Application programming interface (API) is a software solution that connects all business systems to enhance production efficiency and communication. API integration is excellent for small businesses and large enterprises because it streamlines everyday procedures through system collaborations. This allows all applications to work as one, optimizing overall functionality.
While implementing an API platform can increase overall business service speed and productivity, the solution's process and elements should first be considered. If developers attempt to integrate applications with contrasting infrastructures and protocols, additional time is required to adapt components. Therefore, management should research and consult with their IT department and software developers to determine what API models and functions will improve their operations.
What is API Integration?
An application programming interface (API) connects various management solutions using software and a set of data integration protocols. In other words, API is a cloud-based interface that allows users to connect to multiple cloud computing systems.
An easy way to think of the API design is the internet. When a user searches something online, the browser populates various sources of relevant information. Every page seen is stored on a remote server but made readily available to the user via the internet. In this model, the API acts as a page's server, receiving and responding to requests.
Therefore, when a business employee uses an API to search for specific data, the interface translates the command. The request is then sent to the appropriate application, and once the service responds, the answer is translated again to deliver to the user. However, when two or more integration platforms are introduced, API integration is required to allow the servers to complete this process without human intervention. The communication between software is made possible by the REST method, which uses a language that allows systems to translate information.
By using API management, businesses can receive real-time data that is continually updated between synchronized systems. This allows users to access accurate, inclusive data from all software on one medium.
Types of API Integration
Cloud-based or web APIs are interfaces that are accessed using the HTTP protocol, which allows the server to retrieve the requested data. This is the basis of all information exchanges online. However, different types of web APIs vary on privacy policies, terms and conditions, and security measures. Standard cloud computing integrations include-
Open APIs Also known as external or public, open APIs have minimal restrictions, permitting wide data availability to software developers. While some interfaces require a unique password or registration, others may not have security measures allowing complete access to data. This model's transparency makes it useful for third-party users, such as vendors and software developers, who need to access information externally.
Internal APIs On the other hand, internal APIs are intended for internal use and built to hide data from external parties. With internal APIs, departments within a company can share information, programs, and resources, optimizing project management. Unlike traditional integration strategies, this model uses intensive security measures, access limits, audit trails, and a standard interface that securely links several systems.
Partner APIs Similar to the open model, partner APIs grant data access to third-party businesses but with better protection. This gateway uses admittance control to share specific information with outside parties. For example, a vendor seeking stock quantity levels and purchase orders would be given a login to retrieve inventory data. Although the integration platform may also link with other internal operations, the supplier would have limited access. This secures company data while enhancing communications and supply chain management.
Composite APIs Composite APIs allow software developers to enter several endpoints in one session. An endpoint within an API integration system is the service or system retaining the information the user requested. This model is great for microservice infrastructure, where developers may need data from several solutions in order to complete one operation. By allowing access to multiple software applications in one call, server load time is reduced while functionality and performance are promoted.
The Process of API Integration
With the various integration platforms made readily available to businesses, there are several ways to achieve API integration. Traditionally, a software developer creates a personalized script that can adequately integrate all of the company's existing APIs.
However, while some businesses still prefer customized integrations, "connector applications" have recently gained momentum. These solutions are mass-produced to connect popular software that easily accommodates integration. An alternative method is implementing API integration management platforms. This solution is typically software as a service (SaaS) compliant but is capable of managing API collaborations with SaaS applications.
With API platforms, developers can customize a business's system integration without dealing with individual application programming. This option streamlines not only business operations but also the initial development and implementation of API solutions.
Regardless of which option a company chooses, all API integrations must start with three simple steps-
1. Determine the Business's Systems and Goals Management should understand what operations need improvement and how API integration will provide the solution. If the business does not know this information, system audits and cost analyses can provide reports on how consolidating software can increase operational efficiency.
Management should also create an outline of what factors are in play when beginning an integration project to gain feasible expectations. Some things to consider are-
Volume and Speed - Depending on how many systems and datasets a business is handling, integration can take a significant amount of time to implement. Management should also determine how and when they want data to be updated. For example, a retailer may wish to configure sales and inventory updates at the end of the day or in real-time. These logistical details impact what kind of integration solution is available to a company.
Data Format - The company's IT department should have details on the data formatting on all applications to ensure there are no discrepancies during the integration process. If services use different formats, the information will have to be appropriately translated before linking the systems.
Authentication - The level of security and privacy policies vary depending on the API model. Therefore, following safety protocols, such as OAuth or SAML, ensures that data is safe at all times.
2. Research the Integration Options Once the organization has its requirements and expectations, it is time to determine its integration service options. The IT department should research various API elements, such as-
What type of API best suits the business's needs?
There are three versions of cloud-based APIs- Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Representational State Transfer (REST), and Remote Procedural Call (RPC).
What is the most efficient way to send data?
Typically, APIs are programmed to send information via XML and/or JSON payloads. However, if necessary, the developer can customize a script that translates and transmits data applicable to the established systems.
Does the established platform have adequate API documentation?
If the business has established or well-known applications, the chances are there is enough paperwork to program the API adequately. This documentation streamlines software development by advising the developers on the data formation. Without proper paperwork, building the solution can be quite tricky.
3. Create a Data Map Once the first two steps are complete, it is time to consolidate all of the gathered information into a comprehensive data map.
This outline will include sources and targets, as well as all of their details. The sources are the names of the established application in which data is being pulled from. The targets are the final version of what the sources will become after transmittance.
This plan acts as a reference so everyone contributing to the project is on the same page, making the next two steps run smoothly.
4. Begin Software Development With this list of goals, developers can begin to build an interface that can integrate all of the organization's systems to meet their needs.
5. Conduct Tests on the New Platform After the software is built, developers will run multiple tests to ensure there are no bugs within the application or when integrating other services.
Benefits of API Integration
API integration has earned support from many businesses, from startups to enterprises, because of its ability to aggregate a wide range of applications. Successful integration throughout a company provides several advantages, including-
Process Automation - Without integration, companies have to designate an employee for data entering and consolidating, which can cost them additional time and capital. However, API automatically connects systems in place, streamlining information sharing, and allowing employees to invest their time elsewhere.
Reduced Human Error - Even small mistakes can lead to significant consequences. Without the need for human intervention, API reduces errors related to manually inputting information.
Improved Communication and Reporting - Reports can offer more details and insights with accumulative data than individual operation analysis. This allows management to determine what procedures need improvement.
All of these benefits lead to an overall increase in operational efficiency, which improves a business's functionality, performance, and bottom line.
7 Features to Look for in API Integration Platforms - A Checklist
Application integration gives organizations a competitive edge over other companies in their industry directly through heightened productivity. However, when choosing an API platform, businesses should create a checklist covering what their ideal solution offers.
1. Promotes Digital Transformation While the idea of a digital transformation may seem formidable, removing outdated systems can significantly improve functionality. Many organizations implement robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the internet of things (IoT) but negate the process of connecting the systems. With API integration platforms, companies can optimize their current operations and promote business expansion through advanced connectivity.
2. Robust Infrastructure A customized application can be costly and time-consuming, but using a traditional integrator may not have a strong enough foundation to integrate all of a company's software. Therefore, implementing an API integration solution with robust architecture ensures that all existing systems and data can be translated and transmitted throughout the platform.
3. Simplifies API Software Development API development is now readily available through software developers. Whereas, in the past, businesses had to choose to either invest in multiple personalized systems or sacrifice complete integration with third-party integrators. Developers can build a platform or update older API platforms, reducing expenses, and ensuring successful integration.
4. Innovative Functions An API platform doesn't just enable API solutions, it allows businesses to create new components according to existing applications. This capability opens up countless opportunities to implement new functions and features within a company.
5. Secure API Management Achieving complete system integration throughout a large enterprise is nearly impossible when done manually. API integration platforms meet this challenge by acting as a centralized database in which all other APIs report to. This method increases transparency throughout the network, simplifying data management, and compliance procedures.
6. Enhances Cloud-Based Applications As technology evolves, many companies are switching to cloud-based systems that allow users to access data from anywhere at any time. Therefore, cloud computing API solutions enhance the functionality of these services by maximizing connectivity and workflow.
7. Optimizes Enterprise Productivity Managing separate API services can require additional time and capital. However, maintenance, integration, and system management are simplified by introducing an API platform. This solution allows the IT managers to conduct these procedures on one user-friendly collaborative interface.
By implementing an API solution, businesses can focus on expansion efforts without worrying about manually collaborating system data. As the company grows and more interfaces are introduced, an API integration platform can ensure information is updated accurately and shared throughout the organization.