What is AS2?
AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) is an efficient and secure HTTP-based protocol used to transmit messages in EDI systems. Many large-scale organizations utilize AS2 to share information across EDI systems across many different industries automatically.
AS2 messages are encapsulated in multiple packaging layers. These layers help ensure the message is sent securely and not tampered with in transit. These layers are:
- HTTP/Encryption Header
- Encrypted HTTP Body
- Signature Package
- Message Payload
- Digital Signature
Here are our top picks for the best AS2 software:
- Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server (EDITORS CHOICE) Excellent on-premise option for AS2 and other secure file transfer protocols
- Files.com (FREE TRIAL) Flexible cloud-based file transfer tool with multiple options to suit any size organization.
- Citrix ShareFile User-friendly tool for file transfers that include several plugins for Microsoft platforms.
- WinSCP Easy to use and highly customizable transfer tool with extended scripting options.
- FTP Voyager FTP Client (FREE TOOL) A simple yet powerful secure file transfer tool that best suits small businesses.
- GoAnywhere MFT Enterprise solution for transfers and file management supporting AS2 and EDI.
- MFT Gateway Cloud-hosted AS2 solution that offers secure messaging as a SaaS product.
What is AS2 used for?
The AS2 protocol is primarily used for business applications to conduct transactions across multiple trading partners securely. In addition, these standard protocols help businesses share information at scale in EDI systems by keeping data uniform across every part of their journey.
AS2 is used widely in retail, insurance, and government to process large amounts of data effectively.
What are the advantages of AS2?
AS2 is highly secure and uses asymmetric key cryptography to keep communication confidential. Although a common misconception is that AS2 only uses HTTP to send data, this is not entirely true. Information is always encrypted before sending in AS2 messaging and given a digital signature for authentication.
When compared to systems before the internet, AS2 is considerably more cost-effective than sending physical documents. In the past, secure transactions would have to be sent via physical mail. This not only took significantly longer but could allow for the message to be lost in transit. Instead, AS2 uses fundamental internet protocols to send messages and share data securely send.
Sharing data via AS2 allows for companies to have updated information on each side in near real-time. This is incredibly important, securely send for specific industries. For example, the AS2 protocol can securely send real-time inventory updates from the warehouse to the retail stores allowing them to plan their next shipment based on the most accurate information.
Is AS2 the only option?
Depending on your use case, the AS2 protocol is not the only option for sending files securely at scale. For example, SFTP, SFTP, and MFT are all viable protocols that EDI systems and other applications can use to move information securely.
Many platforms support multiple protocols, allowing companies greater flexibility in how they build their EDI platform. With that said, let’s take a look at some software that achieves secure file transfer through AS2 and similar protocols.
Best AS2 Software
Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server allows administrators to build on-site solutions for automated information sharing and file transfers. The software is excellent for companies with IT infrastructure in place, as Serv-U can install easily in any modern Windows or virtualization environment.
The platform was designed to serve enterprise clients, allowing them to create automated workflows, scheduled file sharing, and multi-site support. If your organization has multiple long-term trading partners, Serv-U can be set up to keep connections established between all parties, each with its configurations and settings.
Companies looking for a tool with compliance in mind will be happy to know that Serv-U has numerous built-in controls that make it easy to establish file transfers that fall in line with standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, or FISMA. For example, rather than configuring each directory, the tool lets you set zones. Each zone can have its own rules, allowing you to implement compliant communications at scale quickly.
For Windows environments, administrators can import user permissions via LDAP to easily base zone permissions and configurations off their current permission structure in Active Directory. Unlike some EDI tools, Serv-U is flexible and supports multiple protocols and formats, allowing administrators to build file transfer solutions that meet the needs of your particular business.
- LDAP integration makes AD sync simple and easy
- Great mobile app and browser access options, especially for an on-premises solution
- Excellent interface, even when used with multiple sites
- Supports compliance standards like PCI DSS and HIPAA
- Advanced automation can be triggered by actions, schedules, or specific events
- I would like to see a longer trial period
You can test-drive Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server completely free through a 14-day free trial.
Files.com takes a unique approach to secure file transfer by offering it as a cloud-based solution. Rather than investing in their infrastructure, businesses can use Files.com to create file-sharing solutions in the cloud. This subscription-based approach lets small companies scale their solutions quickly without being restricted by costly servers and IT staff.
The platform offers a host of files sharing options, both for large-scale trading partners and smaller one-off transactions. On the enterprise side, Files.com provides a highly customizable way for administrators to build file-sharing solutions using FTPS/FTPeS and similar protocols. Additionally, suppose you’re looking to share files among multiple trading partners or different applications. In that case, the application has a wide variety of integrations via REST API connections making the platform flexible from the start.
Administrators will use numerous built-in features such as automated scheduling and scripting to clean up information, initiate backups, and modify data regularly with relative ease. While many platforms make you build these solutions from scratch, Files.com does an excellent job mixing out-of-the-box solutions with enough customizable features to work quickly without restricting what you can do.
The platform offers numerous security options outside of the protocols themselves to protect users and accounts from attack. Two-factor authentication is enforced for accounts, and insecure protocols such as FTP must be turned on manually. A significant concern with cloud-based tools is that a simple misconfiguration can leave you exposed. Therefore, Files.com takes the initiative to create a secure-by-default product.
The platform provides easy link-based sharing methods for smaller file transfers that allow companies to collaborate and share files with third parties securely and conveniently. While most link sharing offers some security controls, Files.com goes the extra mile by providing features such as link expiration, access auditing, and editing alerts.
Lastly, flexible subscription pricing makes the platform accessible to almost anyone, which is a tough find, especially when looking for AS2/EDI support. Additionally, you can test out Files.com and all of its features through a free 7-day trial.
- Cloud-based files transfer allows for lower infrastructure costs and easier scalability
- One of the most secure options on the market offers a host of security features, making it secure out-of-box.
- Makes sharing sensitive information between third parties easy and auditable
- Automation features offer to schedule, as well as action-based automation without the need for programming
- One of the most open APIs available with a vast range of integrations
- I would like to see a longer trial for testing some of the more advanced features.
Citrix is synonymous with file sharing, with ShareFile being their flagship product for enterprise secure file transfers. However, where ShareFile shines, it can create user-friendly file transfer controls that even non-technical users can grasp quickly.
In some cases, not all EDI systems are knowledgeable about the process or how it works. ShareFile works to make highly in-depth resource-intensive enterprise-focused ward-facing applications as simple as possible, allowing more average users to utilize the product.
Rather than using AS2, ShareFile leverages its cloud-based network to transfer files quickly and securely. This is a good option for users or trading partners that cannot set up or maintain EDI connections on their end.
Citrix ShareFile also comes with an Outlook plugin that lets users share files via the plugin rather than through emails. This alone helps cut down on help desk tickets for large files failing over email and offers a way to move information that adheres to compliance standards. ShareFile has also created a specific Office 365, promising a smoother onboarding experience for those users.
- Easy to use, specifically from an end-user perspective
- Supports files sharing for both internal and external recipients
- Highly detailed administrative controls, flexible onboarding
- Permission structure can be complicated to view and change
- Complicated directory structures can impede performance
- More automation features could help administrators prune old users and perform daily tasks
WinSCP is one of the most popular file-sharing tools that allow administrators to manage multiple connections overs SFTP. The platform is entirely free and will enable admins to support single-site connections or scale their configurations to large multi-site operations.
Of all the free file transfer solutions available, WinSCP has one of the most vital communities. This is important because bugs are patched quickly, and new features are regularly added to the user forums. -In addition, community-built plugins add additional functionality when needed without bogging down the initial installation of the product.
WinSCP offers support for multiple protocols. In addition, community-built, including FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP, WebDAV, or S3, giving it a massive amount of flexibility over smaller tools. The interface is easy to use and even offers a command-line interface (CLI) tool for administrators, making it less resource-intensive.
The real power behind WinSCP comes from its scripting capabilities, allowing administrators to create in-depth workflows, automation, and schedule without being restricted. In comparison, this is a powerful feature, and it’s only reserved for WinSCPs more technical users. In addition, while the platform is free and open-source, it has extensive knowledgebase articles and forum posts to help guide new users.
- Free tool
- Multiple protocol support, making it a flexible transfer option
- Robust CLI tool and scripting capabilities
- Efficient and straightforward built-in text editor
- No paid support; users are left to the community forums and self-help docs
- Automation requires scripting, making it not as intuitive as other solutions
- Automatic FTP uploads are not as easy to configure
While most free tools aren’t an excellent fit for business environments, Voyager FTP Client is rare. However, a sysadmin can configure multi-site file transfers utilizing FTPS and SFTP protocols through a simple design.
On the end-user side, the platform offers basic text editing and document preview functionality. While this is an essential feature, many applications get this wrong by overcomplicating it. Nevertheless, the preview functionality is a nice touch and helps improve the efficiency of those working on different files.
Voyager FTP clients are an excellent option for smaller businesses that need long-term file sharing across multiple platforms but can’t reasonably budget for entire EDI systems. However, larger enterprises will likely prefer other solutions like Serv-U over Voyager due to their more advanced automation and reporting capabilities.
- Completely free tool
- Excellent multi-site support
- One-click synchronization option
- Files can be previewed without downloading them locally
- FTP Voyager was built for use in a business environment, specifically for sysadmins, and may not be the best option for the home user
GoAnywhere MFT offers EDI and file transfer services for enterprise-level organizations looking for automation features and built-in compliance controls. GoAnywhere MFT can deploy in the cloud, on-premises, or a hybrid environment making it highly versatile and flexible.
While the platform is highly complex, it does come with over 60 different pre-built tasks that can be used to create custom workflows. You can browse these tasks and then mix and match them to create your custom solutions. This works well for many simple tasks, but more complicated automation will need extra work to configure.
The platform extends its use beyond EDI transfers and offers Data Loss Prevention (DLP) options to protect files from accidental deletion or improper modification. In addition, the tools do an excellent job of providing powerful automation and workflow tools to end-users and sysadmin alike. However, with that said, GoAnywhere MFT can be pretty complicated to use and requires a significant time and financial investment to utilize fully.
- Robust enterprise-focused file features that were designed to support thousands of users
- Highly detailed platform allows for in-depth customizations and integrations into custom build solutions
- Features DLP to help protect file integrity from both inside and outside attacks
- Can be resource-intensive
- Platform has a steep learning curve, even for technical users
- Interface is customizable and could be better when compared to the competition
- Pricing isn’t transparent, must contact sales
MFT Gateway is a SaaS product that allows organizations to build EDI solutions using AS2 and other secure protocols. The platform is built on Amazon Web Services, allowing it to use Amazon’s global reach to serve files efficiently in an international setting.
Like GoAnywhere MFT, this tool is specifically developed for enterprise use in retail, healthcare, and logistics. The tool comes with numerous ready-to-deploy integrations on the back end, making it easy to scale secure messaging across different platforms at scale. Customized integrations can tap into the platform’s REST API or webhooks for additional connectivity. API access is free across all plans, which is a nice touch.
MFT Gateway is a solid option for those looking for secure file transfer as a service. In addition, the monthly subscription model helps lower the barrier to entry, making it a viable option for more budget-conscious businesses.
- Off the shelf integrations into many widely known platforms
- Built on AWS, allowing it to scale globally.
- Features compliance controls to meet regulatory requirements
- Flexible pricing
- Automation and scheduling can be challenging to use
- Tons of features make it challenging to truly master the platform
Which AS2 software is right for you?
Depending on your needs, you may not specifically need the AS2 protocol to perform file transfers. Many EDI systems and transfer applications now support multiple protocols alongside AS2. Platforms such as Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server and Files.com can provide EDI support and enterprise messaging at scale using numerous protocols and configurations.
Smaller businesses looking for AS2 protocol functionality should consider exploring FTP Voyager FTP Client and WinSCP as both are highly customizable and can be used to share files for free.
What are you using for secure messaging and file transfer? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.