It can be a difficult task for a business to approach EDI when you don’t have a background in the field or in-house expertise to help guide you to the right solution. Fortunately, these three important questions and how they are answered put a business on the right track for how to choose a VAN.

What Is A VAN?

If this is your first foray into the world of EDI, it might help to understand what a Value-Added Network (VAN) is and how to choose a VAN. A VAN provides users with a private network through which EDI documents are transmitted and exchanged. It functions similarly to a mailbox, which offers several additional services compared to traditional EDI protocols over the public internet and phone lines.

an infographic of encompass EDI implementation methodology and how to choose a van

An Example Of How The EnTrust EDI Product Integrates With An ERP Solution And Value Added Network.


Do You Have The Staff With Technical Expertise To Run EDI?

Initially, you must evaluate whether you’d prefer to complete all EDI transactions, mapping, and updating on your own, in-house. This means assuming complete ownership of updates, security and auditing, as well as restricting your communication protocols through the internet or phone line channels available to you. Your internal IT staff will be responsible for all of these elements of EDI as well as your business’ day-to-day IT operations. This can place a significant burden on your internal staff. The result is a potentially diminished capacity to meet the needs of your business on a technological front.

Additionally, your trading partners may already be leveraging EDI through a VAN and require anyone in their trading network do the same. If this is the case, you may not have much of a choice when it comes to how to choose a VAN. In such a situation, you must evaluate whether you will abide by their requirements or end the relationship.

A VAN may be preferable in this situation because of the many value-added services they can provide. For instance, VANs receive, retain, and forward EDI documents, as well as add crucial audit information to these documents for automated error detection, correction, and conversion between communication protocols. What’s more is they can facilitate data transformation between formats (EDI-to-XML, EDI-to-EDI, etc.) and offer additional tools that are purpose-built for EDI.

Do You Want On-Premise Or Cloud EDI?

An EDI solution overseen by your internal team provides control but lacks certain infrastructure and security qualities your trading partners may value.

Stability is among the most important system requirements trading networks need to keep things running smoothly. Weather events, system failures, cyber-attacks, and other disasters can bring internal systems to a grinding halt. However, cloud EDI can counteract many of these issues by de-centralizing your EDI support system. VANs go to great lengths to create EDI support systems that ensure stability, scalability, flexibility in achieving your EDI goals.

What Does Your EDI Budget Allow?

When it comes to EDI, costs can be prohibitive for operations of every size. For this reason, it’s important to understand how much work you want to complete internally and how much you’d prefer was handled by an external source. When it comes to VANs, their services do come at a premium. In many cases, it can be justified to pay the extra fee for the value-added services. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide just what your budget will allow and what breadth and depth of EDI capability you require. If all you need is point-to-point EDI, the justification for a VAN is just not there. However, if you want the added security, auditing capability, document conversion, and so on, then an EDI VAN would be worth looking at more closely.


By asking these three questions of your business, it should become clear whether taking a closer look at how to choose a VAN is the right move. If none of your answers qualify toward taking a closer look, then you might be fine continuing on your current EDI path. Otherwise, you would do well to further investigate your options. For additional information on EDI and VANs to support your business’ trading network, reach out to Encompass Solutions and the EnTrust EDI experts using the link below.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider, and Epicor Gold Partner. Our professional services include business consulting, project management, and software implementation. We specialize in full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing business management systems. When confronting the emerging challenges of corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.