Many people will often confuse Web-based EDI with Internet based EDI. While the two terms may sound very similar, the solutions are in fact very different. Web-based EDI is generally used to describe EDI systems that can be accessed and used via a Web browser. These systems are based on what is known as the "Software as a Service" principle where the user will pay a monthly fee in exchange for access to the Web-based EDI system. Web-based EDI began to increase in popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s as more and more smaller businesses wanted access to an easy to use, easy to adopt an EDI system that was affordable. For businesses just getting started with EDI the Web-based EDI approach is one that is often a logical starting point—Web-based EDI is a great way to get into the EDI game without the commitment of purchasing expensive and complex software, and is perfect for companies that have low to mid data usage.
Advantages of Web Based EDI
- Affordable price point; no up-front software investment
- Real-time data visibility
- Can dramatically reduce chargebacks
- No label software required
The Promise of Web Based EDI
Web-based EDI is often the cheapest and easiest way for businesses to begin transacting with their trading partners using EDI. Many of these systems have established relationships with large retailers like Walmart, Target, etc., so the complexities associated with a typical EDI setup and configuration is minimized. Additionally, with most packages available for as little as $50 per month, Web-based EDI can be quite affordable. There are of course some limitations. With a Web-based EDI system you will be limited to trading with trading partners that the system supports; if you have a specific request for a trading partner that they do not support you may not be able to use EDI for that partner. Additionally, if you are looking to integrate your EDI data with your ERP or accounting system, not every Web-based EDI system integrates with the ERP system that your organization uses. Even with some of these limitations in mind, however, the low cost, ease of use and ease of implementation is very attractive to low-volume users of EDI.
Web-based EDI Isn't for Everybody
While Web-based EDI holds a lot of promise, there are some drawbacks. The first one is one of security. While all Web-based EDI systems use encryption to allow you to access the systems securely, it is important to remember that the EDI data ultimately resides on their servers, outside your firewalls. Beyond the security aspect however there is also a cost consideration. Since most Web-based EDI systems charge based on a variable rate that is based on the number of kilocharacters you send, Web-based EDI can become expensive if your data usage begins to outgrow the web solution.
Scheduling & Error Management in Web-Based EDI
Among the concerns that customers raise when discussing web-based EDI, there are two that are frequently brought up. The first is scheduling; specifically, with Web-based EDI services it is not up to the user when the data is sent to trading partners. The reason for this is that Web-based EDI services will typically batch all the data received from all the subscribers and send and receive at set intervals to reduce their operating costs. While this results in more affordable rates, it means that a Web-based EDI service will send and receive documents on their time frame, not necessarily yours. An equally vexing problem is that of time lag when responding to problems. Many customers of Web-based EDI services often complain that when there are errors in data sent or received, the troubleshooting of those problems can cause delays. The reason for this is simple: with a Web-based EDI service you do not control your data, so you must rely on a 3rd-party to identify the problem.
As businesses begin the path towards EDI adoption it may be easy to assume that the low entry price of web-based EDI services is the best option; and for many companies it will be. Web-based EDI, however, is not for every business. Be sure to speak with a qualified and reputable EDI service provider to find out what kind of EDI service is right for your organization