When you are in the retail domain, either as a supplier or a buyer, you will need to exchange different documents such as purchase orders, shipping notices and invoices with your trading partners. Usually the small to medium scale retailers prefer to exchange these documents through emails. Although email is an easier and familiar way to exchange documents, it lacks the security and reliability features required for these types of business critical documents and is also vulnerable to simple user errors.
Did you know?
Data is most at risk on email, with 83% of organizations experiencing email data breaches
Alternatively, using a secure protocol such as AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) which is specifically designed for secure document exchange is highly recommended avoiding such pitfalls associated with regular emails. Therefore let’s look into some common issues associated with exchanging retail documents and see how AS2 protocol helps to avoid or minimize them in comparison to emails.
Email deliverability is one of the most common concerns when it comes to exchanging documents via emails. For example, you will send an email containing a purchase order to your supplier and unless they replied saying they have received it, you may really not know whether it has reached them. On the other hand, the supplier will send an invoice to you, and you may not receive it due to some issue with an intermediate network. But the supplier who is not aware of that will be expecting you to pay the invoiced amount on time, and it can really put a dent on your trading relationship.
Sametime, most of the email service providers have tightened their spam rules and restrictions to mitigate spamming your inbox. This also makes it harder for organizations to create communications faster at first. For example, if your email contains only an attachment without any text, your email might go to a spam folder creating communication delays with your partners.
But if you have used AS2 protocol instead of emails for this, these issues will never arise. The reason is that AS2 protocol has an in-built mechanism called MDN (Message Disposition Notification), which acts as an acknowledgement for the receipt of a message. Basically when one party receives an AS2 message from another, the receiver sends back an MDN acknowledging that the message with this unique AS2 ID was received by them.
Therefore, in the 1st scenario mentioned above, if you have received a successful/positive MDN from your supplier’s AS2 system, you know for sure that the document has been received by them. The supplier also cannot deny that afterwards, because this MDN will contain a digital signature from their system. In the 2nd scenario, when the supplier has not received a positive MDN from you, they become aware that this message has not reached you, which they will resend. In case they claim that a particular document was sent to you, which you haven’t actually received, you can ask them to present the MDN your system should have sent back, which will resolve any disagreement or confusion.
The other common issue with emails is that people can make mistakes with the email addresses. For example, you or someone else from your team can make a slight typo on the receiver’s email address and send an important document to an unrelated party without being aware of it until it is too late. In case that document contained any confidential or sensitive information which was misused by this other party, this simple mistake can lead to more serious consequences and most probably you will end up in a court.
But if the AS2 protocol has been used, the possibility of this kind of error is next to none. AS2 protocol includes a pre-configuration stage involving both parties, and once it is completed, it is almost a fool-proof mechanism. Even if you have mistakenly sent an AS2 message to a wrong party (due to some URL misconfiguration), they won’t be able to read it as it can only be decrypted with the private key of the actual intended receiver.
Then you may be wondering why most small to medium scale retailers are still reluctant to use AS2, but use less reliable emails. There are 3 main reasons.
MFT Gateway by Aayu Technologies is one of the modern and cost-effective AS2 software available as a software as a service (SaaS) solution.
In addition, if you already have any ERP or back office systems, MFT Gateway can be integrated with them using a variety of methods including REST API, SFTP, Webhooks and AWS S3.