API stands for application programming interface. Consider an API as a bridge that connects two different applications or systems. In other words, an API is a middleman between applications and backend systems.
According to Akamai, 83% of the total website traffic in 2019 was API-related. Many of the applications that we use in our daily lives would not be so effective, if it wasn’t for APIs.
So, what exactly is the purpose of APIs?
When an API is integrated into a system, it serves a dual purpose:
- It acts as a single point of entry for all requests that are sent towards the backend system of an organization.
- It acts as a security layer that carries out authentication before any access to data is given.
This article will discuss how to maximize business efficiency and security using API solutions. Before we get to the topic, let’s first start with the reasons why API solutions are used.
Reasons for using API solutions
An API essentially automates different processes. By using APIs, you are able to build more seamless, integrated user experiences by using data and functionality from multiple systems.
For example, a SaaS application needs to know the location of customers to carry out certain tasks. Using Google Maps API, the application can enable getting the location data of users.
Here are the reasons to use API solutions:
- An API solution enables developers to access functionality from other systems and integrate it into your own, which can enhance the capabilities of your software.
- APIs can allow you to securely share data with other systems, rather than building custom integrations that may not be as secure.
- APIs can allow you to easily connect to and use the functionality of other systems, which can help you scale your software more easily.
- APIs come with detailed documentation and training materials. It is the aim of API providers that their solutions are used effectively and efficiently by all stakeholders. Unlike custom-built solutions with no clear and concise documentation and training materials, API solutions ensure that their full potential is achieved.
Why use an API management gateway?
To explain what an API management gateway is, let’s start with an example.
Your business is launching a payment gateway provider on an ecommerce website. You integrate the API of the payment provider (let’s say, Stripe). To track and manage orders that are ready to ship, have been shipped or delivered, the store is integrated with the API of the courier service provider (let’s say FedEx).
Checkout is an integral part of e-commerce stores. To ensure a seamless customer experience, it is important that the APIs are functioning. Using an API management gateway is helpful because it ensures:
- The communication between two systems is streamlined
- A better security control and a higher scalability option
- That the need for manual troubleshooting is eliminated.
Now that we’ve discussed API management gateway as well, let’s deep-dive into some of the ways that organizations can maximize business efficiency and security with API solutions:
Implement security best practices
Since APIs are intermediaries between two applications, they are also the most vulnerable. According to Gartner’s prediction, the most frequent attack vector predicted for 2022 was APIs.
API security is critical to protect against potential vulnerabilities and data breaches. It is important to implement security best practices, such as authentication and authorization, encryption, and access control (more on ensuring security best practices below).
For example, by using a proxy & VPN detection API by Seon.io, your application is able to understand how users connected to your website. Connecting to a proxy means the user wants to hide his/her connection details. As a result, if a proxy is detected, it is a signal of malicious intent.
So, instead of having to build the proxy detection functionality into your system, your business is able to get the functionality in-built into your system at a much lower price.
Similarly, a fraud prevention API can be integrated into the system for an automated, machine-driven workflow. This prevents cyber criminals from getting access to your company’s website. The business saves money that would otherwise have been spent on recovering hacked websites or compromised systems.
Identify business needs and objectives
Before implementing API solutions, a company will jot down its specific business needs and objectives that they intend to address. Implementing APIs comes with an added cost, so a company has to ensure that the API solutions chosen are the most appropriate and effective for the organization’s needs.
Carrying out this exercise means:
- A strategic plan has been devised
- The business is planning out its future roadmap
- The decision is taken after budget and time constraints have been taken into consideration
In short, this means that the business is moving towards maximizing its efficiency.
Monitor and track API usage
Regularly monitoring and tracking API usage can help organizations identify any issues or problems that may arise, and take steps to address them in a timely manner.
In addition to that, API providers also give real-time analytics on the usage. This data can be used to predict when the system’s maintenance will be required. Deploying API services increases the accessibility for partners and customers.
Easier to ensure optimal API performance
API performance is crucial for ensuring that the API solutions are effective and efficient. It is important to regularly monitor and optimize API performance to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the organization.
API solution providers also offer comprehensive training and support. So, if an API functionality is not working properly, it is quicker to fix it in comparison to issues that arise on a solely in-house built platform.
If an API is slowing down processes or reducing performance, it is easier to pinpoint the exact issue. Developers can try to reduce payloads (increase upload speed and minimize download size) and see the effect on performance. Similarly, API caching or pagination can be done to optimize APIs.
In short, there are several ways to improve performance when a business is using API solutions.
Increase in business opportunities
By using partner APIs, companies can collaborate with other businesses to generate an additional revenue stream. External collaboration and partnerships increase business opportunities.
For instance, a feature from your enterprise application might be a value-added feature in the partner’s application. The partner can upsell your service along with their application, so it’s a win-win for both parties.
Not only business users, but end customers are the target audience for partner APIs. Users get better functionalities on existing applications and they’re willing to pay a higher price (as it’s cheaper for them in comparison to purchasing a separate application).
A quick overview of how businesses can become efficient using API solutions
This article discussed the reasons why API solutions are beneficial. It has been established that APIs assist businesses in improving their applications and platforms. Before companies choose an API, they need to gauge its strengths and capabilities. It is important to choose a platform that is robust, scalable, and capable of meeting the organization’s needs.
However, the success of implementing APIs relies on its security. Cybercriminals only need one vulnerability to carry out an attack on an API.
To ensure the security of APIs, keep the following in mind:
- The aim is to prevent attackers from intercepting sensitive data. Use protocols like HTTPS to encrypt communication between the client and the API server.
- Ensure only authorized users can access your APIs. Use mechanisms like OAuth or JSON Web Tokens (JWTs) to authenticate and authorize API users.
- Validate input data to ensure that it is in the expected format and does not contain any malicious content.
- Encode output data to prevent cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.
- Implement rate limiting to prevent API abuse and denial of service attacks.
- Keep logs of API activity and monitor them regularly to detect and prevent suspicious activity.
- Make sure to regularly update your APIs and servers with the latest security patches and fixes.
- The security of APIs is dependent on the implementation methodologies and life cycle management.
- Investing in the security of APIs means less budget needed for compromised websites.
Osama Zahid is a technology content strategist who is passionate about content marketing and all things SEO. He has helped various companies rank their content on the first page of search engines. In his free time, Osama loves to play football and travel.