ELECTRONIC DATA INTERCHANGE
EDI is the grandfather technology of EC. It is a proven, reliable, and necessary part of any business-to-business electronic commerce program. (See figure 3.)
EDI is the universal standardization of hundreds of business documents for the purpose of document exchange between two entities or applications. There are two document standards, known as ANSI X12 and UN/EDIFACT. The X12 standard is the primary standard used in North America, while UN/EDIFACT is used throughout the rest of the world.
These standards describe the document content, technical structure, transmission/receipt verification, and data rules associated for each document to be used by all businesses. As a result of these standards, all EDI-enabled business applications can digitally speak to each other in the same language when communicating business information. This lowers the cost and eases the integration aspect when exchanging business documents between multiple businesses and disparate applications. The EDI standard also protects businesses by ensuring proper audits and acknowledgments during the exchange of business documents
In business-to-business electronic commerce, Web sites are more than merely online catalog shopping, which is typical in the consumer-to-business model. The Web applications must integrate information, such as a complete summary and status of an order as it relates to the order-ship-bill cycle. Furthermore, business-to-business Web applications are far more sophisticated than the typical business-to-consumer applications.
Business-to-business Web applications should expect real-time information, confirmation, and updates between the Web application and corporate legacy systems. Many of the applications on the Web will involve the use of many business documents; therefore, it would be prudent to use a business standard such as EDI to help standardize the specifications of your Web applications. (See figure 5.)
Since Web applications in business-to-business environments are "connected" to your legacy applications, the creation, acceptance, rejection, and modification of business documents on the Web must be protected from abuse and unlawful entry.
A Web-management product will authenticate the users accessing the Web applications, enforce access rights to various Web applications, audit the movement of the user and host, and organize the multitude of Web applications.
When business documents are entering and leaving the organization, the document manager is able to schedule, route, and audit the movement of business documents. A document manager is integrated with different EC technologies, including links to your legacy applications. The objective is to push or pull business documents between your legacy system and mission-critical system and your electronic commerce system.
A key issue for EC, especially with the Internet, is providing a means whereby partners can exchange information deemed to be secret without fear of exposing that information to unnecessary risk. Although EDI will provide the necessary audits, document tracking and delivery verification, digital certificates will ensure confidentiality. The standardized and effective method to ensure confidentiality is through the use of digital certificates, formally known as the X.509 public key infrastructure (PKI). It ensures confidentiality of information between a Web site and the user who accesses the Web site. This basic use of the digital certificate is known as the secure socket layer (SSL) and is very easy to implement.
As one wishes to explore the possibilities of PKI, one will find a security model that enables authentication, access control, confidentiality, integrity, and nonrepudiation. In a nutshell, PKI ensures that the sender and the receiver of the messages are who they claim to be, ensures that only the intended recipient can read the message, and ensures that neither the sender nor the receiver can deny the receipt or transmission of a message.
To Be Continued
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