The software needs of your company are an important consideration in the modern day. 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 multiple factors, like the underlying security considerations that may come with a program, or its ability to 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, Application Programming Interfaces, or API for short, are a set of tools and standards that will dictate how different software components and data interact. A company builds APIs to make it easier for developers to construct apps that will work in the operating environment that they have created.
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.
API Examples in the Real World
Information gets from your interfacing system, like your phone, to software through APIs. You can think of it like getting money from the bank in person. You can interact with what’s physically around you to determine what you want, like pamphlets or request slips, but the teller ultimately connects you to the system working behind the counter that interprets your request. In this example, the bank teller acts like an API.
Anytime you are purchasing something online, APIs are working with the data that goes from your phone to the software that creates your order.
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 open and closed Application Programming Interfaces and how their services differ.
The main difference between open and closed APIs has to do with access. An open API is 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.
A good example of an open API is the one used by Amazon in their affiliate program. Developers can program different features that integrate with Amazon to monetize their website or app.
With closed APIs, the company is basically looking to keep development in-house. The API is still useful because it allows the company’s development team to use the existing data and 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.
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 gives the publisher more control over the apps that will work within the environment.
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 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. eFilecabinet’s Rubex is open source, so you can integrate with other programs based on your business needs. Additionally, they also offer industry and purpose specific systems 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 and how you interact with the web. 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. Let’s chat today!