The Technology Behind E-invoicing
e-Invoicing is the process of sending invoices and payments electronically across the Internet
using the SaaS model. From a technology perspective, this involves the transfer of encrypted data
across the Internet to and from a secure Cloud Provider, and the processing and validation of this
data by the Provider.
Owing to the sensitive nature of invoice and payment data, e-Invoicing providers clearly must be
extremely vigilant with data security. All transmissions to and from the Provider are encrypted
and in many cases the Provider will validate additional elements of the transmission such as the
IP address of the sender/recipient, and/or use of digital certificates to ensure the data originated
from a trusted location. In addition, security of data is also ensured by the use of Firewalls,
Intrusion Detection Devices, and networks designed with very specific access restrictions and
monitoring in place.
While these measures protect valuable data they also protect another important element
of e-Invoicing – Downtime. Downtime is time during which the service is offline,
which in many cases can be very expensive for organisations who have chosen to rely on
an e-Invoicing provider. Therefore it is a key responsibility of an e-Invoicing
provider to ensure its service is always online.
As the volume of invoices processed by e-Invoicing Providers increases over time, their
servers must also be able to cater for constant expansion without interruption to service,
or degradation in system performance. This is often achieved by using expandable
SANs (Storage Area Networks). Load Balancing is also typically used to ensure
incoming traffic is distributed evenly between the servers which process it.
Virtualisation and Redundancy are also key elements of such a solution. Virtualisation is the
separation of server resources, software and processors from the actual server hardware, thus
creating ‘Virtual Servers’. This means that if hardware was to show signs of imminent failure,
the entire ‘Virtual Server’ is transferred to another piece of hardware and the service
continues uninterrupted. Redundancy is the process of implementing a secondary set of hardware
(or software) that can take over in the event of failure. Therefore paired Firewalls, paired
Intrusion Detection Systems, and multiple copies of Virtual Servers can allow for the provision
of an uninterrupted service. Some providers will also have a second physical site with an
exact replica of the infrastructure on the primary site, so that they can switch everything
in the event of a major disaster, and still continue to provide the service to its customers.