AS2 Connector: What is AS2? What are the Benefits?

Across the globe organizations rely heavily on AS2 connectors for their secure data exchange. But what is AS2 and are the benefits? Read on to find out. 

We have talked about Managed File Transfer and EDI in our previous blogs. In those blogs we mentioned secure data communication through protocols and connectors. Across the globe organizations rely heavily on AS2 connectors for their secure data exchange. But what is AS2 and are the benefits? Read on to find out. 

What is AS2?

Short for applicability statement 2, AS2 was released in the early 2000s and has since become one of the most popular protocols for securely sending and receiving EDI messages. AS2 is a HTTP based protocol to transmit messages safely, cheaply and quickly. AS2 describes the connection, delivery, validation and acknowledgment of receipt of the data. AS2 describes how the messages must be provided with an envelope so that they can be sent securely over the internet. Security is guaranteed by the use of digital certificates for the encryption of the data, if this is chosen.

Why Should You use AS2?

Due to a fast and reliable connection, AS2 will make sure your data will be ‘pushed’ secure and reliable over the internet to your Trading Partners. This will improve your relationship with your Trading Partners while minimizing the chance on data exchange errors. 

Which Branches are Using AS2?

The most common application of AS2 is for EDI transactions, replacing the older and more expensive VAN technology. Retail is the dominant industry that uses AS2, however, the technology has a large presence in a large swath of industries. Think of manufacturing, the food industry and consumer goods. 

Why is AS2 Used?

AS2 has become a dominant player in the realm of EDI due to its secure nature. For example, the healthcare industry utilizes AS2 because its secure nature is GDPR compliant. 

It is difficult for hackers to access AS2 file transfers since they are encrypted and sent via an SSL tunnel. The recipient of the message then sends a delivery receipt to the sender, which includes a checksum value. The sender can then confirm if the received message is identical to the message they sent. 

What is an AS2 Connector?

Although you might think an AS2 connector is the same as the actual AS2 connection it’s not. An AS2 connector is the Integration platform/solution that you use to set up a connection to a Trading Partner, while also processing EDI transactions. To set up a connection, both parties need to first connect their computers to the internet via a point-to-point connection. 

What is an AS2 Connection?

An AS2 connection is a digital link between a business and a trading partner, that allows EDIs to be sent and received. In order to set up an AS2 connection, a company needs to use an integration platform/solution. When the connection has been set up, AS2 creates an ‘envelope’ that enables secure transmission via the Internet using digital certificates and encryption. A main advantage of using AS2 is the possibility to request a MDN back if the message has been successfully send over the the AS2 Connection. 

What is an AS2 MDN?

Message Disposition Notification (MDN) is an electronic acknowledgement of the successful reception of an AS2 transfer. One of the most common B2B communications, MDNs are sent to the sender via AS2 after an electronic message has been sent, confirming the message has been transmitted completely.

Typically MDNs check two critical events:

  1. Whether the AS2 transfer was successfully completed
  2. The message received by the desired recipient without change

The process of establishing an AS2 MDN connection is as follows:

  1. The sender gives an encrypted EDI message with digital signature to the desired recipient
  2. Transmission of the EDI message over the Internet via AS2 (sending of the message)
  3. The message is decrypted by the recipient and the digital signature of the sender is verified
  4. The recipient prepares the requested MDN and applies a digital signature. It is then sent back to the sender
  5. The sender receives the MDN, verfying the digital signature of the recipient

Top 5 Benefits of AS2 Connectivity?

There are multiple benefits to AS2 connectivity, with the main ones being: 

  • Security: Offers end-to-end data encryption, SSL encryption, and hashing
  • Cost: Affordable since transmissions use the internet 
  • Flexibility: Allows large file transfers and any data type including non-EDI payloads
  • Synchronous response to a transmission (real-time status)
  • Can be used almost everywhere

Choosing the Correct AS2 Solution?

Ideally all AS2 capable solutions will grant you the benefits mentioned above. However not all AS2 solutions are created equally and the biggest differences lay in the details. If setting up an AS2 connection is made unnecessarily complicated you lose every benefit mentioned above. Other AS2 solutions may not support all certificates or MDN acknowledgements. 

The solutions we can provide here at ECS help you to create a correct AS2 connection by setting up an Endpoint. The endpoint in our solutions should only take a few minutes to create, as it simply requires the user to fill in information regarding their business and the trading partner. 

ECS can also install, setup and maintain the AS2 connection(s) for you. This will free up your staff and let you focus on what you do best, boosting revenue and improve business relationships. 

At ECS we have over 20 years of experience choosing the correct Data Communication/Integration solutions and have done over 1.000 implementations so far. If you have any questions or are in need to implement AS2, contact us today for support.