In the past, you’ve probably had your servers and data for your office computers in the closet or under the reception desk. To move data from one system to another, you would probably download data in a spreadsheet or a text file, manipulate that data to make sure it would fit into the other system and then try and upload it. Then, you’d hope it all worked and that it all went in.
Today, most systems and software are written to take advantage of the internet in the cloud. What this means is that your software is more readily available and accessible from anywhere. Despite this availability, it is also more secure than manual downloads and uploads. The technology that allows your systems to talk to one another from anywhere is called an application programming interface or API. APIs make it so programmers have a consistent toolset for communicating between these systems.
Thanks to APIs, computers, rather than people, can now manage the work. Instead of downloading and manually moving text files, CSVs or spreadsheets between devices or systems, we can program these systems to talk to one another and understand the data from one another directly. This not only automates previously manual tasks, but it also improves security and reduces errors.
Advantages of API-based software
In my industry of wealth management, APIs mean we can automate what were previously manual tasks like booking investment data off of statements or reports. By introducing APIs to these systems, it keeps humans out of the loop, which in many cases can be a good thing. This can allow for secure systems to directly communicate without users manually moving data around. The security afforded by APIs means integrated system security is as strong outside the office as it is inside the office, reducing the security risks of remote work. Why is that? Humans offer a number of advantages, but when it comes to data input and transfer, machines introduce fewer errors that can be exploited by someone seeking to breach information security.
Risks associated with APIs
Humans may be error-prone, but we are also great error checkers. APIs don’t replace human users paying attention to the data itself and making sure the numbers make sense and the data shows up in the right place at the right time. In addition to mistakes, there is the risk that attackers can manipulate a poorly set up or unsecured API. The organization Open Web Application Security Project® or OWASP offers 10 security points to consider when using APIs. My team works with an external provider to ensure the security of our entire ecosystem is properly configured so our information and that of our clients remain protected. I highly recommend to anyone working with data to hire or partner with a firm whose primary expertise is security.
Integrating your business operations with APIs
My team and I use API integration strategically so our clients can use the “best-of-breed” technology. When considering how to use an API integration strategy to enable your company, consideration for implementation and precautions allow you to choose the best applications for each task that a computer can automate for you. Because of the use of APIs in integration platforms, all systems can talk to each other even if they are operating as independent applications from different vendors. This allows your business to gain efficiencies in response time, security, scalability and productivity. Engage a partner like Cypress Data Defense whose expertise is cloud computing security to continuously monitor that your APIs are set up correctly to avoid security gaps and other potential problems. Without the secure integrations enabled by APIs, businesses are vulnerable to knowledge gaps as well as costs in time, staff turnover and limits to productivity caused by inefficiencies that can impede growth.
Originally published in the Denver Business Journal Leadership Trust on September 15, 2021