February 12th, 2021

File transfers basically run the business world. No matter if the file is a simple Word document attached to an email, an electronic invoice sent via VAN, or a 20 GB video, file transfers get our information from point A to point B so that we can get sh** done.

These files come in all different shapes and sizes, but overall, files can be separated into two groups:

1. Structured Data
Structured data is data that is organized in a very specific, commonly understood way. Although it may not be easily interpreted by humans, this type of data is easily understood by computers and is often used in system-to-system exchanges. Structured data sets the stage for electronic document exchange, and it can take many forms.

2. Unstructured Data
Unstructured data is data that is arranged freely and in no particular order. By nature, it cannot be immediately understood by a computer, but it can most likely be understood by a human. Endless types of files can consist of unstructured data, such as emails, invoices, videos, images, and much, much more.

High-Priority File Transfers

Although many (often large) file transfers take place on a daily basis, there are certain files that are absolutely critical in terms of keeping a business afloat. By that we mean the files that flow through the entire supply chain—the ones that are necessary for executing both procure-to-pay and order-to-cash cycles. In other words, these are the files that are typically exchanged electronically.

As mentioned above, structured data is the foundation for electronic document exchange. And considering most businesses have at least begun to digitalize their supply chains, document exchange terms are almost always outlined in new trade agreements. This involves two key components:

1. File Formats, EDI Standards, and/or E-Invoicing Standards
2. Communication Protocols and/or Network Connections

File Formats, EDI Standards, and/or E-Invoicing Standards

This goes back to structured vs. unstructured data. To exchange files, or documents, electronically between systems, the file must be formatted in a certain way. In other words, the file must contain structured data so that the computer can interpret the incoming information and process it accordingly. There’s no standard file format, so it’s up to the individual business to choose the file type(s), EDI standard(s), and/or e-invoicing standard(s) that work best for them.

Here are some examples of file formats and EDI standards:

  • ANSI X12
  • XML
  • UBL 2.1
  • VDA
  • PDF
  • IDOC
  • CSV
  • JSON
  • Positional Flat File
  • Delimited Flat File
  • ZIP
  • Excel
  • In-house Formats

Adding to the file formats and EDI standards listed above, there are also standards that have been developed specifically for the exchange of electronic invoices. In most cases, these standards are country-specific and were created to simplify and monitor business-to-government (B2G) exchanges. However, more and more countries are beginning to introduce similar standards for B2B invoicing.

Here are some examples of e-invoicing standards:

  • Peppol BIS
  • Chorus Pro (FR)
  • FatturaPA (IT)
  • Mercurius (BE)
  • X-Rechnung (DE)
  • ZUGFeRD (DE)
  • Digipoort (NL)
  • SimplerInvoicing (NL)
  • Facturae (ES)
  • eSlog (SI)
  • UBL-TR (TR)
  • RosettaNet (USA)

Communication Protocols and/or Network Connections

The file format, EDI standard, and/or e-invoicing standard sets the terms for the specific file format(s). That means that with a proper connection in place, the receiving computer will be able to digest the data it is being fed. But there are also terms that specify how the files must be sent. This is often referred to as the communication protocol, or file transfer method.

Here are some examples of communication protocols:

  • AS1, AS2, AS3, AS4
  • X.400
  • X.400 P7
  • HTTP(S)
  • (S)FTP(S)
  • SOAP
  • Email (with SSL / TSL)
  • SMTP & POP3
  • IEX
  • GXS
  • ENX
  • eXite
  • Allegro

For businesses that transfer files based on common EDI and/or e-invoicing standards or, alternatively, fall under a certain industry category, the communication method relies on a specific network connection. In any instance, all files must be sent in the correct format and via the appropriate network in order to be accepted. In this case, network connections must also be considered when evaluating EDI service providers to ensure that all obligations can be met in the present, as well as in the future.

Here are some network examples:

  • Peppol
  • Chorus Pro (FR)
  • FatturaPA (IT)
  • Mercurius (BE)
  • Digipoort (NL)
  • SimplerInvoicing (NL)
  • Swissport (CH)
  • FACe network (ES)
  • KOBAK (HU)
  • PECOS P2P (UK)
  • NEN network (CZ)
  • Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN)
  • American Network eXchange (AXN)
  • European Network eXchange (ENX)
  • Japanese Network eXchange (JNX)