What is an API and Why Should I Want One? (Part One)
March 18, 2019
What is an API?
An API (or Automated Program Interface) is a set of tools, protocols, and definitions developers use to allow automated communication between different systems. Chances are you interact with APIs and are not even aware of it. Data requests transfer information between systems. This integration supports a company’s internal or web applications without the need for manual input. It is a seamless way your data team can provide solutions to the departments they support!
APIs are limited only by your team’s ability to integrate the data the API supplies. An API is a way of transferring requested data, therefore, your development team is not limited in how and where to use the information.
What do all these terms mean?
There are many different ways to approach building an API. Judy Diamond Associates designed their API with a developers ease of use foremost in mind. Novices to the world of API find it useful to understand the following when discussing APIs with developers.
Authentication is typically a key, password, or token included within a Send Request (see below). The token tells the receiving system that the request is valid and a response should be generated.
RESTful (often shortened to REST) APIs refer to APIs or web services which are based in REST technology. REST is a web services development architectural style commonly used by developers. Its design makes it able to handle load changes and, therefore, easily scalable. It’s a great choice for APIs, especially cloud-based ones.
A return response generated and sent back to to the system that made the request. Typically the response will include a status code and data.
The term describing a system reaching out to an outside database through an API. The term “call” sometimes replaces “request”.
How can I use an API?
For those in the group insurance or retirement markets, there are some amazing use cases for a well-curated API. In fact, any business plan in the B2B or small business market can increase efficiency and decrease error by incorporating an API into their workflow. This is a big topic, and there are almost infinite ways to use an API. Check back to the next in this series where we will look into specific ways you can make an API work for you!