Navigation Bar Questions to Ask When Choosing a Value Added Network

Here are some of the factors you should consider when selecting a Value Added Network (VAN). This list provides questions to ask about each VAN for use in your general evaluation.

Experience

  1. How long has the VAN been in business?
  2. How many customers does the VAN serve?
  3. Is the VAN making a profit?
  4. Will the VAN provide a list of references that can be checked?

Customer Service

  1. Is customer service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
  2. How long does it take customer service or technical support to respond to a call for help?
  3. Does the VAN provide start-up support, as well as ongoing support after my first trading partner is established?

Business Service

  1. If one of my trading partners is on the VAN and I want to begin exchanging documents, how long does it take to establish a connection with that trading partner?
  2. If one of my trading partners is on a different VAN and I want to begin exchanging documents, how long does it take to establish a connection with that trading partner?
  3. Can I establish the relationship myself, or do I need to call the VAN customer service to establish the relationship?
  4. Will this VAN reach all my trading partners, or is there a need to subscribe to others?
  5. How frequently are messages/transactions forwarded by the VAN from its network to the trading partner’s network?
  6. How long does the VAN retain transactions in a business’ mailbox awaiting retrieval?
  7. Does the VAN offer "bulletin board" services? Access to business databases? Profiling of business transactions?
  8. What kind of report and billing data will be received? (number of transmissions, minutes of connection time, number of logons and failed logons?)
  9. What kinds of audit trail and usage reports are available?
  10. Does the VAN allow or provide for selective browse/download of electronic bid boards for RFPs and ITBs?
  11. Does the VAN provide choices of translation software or services? If so, what are they?

Connectivity

  1. I plan to connect with the VAN using:
    1. An asynchronous modem on a personal computer
    2. A bisynchronous modem
    3. A dedicated leased line
  2. Which of these does the network support?
  3. Is the dial-up number a local number?
  4. If not local, is it toll-free?

Back Up/Disaster Recovery

  1. Has the VAN ever been "out of service"? If so, for what length of time?
  2. Is a back-up system available?
  3. Does the VAN keep an archive of the data it receives?
  4. Can I request retransmission of data?
  5. Where is the archived data stored?
  6. How long does it take to retrieve it?
  7. Does the VAN have a disaster recovery plan? Can I get a copy?
  8. What kind of back-up systems does the VAN have for its phone lines and power supply?
  9. In the event of a system failure, how long does it take before back-up systems are activated?
  10. Who is liable for lost transmission data?

 Security

  1. What security arrangements will be used (passwords, automatic callback, etc)?
  2. What measures does the network take to prohibit unauthorized access of my data?
  3. What compliance checking system will be used to ensure data integrity?

Price Structure—Compare the costs VANs charge for EDI communications services. VAN pricing can be difficult to understand. Make sure you understand all charges from each VAN.

  1. What is the price structure (start-up costs and ongoing costs)?
  2. Is there a one-time initialization fee? How much is it?
  3. Are there annual fees? How much are they?
  4. Are there monthly mailbox fees? How much are they?
  5. Are there annual line access fees? How much are they?
  6. Are there different fees for prime time hours and non-prime time hours?
  7. What are the prime-time hours and non-prime time hours?
  8. What are the per document costs during prime time and non-prime time for the following?
    1. Send document
    2. Send characters (per 1000 characters) 
    3. Send line-access fee if any (per 1000 characters)
    4. Receive document
    5. Receive characters (per 1000 characters) 
    6. Receive line-access fee if any (per 1000 characters)
  9. Are there volume discounts?

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This page last updated September 17, 2003