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What You Need to Know About API Integration

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As many IT and software development experts know, an API is central to the development and maintenance of any web application.  As an application programming interface, an API allows for different softwares to communicate with each other via a lexicon of data that is similar to a data table.  Different fields are populated by different units of data.  YouTube offers an API for each of its videos, maintaining “columns” for attributes like titles, descriptions, URLs, and video lengths.  Sometimes, data travels only from an API to a web app.  Other times, two web apps might access the same API in the interest of modularity and communication.  For laymen, the important part of an API is that it is basically a data table.  It is not usually in the shape of a table, but it is little beyond a series of organized data.

From authenticating with and parsing APIs to writing to and monitoring APIs, this article seeks to present all the most important facets of API integration.  As an interface, an API allows for better communication among multiple applications, systems, dashboards, CRMs, and other business intelligence tools.  Most modern commercial platforms allow APIs to automate menial tasks in a way that enables your data teams to focus on more productive and meaningful work, namely the construction of better experiences for customers.

The primary item to understand about APIs is that they allow your departments to communicate better with each other in such a way as to indirectly automate business processes that do not allow your business to grow.  Able to manage requests from clients and enable communication among technologies or tools, APIs can pick up the slack of any data team.  An API has two main parts: a server and a client.  When a baby boomer asks you if you know how the internet works, this is what you explain: the relationship between a server and a client.  The client, or your web app, runs and communicates with the server, the API’s information, and the server sends the API’s information.  This does not necessarily happen in real time, but the client can request routine updates if necessary.  APIs also present the rules a client must follow to properly access a server in such a way as to obtain solicited information.

REST APIs

When discussing APIs, it is important to consider the different types and the effects they might have on the integration experience your business has with an API.  One of the most common APIs is a “representational state transfer” or REST API.  A REST API is the type of API YouTube and many other major companies employ.  They specialize in moving data one-way from servers to clients.  The user makes a call to the API in his or her code, and the API responds by filling local fields with information from what boomers refer to as “the cloud,” though this is not such a bad way to put it.  A more knowledgeable person might say, “the internet,” which is also fair enough.

This flow of information from servers to clients is the reason for which some REST APIs are JSON files.  A JSON or “Javascript object notation” file is a file of an API’s information that automatically translates information into a format that local Javascript files and projects on a user’s computer can read.  For security reasons, REST APIs call for several levels of clearance from servers and clients alike.  Clients need to include sensitive information, like passwords, in their code to access the information a REST API has to offer.  Also, REST APIs improve the performance of any communication with the server a client must perform to receive information.

SOAP APIs

“Simple object access protocol” or SOAP APIs focus more on security than on the available data itself.  Dominating APIs since the end of the 20th century, SOAP APIs have defined the security standards for private or direct messages from users to other users.  It defines the technological contents of messages: one can see that a message is text on the screen, but SOAP APIs simplify what is “under the hood” of each message.  What information can be tracked so clearly as to make a device vulnerable to cyber attacks?  Due to security standards, SOAP APIs are hard to implement in code, but if necessary, they can keep data safe from DDOS attacks and beyond.

RPC APIs

Finally, RPC APIs employ JSON and other types of protocols against the execution of a server’s internal scripts.  Primarily, “remote procedural call” APIs are used to maintain communication among a business’s internal systems to advance the capabilities of remote services and networks.  In contrast to the data transferral prized by aforementioned API types, the RPC API focuses more on communication than anything else.

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