There are two popular specifications published for business to business communication over a network.
1. File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used to transfer computer files from one host to another host over TCP based network such as internet.
2. Application Statement 2 (AS2) is a specification about how to transport data securely and reliably over the internet.
If we are going to compare the above two protocols we have to consider the following key factors to ensure which one works best in this domain.
The first factor that I'm going to compare is security. It is really important to transfer the enterprise data securely from one endpoint to another. The plain FTP protocol does not support security but the enhanced versions of FTP commonly known as SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) does. By using the SFTP protocol you can secure your business data by encrypting the complete communication channel and through that channel you can send and receive your business data without worrying about securing the data itself. But adding this additional security for plain FTP will increase the cost. On the other hand AS2 protocol support security by securing the data itself rather than securing the transport channel. To do that AS2 supports encryption of data for the security, signing the data for validation and hashing process to ensure data has not been changed while transferring. Also if you want additional security you can encrypt the data transfer channel with SSL on top of payload encryption.
The second factor I'm going to discuss here is non-repudiation. That is ability to ensure the authenticity of the senders signature on the data at the receivers end. Unfortunately FTP any related protocol doesn't support any kind of non-repudiation ensuring mechanism. AS2 protocol uses the idea of digital certificates to ensure messages are securely transported to the intended business partner.
In the B2B communication another important feature required is to get to know whether messages got where they were intended to and at that receivers end message got successfully decrypted and verified. FTP partially support this by replying the number of bytes received at the receivers end to the sender but there is no guarantee to ensure whether the data got processed and verified without an issue. But AS2 uses the idea of Message Disposition Note commonly known as the MDN file which contains all the details about processing at the receivers end. That file will be replied back to the original sender.
The final factor I'm going to discuss here is the cost of using these two protocols for your B2B communication. FTP is very popular so setting up a FTP gateway can be done very quickly and the administrative overhead of the gateway will be very low. That will increase only by adding additional features mentioned in the above sections. On the other hand AS2 B2B communication will require specific software and technical expertise, that means the cost of a AS2 gateway will be very high compared to FTP gateway.
Why AdroitLogic AS2 Gateway/ Station?
From the above section you will understand the AS2 protocol is way better than FTP protocol for your B2B communication. The only issue regarding AS2 is the cost to set up and the technical expertise that you require to maintain and manage the service. So we at adroitlogic provides you with a perfect solution. If you are a small scale businessman who can't afford AS2, you can register at our hosted AS2Gateway service at http://free.as2gateway.org/ which is completely free of charge to use. There are some limitations enforced on number of messages that you can send and receive for a month but you can try it out for free of charge.
The solution that we recommend for enterprise grade customers is hosted at http://as2gateway.org/ where we guarantee 24x7 up time and many other additional features. You can find the difference here at our pricing page http://as2integration.org/display/AS2/AS2Gateway+Features+and+Pricing+Model. To guide you on how to use these portals there are many guides published. I recommend the white paper submitted in our company web page and this blog post.
Other than these two solutions now we provide a onsite deploy-able AS2 Station solution for the enterprise B2B communication with extra features like file polling from the file system. For this solution we'll provide development support and after deployment 24x7 production support.
So I'll be back soon with the new introducing features of our solution. Thank you!