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EDI x12 vs. EDIFACT: What's the difference?

Person holding one red and one green apple

Comparing EDI to EDIFACT is in fact, a little like comparing apples to apples vs. comparing those apples to oranges. Both EDI X12 and EDIFACT are standards which allow for the secure exchange of electronic business documents. The difference lies primarily in where those apples (or standards) were “grown” and maintained.

What is EDI X12 and Who Uses it?

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a flat file format or technology that two or more trading partners in different organizations can use to securely send and receive business transactions or files. The EDI X12 data format is based on The Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 standards.

Once a document is prepared according to ASC X12 standards, it can be translated to a common language between the organizations and sent via a point-to-point secure EDI connection. Protocols used for this range from FTP, to web-based EDI via AS2, and API-based systems like AS4, and more.

In addition to businesses that use it to send and receive everyday transactional files such as purchase orders and invoices, industries such as healthcare, insurance and others that require an audit trail also use EDI. It’s a straightforward solution that provides the security needed with automation, time- and money-savings. It also provides a common language between two or more different organizations to readily exchange information without the risks associated with paper and email data transmission.

Related reading: How Can an EDI Solution Simplify Business Processes?

What is EDIFACT and Who Uses it?

EDIFACT is the shorter, sweeter acronym for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport, and it is the international EDI standard developed under the United Nations to help ensure EDI is structured to work for multi-industry and multi-country exchange.

Like EDI, EDIFACT it is used to help organizations – both commercial and governmental - exchange information between each other using a common language. EDIFACT is widely used in Europe and a growing number of organizations with the U.S and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions are also adopting this standardized process for exchanging data securely. Outside of North America, EDIFACT is the most popular EDI data standard.

What Are the Differences Between EDI and EDIFACT?

  • Geography: The primary difference is geography. EDI X12 is most widely used in the United States and in North America. EDIFACT is mostly used by European- and Asian-based organizations.
  • Standards: The standards for EDI X12 are maintained by the Accredited Standards Committee X12 and EDIFACT’s standards are supported by The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Organization for Standardization.
  • HIPAA: EDI X12 is used to create HIPAA-compliant documents to meet the healthcare industries requirements. EDIFACT does not offer HIPAA documents.
  • Message structure: While the two standards both “do” the same thing – transfer data – they have slightly different terminology and document structures in how they get it done.

GoAnywhere MFT Works with Both EDI and EDIFACT

GoAnywhere’s built-in EDI features help centralize encryption and data translation without separate tools or programming.

As the fastest-growing MFT solution in the world, GoAnywhere is EDI- and EDIFACT-compatible to satisfy worldwide compatibility needs. Support for the global EDIFACT standard allows you to read and write EDIFACT files with trading partners all over the world. Organizations that need EDI file translation can easily read, write, map, and move X12 and XML files between databases.

No matter if your needs for data exchange are to send purchase orders from Minnesota to Alaska or if you’re sending medical files between Germany and Kenya, a solid MFT solution has the EDI and EDIFACT worldwide compatibility you need.

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