The software needs of your company are an important consideration in the modern day and there is more to identifying the right type of software for your organization, than simply considering if it serves a particular function. You want to think about other factors, like the underlying security considerations that may come with a program, and its ability integrate with other applications that you use. One important consideration will be the difference between open and closed application programming interfaces. Understanding the difference will help your company to pick the program that integrates best.
What Is an Application Programming Interface?
In a basic sense, an Application Programming Interface, or API for short, is a set of tools and standards that will dictate how different software components interact. A company builds an API to make it easier for developers to construct apps that will work in the operating environment that they have created. (Roos)
The interface is like a gateway between the developer that is making an app, and the programming environment for which the app is being developed. The different protocols and commands that they can enter, are sort of like building blocks, and the developer puts them together to create a functional piece of software.
Difference Between Open and Closed Source API
Now that we have an understanding of what an API is, it is important to understand the difference between and open and closed Application Programming Interface.
An open API is one that has been developed with the intent of it being accessible to outside developers. The main benefit to this is that it can stimulate innovation and increase the amount of development, without the API publisher having to invest heavily in the process. The company may have their own in-house team or contractors that will develop applications using the interface, but the idea is to get developers from the outside working on applications for the environment that the company has created. (API Strategy 201: Private APIs vs. Open APIs)
A good example of an open API is the one used by Amazon in their affiliates program. Developers can program different features that integrate with Amazon to monetize their website or app.
With a closed API, the company is basically looking to keep development in-house. The API is still useful because it allows the development team for the company to use the existing assets to make applications, but it provides the API publisher with a higher degree of control over the types of apps that are developed, and the different functions that they can perform. While the API may be closed to the public, it does not mean that the end product will be. Many of the apps that are developed through closed API will be either products that are available to the general public or organizations that are outside of the API publisher. (API Strategy 201: Private APIs vs. Open APIs)
Which Interface Is Best for You?
Figuring out which type of API will work best for a specific organization can be difficult, because there are a lot of technological factors to consider. Accessibility has its benefits because outside development can offer innovation and an increased growth in the number of apps that will work with a given environment. However, keeping the API closed will be better for security and it allows the publisher more control over the apps that will work within the environment. (API Strategy 201: Private APIs vs. Open APIs)
If you are talking about ECM, then the closed model is going to be better for most organizations. The open model will mean that you could have a broader selection of apps to choose from, but it could also give rise to security concerns and many of the third-party apps may have issues with stability and functionality.
However, there are several companies that work within the open API format and there are some companies, like eFileCabinet, that prefer to work with a private API. With products like the eFileCabinet desktop, you get a DMS program that still has solid integration with a range of different programs, AND the security and stability that come with a closed API. Additionally, they also offer industry and purpose specific system that can work well for things like human resources.
At the end of the day, the API that is right for the organization is going to depend on several factors that are unique to the individual company. Finding the right one will mean prioritizing technology benefits between the two options and determining which one is the better fit. If you are comfortable with some of the compromises that an open API may come with, and you want to take advantage of the open environment, then that could be the right path for your company. If security and stability are major concerns, then the closed API might be the right way to go. However, keep in mind companies like eFileCabinet offer the best of both worlds.