FTP and AS2: How do they compare?

AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) is HTTPS in batch mode. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is secure socket layer. Both have triple DES encryption, required ports and more. So why do so many companies prefer AS2?

The key is AS2’s defined and standardized error reporting and message receipts, which means no embarrassments for lost orders or invoices. It also provides an additional layer of data security. But why should you pay for an AS2 utility to trade documents with a set of Trading Partners when right now you only pay once for FTP software?

There are now many AS2 software providers who charge a flat fee. As long as they are Drummond Group certified, you can proceed with confidence at a lower cost with all the benefits.

Below is a brief comparison of each.




FTP is not designed to be used as a secure protocol and does not encrypt transmissions. Common solutions to this are using security mechanisms such as a VPN (Virtual Private Network), or leveraging more secure protocols such as SSL (FTPS) or SSH (SFTP). This allows your transmission to be secure, although it still doesn’t encrypt the data itself. It will also influence the cost and compatibility with other programs.


Since each IP communications protocol takes a different approach to securing information (or not) AS2 encrypts the data rather than the transport channel. This provides end-to-end security as well as a hashing process to ensure that the file is not tampered with during delivery. With AS2 you can encrypt the channel with SSL as well as on top of the payload encryption.


Confirmed, Secured Delivery


Does not confirm that a document was actually sent by the claimed sender.


Because the AS2 uses digital certificates, you are ensured that the documents are delivered only to the intendent recipient. Your messages are secured in transit and the sender can be verified. You manage the certificate used by your company and by your trading partners. This includes generating certificates, tracking certificates used by your trading partners and processing expired certificates.


Managing Messages


FTP will send a confirmation of the number of bytes transferred but provides no indication that the message was received and processed.


In the B2B world, you need a standard way of knowing if your documents were decrypted successfully and verified. With an AS2 you get a status message called an MDN (Message Disposition Notification).  Once the document is sent, the AS2 returns an MDN telling you if the document was successfully, or unsuccessfully, extracted from the envelope. Most AS2 software also tracks missing or late MDN’s, giving visibility to failed transmissions.


Ease of Use


While using a VPN is very popular for securing internet-based communications, it is important that compatibility between different companies are addressed. There is a strong possibility that your business partners may be using VPN technology from a different vendor. Mixing FTPS and SFTP software from different vendors can create compatibility challenges.


Specifically designed for B2B e-commerce transactions over the internet, AS2 provides a built-in business transaction management protocol that enables you to connect easily to your trading partners. Backed by the Drummond Group, AS2 ensures that if you buy any two products from the list of Drummond-certified products that they will work together.




Setting up an FTP is nearly instant if you know the name of the server you need to reach. Itcan also have a low administrative overhead – if you are using basic file transfer. Although a reliable and robust transfer protocol, your overhead will increase if you need to add security levels, message management and other required B2B features.


AS2 requires specialized software, technical expertise and certificate administration which can mean higher overhead, although that’s offset by increased security and visibility. You can eliminate some of the overhead by using a consulting company like Data Communication Solutions (DCS). Our EDI specialists have assisted companies manage running their AS2 solutions and EDI systems since 1991, and can help you reduce your operating costs, allowing your staff to address other pressing issues.


Data Communication Solutions

If you’re looking for an EDI with a decades-long record of helping businesses succeed, look no further than DCS. Since 1991, our team of experienced and knowledgeable EDI specialists has been providing services such as development, managed services, support and training for a variety of EDI systems and industries. Check out our list of clients to see the hundreds of companies we’ve worked with and consider reading some of our case studies to learn how we help organizations find the best EDI solutions. To learn more about how we can help your business, contact us today!

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