An Application Programming Interface (API) brings many technological benefits to businesses and boosts their productivity. Nevertheless, it can also be a challenging process, especially for organizations with different or complex systems. Today, we discuss the challenges of API integration and possible solutions to tackle them.
APIs are often referred to as the glue of the digital world. This is not surprising as they are enabling more integrated digital experiences, representing a shift in business models, and generating revenue. But, the rise of API also brought increased IT complexity. Business units are each building their own APIs with different technologies, and APIs are multiplying in number independently in different departments or regions within large enterprises.
Also with the arrival of the Cloud, companies nowadays use thousands of different cloud services. All those services need to work well with legacy applications that the company already has. Cloud applications also have their own set of APIs that come with some basic functionalities. So as the number of cloud applications within a company grows, so does the number of APIs.
API integration requires a thorough examination of the internal systems of a company, its procedures, key performance indicators (KPIs), data management and integrity, security communication standards, and governance. Elaborating a proper integration module requires extensive tech knowledge and being on top of the latest technological trends in API building. Such experts are expensive, but their expertise is necessary to face the complexity of API integrations.
To facilitate the job of your developers, get every department that is going through API integration to go over their challenges early on, to avoid any chance of incompatibility between systems. Make sure department managers communicate to their teams what is needed for API integration and what potential problems can be addressed beforehand.
One of the most threatening API integration challenges that are increasingly on the rise is data breaches. Since API technology is reliant on web-based programs, companies become vulnerable to cyber-attacks and automatically exposed to data breaches if not well protected. As technology evolves, hackers are finding new ways of gaining access to large databases and obtaining customer information which can completely ruin a company’s reputation.
Therefore, keep security a top priority by hiring a team of tech experts from the beginning of the project to prevent data breaches later on. Also, keep in mind that security protocols should be reviewed and updated regularly as needed, and penetration testing should be performed periodically. Here are some practices to ensure APIs are properly secured:
- Identify vulnerabilities: Know which parts of the API lifecycle are insecure.
- OAuth: It’s a powerful tool to control API access. A token-based authorization framework that allows access to information without exposing user credentials.
- Use tokens: Developers can use tokens assigned to identities to establish control access to services.
- Encrypt all data: Use methods like Transport Layer Security and require signatures to ensure only authorized users are decrypting data.
- Rate limits: Place rate limits on how and how often an API can be called. It can also throttle connections, creating a balance between access and availability.
- Use an API gateway: It allows organizations to authenticate traffic, control, and analyze how APIs are used.
- Validate parameters: It helps ensure that incoming data will not harm by validating the latter against a strict schema that specifies permissible inputs to the system.
Human beings are naturally prone to resist change. People even fought the very idea of computers and the internet when they were first introduced. So like many new technologies, we shouldn’t be surprised that some employees may not be very flexible unless they truly understand how API integration will affect their work. Many may cling to the familiarity of what they’re used to and affect the workplace. To prevent this from happening or to fix it, you need to handle it early.
Among the numerous advantages of hiring a team of experts for API integration is that they can also explain or break down the details into understandable information for non-technical people. You can either train employees directly through online training sessions or train team managers on the protocol and API challenges they might face so that they transmit this information to their respective departments. For some employees, it is easier and less intimidating to learn from a colleague than from an expert.
The cost of integrating API technologies includes the programs themselves, the cost of hiring professional developers, training staff, plus maintenance and upgrades costs over time. Needless to say, it can get quite expensive. However, it is a valuable investment for the future of your business. Here are two solutions you can consider:
- Particularly if you are a startup, you can hire an API developer as a partner of your company instead of only for integration. They will have a chance to better understand your business and determine which APIs are more of a priority to adopt.
- You can choose to focus only on the most important areas in your company for API integration, meaning the areas that will benefit the most. This can limit expenses instead of implementing the integration to several parts simultaneously.
API integrations are not a fit-all process. Each integration process comes with its challenges depending on its complexity and compatibility. Consequently, some systems might take more time to connect than others. The best way to approach the issue of multiple systems is to establish a strategy for the integrations.
- Address first the most fundamental systems that will benefit your business the most.
- Before starting integration, let your developers identify which systems may need more time.
- Make business cases to calculate the potential loss of revenue during integration periods. It will help you figure out where to integrate APIs and what old systems to keep.
Do not worry about API challenges.
How difficult is it to integrate an API?
It has become easier to write and operate APIs since formats are becoming more standardized, and more tools are available in languages and frameworks. There is however one factor that may determine whether it’s going to be difficult to integrate an API: Is your API an enhancement of the website or Saas app that you already have, or is it entirely new and separate from anything you have done before?
If you already have a running website or app, then you probably have available languages and have access to libraries and modules that you can use. If not, then you need to design the API from scratch and will need to address challenges that may arise.
The developer you hire to build your API is the best-suited person to answer how hard the integration is going to be. What we suggest is to start your API with minimal features, build on it gradually, and have a good versioning approach.
What are the major challenges faced during API testing?
API testing helps developers ensure the code works efficiently. However, there are some important challenges you might face:
- Initial setup of API testing: Manual testing confirms if something works, while automated testing is necessary to identify how well the API performs under pressure. Getting the testing infrastructure ready is challenging and demotivating for the team.
- Updating the schema: The schema is the data formatting that handles requests and responses for the API. It needs to be maintained throughout the testing process.
- Testing parameters combination: It is necessary to test all possible parameter request combinations in the API to test for problems in certain configurations. Large projects mean additional parameters, which increases the number of combinations.
- Validating parameters: Developers make sure every parameter data uses the appropriate numerical data type, fits within an assigned value range and length limitations, and passes another validation criterion.
What are the limits of API usage?
Most APIs only allow a certain number of calls over a certain time interval. This is called an API usage limit or Rare limit. The reason for these limits is that too many requests in a short time may overload the servers.
API usage limits are expressed in volume per period. For example 500 requests per hour.
Sometimes, API providers may limit your usage based on your account level. For example, if you have a free account you may only be allowed 1,000 calls per day or 10,000 per month.