DEFINITION of 'Value-Added Network (VAN)'

A private network provider hired by a company to facilitate electronic data interchange (EDI) and/or provide other network services such as message encryption, secure email and management reporting. A Value-Added Network (VAN) simplifies the communications process by reducing the number of parties with which a company needs to communicate. The VAN accomplishes this by acting as an intermediary between business partners that share standards based or proprietary data. VANs may be operated by large companies for efficient supply chain management with their suppliers, or by industry consortiums or telcos.

BREAKING DOWN 'Value-Added Network (VAN)'

VANs usually operate in a mailbox setting, wherein a company sends a transaction to a VAN and the VAN places it in the receiver's mailbox. The receiver contacts the VAN and picks up the transaction, and then sends a transaction of its own. The system is similar to email, except that it is used for standardized structured data rather than unstructured text.

The ubiquity of the internet has lessened the attraction of VANs, largely due to cost considerations, since it is much more cost-effective to move data over the internet than to pay the minimum monthly fees and per-character charges included in typical VAN contracts. VANs have countered the challenge from the internet by focusing on specific industry verticals such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing, and by expanding the range of services they offer customers.

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