Question & Answer

Q & A

You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers

EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange. It is an electronic communication system that provides standards for exchanging data via any electronic means. By adhering to the same standard, two different companies, even in two different countries, can electronically exchange documents (such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices, and many others). EDI has existed for more than 30 years, and there are many EDI standards (including X12, EDIFACT, ODETTE, etc.), some of which address the needs of specific industries or regions.

In theory, exchanging data electronically should not only save companies time and money, but make it easier, more efficient, and error-free by using computers to transfer all data between a company and its trading partners, rather than faxing or sending handwritten documents through the mail.

But in practice, companies have such differing business practices and platforms that it is difficult to agree on standards. Complex transactions may have unique requirements, and no one standard can encompass all of the possibilities. Each company must make sure that it is adhering to the standards of its trading partners, and vice versa. And nothing in current EDI standards allows for unique changes to those standards.

XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. It is a recently developed computer language that improves upon and extends traditional EDI standards by providing a data file format supported by most systems for communicating structured information across the Internet. Its strength is that not only can it support the common document standards found in traditional EDI, but can also support changes and customizations to documents.

No overall XML standard exists for transmitting business documents. Each industry, or even each large company, is free to adopt its own standard. This can present a challenge to small and mid-size companies. What happens is that companies must still be sure that they can read each other's documents and standards. These one-to-one business relationships require that they be "mapped into" each other. As with traditional EDI, until now this has been prohibitively expensive for all but the largest enterprises because special, expensive software with customized programming and consultants were usually required to make sure that things ran smoothly. This makes it too expensive for the small and medium companies to enjoy XML/EDI's benefits.

XML works well in extending and improving traditional EDI transactions, but it still isn't the answer by itself.

DiCentral's revolutionary hosted solutions enable customers to exchange business information seamlessly and efficiently with all of their trading partners, regardless of what file formats or system types they use. Neither our customers nor their trading partners need to install any software, hardware, or employ additional staff. By bridging the gap between the promises of XML/EDI and its availability to all sizes of companies, DiCentral helps customers benefit from e-commerce and as a result gain significant financial and competitive advantage.

Our hosted solutions are different from previous XML/EDI solutions offered by other companies. By mapping your requirements once in a hosted environment, we can then connect you to any number of your trading partners quickly, easily, and at low cost. Our open technology and the fact that it is developed and owned entirely by DiCentral makes it very easy to customize our solutions to whatever documents and data transfer services your company requires.

From its inception, DiCentral was supported and managed by a set of experienced entrepreneurs and B2B professionals. An experienced team of engineers develops our technologies, with backgrounds in the NASA space and shuttle programs, and from the aerospace industry.

DiCentral CEO Thuy Mai received a graduate degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Illinois. Mr. Mai worked for United Space Alliance/Unisys assigned to NASA as a Supervisor of the System Software Shuttle Mission Simulator Group. He also worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories as a Technical Lead of the 5ESS/ISDN System Resource Performance Group. Mr. Mai was a co-founder of Maingate Corporation which developed WebDI, the first generation of the technology DiCentral has expanded and improved upon. After Maingate's merger with Channelinx.com, Thuy founded DiCentral Corporation in 2000.

DiCentral’s Board of Directors and Advisors include leaders of business and the computer industry, including Robert Sakowitz, CEO of Hazak, a corporate consulting firm. For more information, please visit our "Company" page.

DiCentral provides a complete, Internet-based platform of business-to-business (B2B) data integration services for enterprises and small to mid-size companies. DiCentral's suite of Internet-based applications, Total B2B Data Integration, enables businesses and corporations of any size to achieve B2B data integration without the costly investment in localized software and hardware technology, and without the costs of ongoing management of B2B relationships.

Our customers can exchange business information seamlessly and efficiently with all of their trading partners, regardless of what types of systems they have. Since our solutions are hosted, neither our customers nor their trading partners need to install any software, hardware, or employ additional staff.

DiCentral supports virtually all electronic transactions. The system was tested and certified with more than 3,000 different transactions.

Companies can now have a B2B e-commerce initiative regardless of size. The two biggest impediments to smaller companies becoming electronically enabled are the complexity and the cost. DiCentral removes the barriers by getting everyone connected easily and efficiently, at low cost. Small to mid-size companies are less technology-savvy and often operate on extremely small budgets. They also have needs that are different from large enterprises, and cannot realistically operate on a stripped-down version of a larger enterprise solution. Enablement of small to mid-size companies requires an in-depth knowledge of their business challenges. This requires personal contact, solutions tailored specifically for the mid-market, and guidance toward the service best suited for their current and future needs.

DiCentral's core services are entirely Web-based, with no investment necessary for new software. Our hosted, pay-as-you-go solution removes the hassle of maintaining upgrades or paying for the usual consultants to customize a software solution. The open architecture of DiCentral's technology allows for extreme flexibility and ease of customization.

Let us know what you need, and we can tailor your solution in days or weeks rather than the months required in the past for data integration!

Subscribers pay a nominal transaction fee rather instead of making a large investment in software or hardware. The subscriber is not responsible for maintaining or upgrading technology because there is no software to buy!

DiCentral charges you a monthly subscription fee (similar to a cellular phone plan) based on your account's monthly kilobyte (KB) usage. The kilobyte size of the EDI documents received and created each month in your inbox and outbox is totaled, then applied to the subscription plan that you choose. There are several subscription plans to choose from. Plans designed for higher kilobyte usage cost less per kilobyte. All EDI document kilobytes count toward your monthly plan, including drafts that you create but do not send to your trading partner and POs that you duplicate for modification or backorder purposes. One kilobyte (KB) is equivalent to one thousand (1000) ASCII characters of EDI code.

Traditional EDI costs an average $100,000 for hardware, software, installation, training, and ongoing maintenance, not including the new XML or applications formats. With DiCentral, there is no extra software or hardware to buy, nor will you need additional IT staff. All translations take place within the DiCentral servers. And unlike traditional VAN-based EDI, DiCentral has minimal testing requirements and no internal setup requirements.

It's easy to add additional trading partners. All that DiCentral needs is contact information for your partners in order to receive their data implementation guidelines. Integration can usually be completed within a week depending upon the types of transactions required. Email or call for more information at (281) 480-1121.

DiCentral's enablement steps are:

Register each trading partner, and/or confirm each partner's self-registration.

Recommend the appropriate connection and service options.

Establish trading partners' data mapping guidelines.

Test and certify data.

Activate trading partner accounts, permissions, and authorize electronic documents.

Setup times will vary by trading partner, because each of your trading partners has their own work queue, EDI department resources, and testing policies. Best-case scenarios can result in setups being completed within days. An average EDI connection is in production within 2-4 weeks. Delays by your trading partner, or special or non-standard requirements, can extend the time to reach production status accordingly.

Transactions are conducted through DiCentral using triple layer security. This includes Secure Socket Layer (SSL) 128bit encryption, Microsoft application encryption, and proprietary DiCentral encryption.

No, but we can help exchanges with integration issues associated with connecting disparate applications among participants.

To get connected, simply e-mail with your company and contact names, titles, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Need additional help getting registered? Email or call (281) 480-1121 Option 3.

How does DiCentral charge for services? DiCentral charges you a monthly subscription fee (similar to a cellular phone plan) based on your account's monthly kilobyte (KB) usage. The kilobyte size of the EDI documents received and created each month in your inbox and outbox is totaled, then applied to the subscription plan that you choose. There are several subscription plans to choose from. Plans designed for higher kilobyte usage cost less per kilobyte. All EDI document kilobytes count toward your monthly plan, including drafts that you create but do not send to your trading partner and POs that you duplicate for modification or backorder purposes. One kilobyte (KB) is equivalent to one thousand (1000) ASCII characters of EDI code.

Contact Sales at 281.480.1121 option 4

From the Open An Account page, enter your promotional code into the promotional code login box, and follow the instructions that will appear on your screen.

If your trading partner has told you about DiCentral or requested you move transactions through us, they may have a promotional code for you already that you can request from them. Otherwise, you may email a or call (281) 480-1121 Option 3.

Service plans are based upon the kilobyte size of the transactions you complete each month. Each transaction with your trading partner may involve multiple EDI documents, and each EDI document will range from a minimum of one kilobyte to many dozens of kilobytes depending on the amount of EDI code required to describe it and the number of line items involved. This can be difficult to predict, so our Sales department will work with you to determine a monthly service plan that fits your business patterns.

Be aware that there are often at least two or three EDI documents necessary to complete an order cycle. For example, your trading partner may send you Purchase Order, then expect you to return an Advance Ship Notice (ASN) and an Invoice. Fulfilling ten purchase orders in a month from that trading partner could therefore require thirty EDI documents. Some partners may allow you to consolidate multiple POs into single ASNs or invoices, which could save you some kilobyte space.

You will receive a monthly statement through the U.S. Postal Service. If you prefer to be billed using EDI or through a bank transfer, contact a DiCentral representative at (281) 480-1121.

The Interchange Sender Address (ISA) number is a code used in EDI systems to uniquely identify the sender and recipient of data. An ISA qualifier is a code that describes the source of the ISA number (for example, a company might use its DUNS number as its ISA number). As a DiCentral subscriber, the only identifiers that affect you are the EC Addresses that identify you and your trading partners. Your ISA and Qualifier are assigned by DiCentral when you enroll as a DiCentral trading partner.

  • Processor
    Recommended: 3GHz Pentium 4 or better CPU
    Minimum: 1.4GHz Pentium or equivalent AMD processor
  • System Memory
    RRecommended: 2+GB
    Minimum: 512MB (large transactions will require additional RAM)
  • Operating System
    Recommended: Microsoft Windows XP w/ SP 3
    Minimum: Windows 2000 w/ SP 3, Windows 98, Windows 98 2nd Edition, Windows
    ME, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP w/ SP 3
  • Internet Browser
    Recommended: Microsoft Internet Explorer 7
    Minimum: Internet Explorer 6 or better (pre-release versions are not supported)
  • Internet Connection
    Recommended: Broadband
  • Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0 or better

You may send and receive transactions through DiCentral using any available Internet connection, from dial-up to T1. A better connection will provide faster uploading and downloading of files, especially large or batch files. But since most EDI files are raw text, dial-up connection will work fine for smaller transaction volumes.

DiCentral is designed, tested, and recommended for optimum use with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or better. DiCentral does not guarantee that all features or displays function correctly when using any other browser. Systems below the minimum recommendations may not be able to access all features.

Log in to your account from the DiCentral home page. Immediately your inbox will appear, with the incoming documents listed. View your documents by clicking on the document numbers. You may sort this list in any way you wish by clicking on the column headings.

If you have set up your data transfers to be integrated with an outside application, the new documents will appear within that application. However, you may still review documents using the web-based method described above.

The documents in your inbox and outbox are displayed by yearly quarters, defaulted to the current quarter. On the first day of a new quarter, the previous quarter's documents are no longer visible until you select the link for that previous quarter. Under your company name the yearly quarters are listed. Clicking on these quarter links will allow you to access all of your documents from the past year.

If you are uploading files from your own computer drive or application to send to a trading partner, there will be a short delay until DiCentral translates the file before it appears in your Outbox. This takes less than an hour, and usually only ten or fifteen minutes. When you create a document using our webforms, it will appear immediately in your Outbox.

Use the search filters located at the top of your account Inbox and Outbox document lists. You can search by Document Type, Trading Partner, Store Number, Old/New Status, Date or Date Range, and Document ID. If you're using the Tree View, select Mail Box > Inbox/Outbox > Search.

Yes. DiCentral offers advanced integration tools that allow you to import data with your backend system. DiCentral can synchronize EDI data with any accounting or ERP package, as well as warehouse management systems, transportation management systems, and other third party applications. Email support for additional information.

If you are your account's administrator, go to the Options tab then select User Configuration > Passwords.

The primary or secondary contact associated with your account may reach Customer Support at support or (281)480-1121 option 3.

From Options tab, select User Configuration > Miscellaneous > Email Notification. To turn off notifications, uncheck one or more of the checkboxes. Or you can change or add to the existing email addresses that receive email notifications by editing the text fields. For multiple email addresses, separate each address by a comma-and-space.

Your account administrator can create additional user passwords with different levels of functionality from the Options tab > User Configuration > Passwords. DiCentral can also create special custom passwords for a small fee (such as passwords that allow access to multiple DiCentral accounts, or only to certain trading partner documents, or that limit user actions to label-only or to not allow document editing, etc). This can be useful to limit access by your warehouse personnel to only what they need for their tasks. For more information or to setup a custom password for your account, contact our Customer Support Representatives at csr@dicentral.com or (281)480-1121 Option 3.

Most thermal and laser printers can be used to print documents and labels from DiCentral, as easily as printing a web page. High quality inkjet printers may work, but are not recommended unless your bar code labels are reviewed by your trading partner first for quality. Some companies require specific types of printers or label quality for incoming shipping labels. If you have problems, or need assistance locating a particular printer driver, contact support.

To print a document from your account window simply check the box beside the document name, and then click the "Print HTML" button at the bottom of the page. The document will print out in an easily readable form. You may batch print multiple documents by checking boxes for more than one document before printing.

Yes. From your Outbox, documents that apply to shipping labels (such as the 856 Ship Notice) will have a "Label" button under the Label column. Click this, and the shipping label options box will appear. From here you may change the pre-populated data and choose formatting options before printing from your local or network printer to formatted blank shipping labels.

Yes, bar coding is part of our system. The label is pre-mapped basing on the buyer's requirement and specification, and you can print the label directly from your Internet browser. No extra software, no extra cost.

From your Internet Explorer browser menu, click File > Page Setup and delete the text in the "Header" and "Footer" text fields. Write down the formulas before deleting if you wish to restore the settings after printing (this text is the formulas that display information such as the date, web address, etc., when you print a web page). It is perfectly safe to delete this information, but you may wish to restore it later after printing your labels.

You can email a label and use that email to print the label. Follow these steps:

  • Make sure that your email program and the recipient's email program can send and receive HTML emails (see below).
  • From your Outbox, click on the "Label" column beside the 856 Ship Notice that applies to the order. Configure your label until you reach the final print preview.
  • Right-click on the white edge of this preview screen, and choose "Select All". This will highlight the label text.
  • With the label highlighted, right-click again and choose "Copy".
  • Open a new email. Paste the label into the body of the email, either by right-clicking in the email and choosing "Paste" or by choosing "Paste" from the Edit menu at the top of the email program (as an alternative to copying and pasting, you may also drag-and-drop the highlighted label text into the new email).

To confirm if the sender's and receiver's Outlook email program settings are configured to send and receive HTML emails, both should follow these steps:

  • From the menu bar at the top of the Outlook screen, choose Tools > Options .
  • From the Options dialogue box choose the Mail Format tab.
  • From the Message Format section, make sure that "Send in this message format" is set to HTML from the pull-down menu.
  • Select "OK" and exit.

Email programs other than Outlook should also have the HTML option accessible from their user settings menu. If you aren't sure, look at other emails that you receive. If you can receive emails including pictures, graphics, colored text, etc., then your email program is already set to receive HTML emails.