VAN stands for “Value Added Network”. A VAN is a data transfer service that uses EDI and/or file transfer protocols to connect to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of businesses. VANs are often industry-specific; the ones that are will usually connect to almost every major supplier and consumer within that industry (e.g., auto parts).
As a marketing term, VAN is associated with a bygone era. Most VAN solutions now position themselves as providers of cloud-based EDI and file transfer services (e.g. GXS) or EDI and file transfer technology that completely integrates with modern Community Management services (e.g. IBM’S Sterling Commerce).
However, as a technology concept, VANs are what many “cloud” services hope to be when they grow up: a mature and reliable interconnection of most of the major businesses that serve an industry.