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An API is short for Application Programming Interface, which is a set of protocols and functions allowing software applications to exchange data. APIs work like a messenger between various applications, following certain rules along the way.
The most common type of API is the REST API which enables interaction between a client and server to exchange information, requests, and responses over the internet. XML-RPC is another API that exchanges data via remote procedural calls using XML as the encoding.
API integrations are established connections between different systems or applications using a client and server interaction. Since many organizations use hundreds of SaaS applications, the need for long-tail data integration is evident.
Here's an example of a company where the sales and marketing teams rely on Salesforce for customer management. However, the product team uses PowerBI to analyze the most profitable customer segments. This company would benefit from an API integration to connect and store this critical business data within a warehousing platform like Snowflake.
Software engineers often have to develop custom API integrations when no connectors exist off the shelf.
DevOps teams can maintain uptime and perform data quality checks via a series of APIs, and if it doesn't pass, it alerts team members via Slack.
Business analysts that toggle between multiple business tools, web apps, and enterprise software also need API integration.
Data engineers and technology leaders can create seamless data integrations with low or no-code using pre-built connectorsand API integrations.
Businesses that tend to use a niche product or service that isn't popular enough for your ETL tool to support.
The potential applications of APIs in business processes are limitless. Especially with custom API development, creating unique APIs tailored to your specific business requirements is possible. Every company from every industry can benefit from the use of APIs. In fact, they already are.
These are just a few of the use cases of APIs that have become common knowledge nowadays. But there is more to it than the exchange of data and functionality. APIs can play significant roles in all areas within an organization, driving data integration, such as:
Accounts management systems like Zoho can be linked with the company's billing software and other finance SaaS systems like Chargebee to sync transactions, payments, and expenses with Invoiced.
In the HR department, data from payroll processing software like Paylocity can integrate with accounting software such as Zoho Books through an API integration service. Additionally, HR leaders can analyze metadata such as department and tenure instantly.
E-commerce brands can stay on keep their product listings in their online store such as WooCommerce. Fulfillment teams can look at the same data in ShipHero whenever a product is shipped or when quantities get low. This functionality translates into more revenue and a better customer experience.
Medical technology is also expanding with wearable fitness devices, IoT biometric data, and prescription delivery apps, and many hospitals are also launching their mobile apps. For instance, a medical office might want to examine patient outcomes with staffing levels using Deputy. Most importantly, the API integration services must be secure when handling patient data to avoid HIPAA violations.
Again, these are only a few examples of automated processes between different enterprise software applications. Portable lets you sync over 300 data connectors with unlimited data volumes for free.
APIs consist of several components for efficiency as well as security. Here's what's happening behind the scenes of an API integration.
API works by setting a request and response system. So whenever a user or software system requests to access data or features of another application, the API acts as a messenger and a gateway. It authenticates and verifies that the requests are made from authorized users or applications, typically with the help of API keys.
In a microservice architecture, large applications with multiple functionalities are broken down into small, modular components, each performing a specific function. This component is essential to provide efficient API endpoint performance. The back end serves the particular dataset without costly SQL queries.
The data exchange between applications is crucial for APIs to automate business processes and deliver certain features. That is why APIs often need access to real-time data sources. Weather data, GPS-integrated apps, medical data, clickthrough data, analytics, and stock and trading info are real-time data essential for APIs.
There has always been a need for computing resources to crunch large data sets. However, it's insanely expensive to do it all in-house. Cloud computing lets you flexibly manage data with APIs.
Cloud giants like AWS, Google, and Microsoft offer respective data packages that scale memory, CPU, and storage instantly.
One of the most critical components of APIs is scalability. APIs should handle frequent usage with sensible and fair rate limits. A scalable back-end architecture should be the foundation of API in applications that store and process vast amounts of real-time data.
Buffering data and queuing requests are sometimes necessary to avoid overwhelming or burning through too many API tokens.
Does every business need custom API development? Sometimes. It depends on the demands and needs of specific organizational processes and operations. These pros and cons of custom API work will help you determine if it's the right solution for your data team.
APIs enable apps to gain access to data beyond their storage and share or borrow features of other apps through integrations. As a result, APIs improve the overall functionality of an app, thereby delivering more value to customers and end users.
Multiple apps can work together through APIs and integrate data in real-time. By doing so, many individual application features automate many related business workflows.
Data-driven solutions can only fulfill business needs and solve business challenges when you can derive actionable insights. APIs accelerate decision-making through data-rich dashboards through data visualization techniques.
API integrations can be used to connect various individual components of open-source software. So when multiple developers make changes, modifications, or contributions to one software component, it doesn't affect other features and elements. It minimizes refactoring, ultimately speeding up open-source software solutions' development.
Developing custom APIs for your application will take time, whether in-house or outsourced to third-party development services. That means it will increase the overall development timeline for the application and potentially delay timelines.
Custom API development is always costly. Hiring development service providers to create APIs for your applications can rapidly increase the scope. On the low end, API development costs between $2,000 and $7,000. So even a simple custom API might set you back thousands of dollars. That figure doesn't include infrastructure or data security auditing.
When custom APIs are developed to meet particular needs within a business, their application will be limited. If the company's needs change or grows in size (more employees or more end users), such API solutions cannot be scaled or modified according to the new requirements.
When using a custom API integration service, you must often test to catch defects and performance bottlenecks. APIs are audited for data security, processing speed, and automation capabilities. Again, all of this takes extra time and effort, which can set back your business. You can do it — but it takes time and can be cost-prohibitive for many.
APIs are great — they automate business processes, streamline their workflow, improve the functionality of apps, and help businesses create a highly efficient system of multiple interlinked tools and enterprise software.
And even better, harnessing these benefits is easier with low-code and no-code integrations. Various third parties can add API integrations to the company's digital infrastructure.
No-code API integrations enable end users to connect various web apps without coding knowledge. This type of API is possible with pre-built connectors and modules with basic drag-and-drop functionality. No-code ETL integrations are simple to use and specially made for people from non-technical backgrounds to be able to work with APIs.
Low-code API integrations simplify the process with a modular approach, drag-and-drop features, and a graphical user interface. But they offer more functionality than no-code integrations by allowing developers to work on the back-end data, configure data sources, and customize more advanced, mature workflows. Low-code API integrations are for people with at least some coding knowledge without recreating the wheel for every function.
Custom API development is a one-off type of integration that involves developing data syncing from scratch. Custom APIs are built by professionals who are familiar with API development and have a high level of expertise in software development. Businesses may need custom APIs for specific functionalities, like for integrating PayPal payment gateway, which pre-configured integrations cannot provide. When SaaS providers develop new software, they also need to build custom APIs if they want their app to integrate with other applications.
Here are some of the best API integration solutions to consider without a lot of coding necessary:
Portable offers 300+ ELT data connectors for automated unlimited data volume and integration between various systems. It also offers specialized solutions for e-commerce, marketing, and analytics. Apart from the standard ETL connectors, the team behind Portable also builds custom connectors on demand if required by certain businesses.
Workato is a cloud-based integration service API that helps connect CRMs, business tools, and web apps to automate workflows. It supports embedded integrations with over 1,000 apps from different areas, such as IT, marketing, sales, finance, and support. It promotes automation through triggers and respective actions, which can mostly be set using a drag-and-drop interface.
Zapier is a popular API integration platform supporting over 5,000 app integrations, including SaaS software, web applications, e-commerce platforms, and more. It allows the set up of multi-step workflows with conditional logic and filters and additional features such as schedulers, data formats, and webhooks that help businesses create customized automated processes.
Make is also a super simple, drag-and-drop-based visual integration platform that lets you connect business apps for efficient automation and streamlined workflow for limited data volume. You can create simple to complex processes with the help of triggers and decision-based logic without any coding knowledge or experience.
Microsoft Power Automate is particularly useful for automating workflows using Microsoft web services like Office 365. It helps visualize end-to-end processes, gain analytical insights through key metrics, and has a nifty feature -- the AI builder, which lets you set up your own AI models without coding.
APIs are no longer exclusive to engineering teams since non-technical stakeholders can leverage them for faster decision-making.
As APIs become more popular and their benefits become evident among businesses in all industries, it will lead to sharp growth in enterprise analytics.
That is why the future of API integration services will push companies more and more toward efficient no-code and low-code solutions. End users will focus more on the things that matter, such as improving the automation of workflows, integrating business tools within the modern data stack, and setting up cross-functionalities between applications that optimize around business processes and organizational goals.