals can intercept your message and then steal whatever sensitive information you have in there. Data-in-motion encryption protects your AS2 messages from these types of attacks.
Supports certificate-based authentication
Before you carry out a transaction, it's important to make sure the entity you're about to transact with is in fact the one whom you intended to transact with. There are some cases where cyber criminals can spoof a trading partner's host and participate in the transactions in their stead. AS2's certificate-based authentication can minimize this risk.
While AS2 already has its own built-in security features like digital signatures and encryption, organizations can also add another layer of security by using HTTPS. HTTPS provides AS2 with additional security via SSL/TLS, which has its own security features like client authentication, server authentication, and data-in-motion encryption.
Supports electronic receipts
When you send an AS2 message to a trading partner, you will want them to confirm whether they received the message in all its entirety. This is important because, when you send any message over the Internet, it's going to go through a number of hops and your message could be intercepted by an attacker in one of those hops.
In an AS2 transaction, you have the option to request some form of electronic receipt from the recipient. This receipt is known as an AS2 MDN or Message Disposition Notification (MDN). Once you receive your sent message's MDN, you'll know the message arrived safely.
Try an AS2 server for free
If you think your business can use an AS2 server, you might want to check out JSCAPE MFT Server. JSCAPE MFT Server is a managed file transfer server that supports AS2 as well as several popular file transfer protocols like FTPS, SFTP, and OFTP.
It comes with a powerful auto-enabling module that makes it easy to set up automated EDI transactions as well as a host of security features that augment the built-in security functions of AS2. More importantly JSCAPE's AS2 Server is Drummond Certified. Meaning, it has passed rigorous testing for reliability and interoperability with other certified AS2 solutions.
JSCAPE MFT Server's Starter Edition is a FREE download that allows you to test AS2 data exchanges to see if it's a good fit for your organization. You can try it out now by clicking the download link below.