EDI vs API: Whats the Difference?


In the world of technology, there are two standard ways that companies can interact with each other, but they differ significantly in their approaches and capabilities. These are EDI and API. In this article, we’ll look at both of these methods and how they work. We’ll also explore their pros and cons and ultimately highlight the differences between these vital tools for data integration.

What Is An EDI?

EDI is a long-established technology that enables businesses to exchange structured data electronically. It predates the internet and has been a fundamental tool for B2B communication for decades.

Pros Of EDIs

  • Cost Savings – EDI can reduce costs by eliminating the need for paper documents, manual data entry, and processing costs associated with traditional methods of exchanging information between companies.
  • Reliability – EDI is a highly reliable technology that ensures data is not lost in transit. This can be particularly important for companies that exchange sensitive information such as credit card details or patient medical records.
  • Security – EDI is a secure technology that uses encryption to safeguard data. It also uses industry-standard formats for data exchange, which minimizes the likelihood of security breaches or malware attacks. This can be particularly important for financial businesses.
  • Widespread Adoption – EDI is a mature technology that has been widely adopted by businesses of all sizes, from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to large corporations. This means that companies can easily find partners and suppliers who are already using EDI for their business processes.

Cons Of EDIs

  • Complexity – EDI is a complex technology, which means that it requires considerable time and effort to implement. This is especially true for businesses that are new to EDI. In addition, there are many different versions of the standard in use today.
  • Limited Flexibility – EDI is a rigid technology, which means that it does not easily adapt to changes in business processes. The standard has been around for many years and hasn’t changed much since its inception. This means that companies have to adapt their EDI systems as their businesses evolve continuously.
  • High Initial Setup Costs – EDI is a very expensive technology to implement. Although the costs can be spread out over time, businesses need to invest significant resources upfront in order to get their EDI systems up and running. This is especially true for companies that are new to EDI and have no existing infrastructure or experience with similar technologies.

What Is An API?

An API is a more recent addition to the data integration landscape. It serves as a bridge between different software systems, allowing them to communicate and share data in real time.

Pros of APIs

  • Real-Time Data Exchange – APIs are the most efficient way to exchange real-time data. They can provide near-real-time updates on changes in data and allow systems to react instantly when new information is available. This makes APIs ideal for businesses that need to integrate their existing systems with new ones or update existing ones as frequently as possible.
  • Flexibility – APIs can be used by any software, regardless of the platform or programming language it uses. Businesses can also choose whether to use an open API or a closed one, depending on their needs. This allows them to integrate with existing systems without having to rewrite code or recode applications from scratch.
  • Ease of Integration – APIs are easy to integrate, so businesses don’t have to spend time on the technical aspects of their implementation. This allows them to focus on other areas of their business while still improving the functionality of their data integration strategy.
  • Scalability – APIs are scalable, so businesses don’t have to worry about their data integration strategy becoming outdated. They can also be used by multiple applications or systems at the same time, which means that enterprises can easily expand their operations without needing new resources or personnel.

Cons Of APIs

  • Security Concerns: The security of an application can be compromised if it relies on a third-party API or other software and that vulnerability is not addressed. The API could be altered by a hacker and used to steal sensitive data from the enterprise.
  • Dependence on External Systems: When a business relies on external APIs, it becomes dependent on the availability and reliability of those services. Any downtime or changes to an API can disrupt operations.
  • Ongoing Maintenance: APIs require ongoing maintenance to ensure compatibility and security, which can translate into substantial costs if not accounted for.

API vs EDI: The Difference Between Them

API and EDI are two different methods of exchanging data between systems. Both provide a means to send and receive information, but they differ in many ways.

API stands for Application Programming Interface, while EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange. The major difference between them is that API is a technology-neutral way of communicating with software applications over the Internet, while EDI uses specific formats and protocols to exchange messages between trading partners using electronic documents like invoices or purchase orders.

While both technologies allow you to send data from one system (your own) into another system (the recipient’s), there are several key differences:

Data Format and Structure

  • EDI: EDI follows strict data format standards, which are specific to each industry. It relies on fixed-length fields and predefined data elements, making it suitable for structured data exchange.
  • API: APIs can handle various data formats, including JSON, XML, and others. They offer more flexibility in accommodating diverse data structures.

Real-Time vs. Batch Processing

  • EDI: EDI primarily operates in batch processing mode, where data is exchanged in predefined batches. It’s not well-suited for real-time data exchange.
  • API: APIs are designed for real-time data exchange. They enable instant access to data, making them ideal for applications that require up-to-the-minute information.

Implementation Complexity

  • EDI: Implementing EDI can be complex and time-consuming. It often requires specialized knowledge and dedicated infrastructure.
  • API: APIs are generally easier to implement and integrate into existing systems, thanks to well-documented interfaces and development resources.

Cost Considerations:

  • EDI: While EDI can be cost-effective in the long run, it often involves high initial setup costs, making it less accessible for small businesses.
  • API: APIs may have lower initial costs and are often billed based on usage, which can be more budget-friendly for startups and small businesses.


  • EDI: EDI is known for its robust security features, with data often encrypted and transmitted over secure connections.
  • API: API security depends on how well it’s implemented and managed. Without proper security measures, APIs can be vulnerable to data breaches.

Adoption and Standardization:

  • EDI: EDI has been widely adopted in various industries and is supported by established standards bodies, ensuring data consistency and reliability.
  • API: APIs vary widely in terms of standards and protocols, and their adoption can be less standardized. This can result in compatibility challenges when integrating with multiple APIs.


In conclusion, it is important to understand the difference between EDI and API. If your business operates in an industry with well-established EDI standards and you need to exchange structured data reliably and securely, EDI may be the preferred choice. On the other hand, if your business relies on real-time data exchange, requires flexibility in data formats, and needs a more agile and cost-effective solution, APIs are likely the way to go.

In many cases, a hybrid approach might be the most practical. For instance, you can use EDI for standardized batch data exchange with trusted partners while implementing APIs for real-time interactions and to access a broader range of data sources. Both technologies play critical roles in the modern data-driven landscape, and the right choice can make a substantial difference in the efficiency and competitiveness of your business.

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