Different Types of APIs – And Why Your Choice Matters

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APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, have played a huge role in changing technology since the term was first mentioned in the 1950s. Now, almost every piece of technology that we use has something to do with APIs. But with so many options out there, business leaders who are new to this world could be forgiven for feeling more than a little bewildered. Choosing the right API means considering a lot of things, including the API model. There are many ways to categorise these, but if you’re starting out, three of the more simple are public APIs, private APIs, and partner APIs.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to all of them—what they are, what they can do, and who they’re suitable for. We’ll also discuss why having the right type of API is good for your business and its overall efficiency.

Exploring Different Types of APIs

Public APIs

As the name implies, public APIs are open to members of the general public. They’re the API model most commonly used when developers want to build applications to integrate with a specific platform or interface with an end user. With public APIs, there’s usually a clear terms of use or licence agreement between the developer and the API provider, so everyone is clear on how the API is to be used. However, the open nature of public APIs has seen people become wary of them due to their perceived lack of security. It’s important to note that “public” in this case doesn’t mean “open to everyone”. Many public APIs have authentication processes, whether through API keys, tokens, or OAuth. These give the API owner some degree of control. Public APIs can also be configured so that they’re only available to the general public in some countries and have a paid-only restriction in others. Public APIs can be useful for businesses that want to further build their brand or a community of users outside of their employees.

Private APIs

In contrast, private APIs (also known as internal APIs) are solely for use within a company or organisation. This means that private APIs can be used in a variety of ways, all across a business, from marketing to internal workflows and IT support. Though stricter access can mean businesses get less innovation from these sorts of APIs, the upside of private APIs is their security measures. This ensures that only authorised internal users and applications can access them.

Partner APIs

If you were to think of public and private APIs as two ends of a scale—one almost completely open and the other almost completely closed—then partner APIs are somewhere in the middle. They are only accessible by a certain group of people or companies with a business relationship with the API provider, and access is often granted directly by them. They’re great if you want to collaborate with another outside company on your APIs while also ensuring security is maintained.

Why the Right API Matters for Your Business

As you can see, not all APIs are created equal. Your business’ objectives and goals behind getting an API in the first place will impact whether you decide on a public, private, or partner API.

Choosing the right API is crucial. No matter what type of API you go for, all types will impact your business in terms of its functionality, scalability, and security. When your business has an API that fits with what it wants to achieve, not only will it be able to be more efficient in the short term, but it will also be primed for innovation in the future.

You should also be aware of the different forms of management that are required by each of the APIs. Aside from the security differences that we’ve already discussed, documentation also varies. It’s usually more extensive for public APIs due to privacy concerns.

Additionally, public APIs tend to be targeted at non-technical business stakeholders, so more explanation of their value is usually needed. While public APIs should be able to perform with a high number of users at the same time, internal APIs are usually under less stress in this regard. must be highly performant and scalable to handle many platform users simultaneously.

Internal APIs, on the other hand, are usually limited to a small number of users, so they accommodate less stress.

APIs, of any type, aren’t “plug-and-play” solutions. With their differing levels of security, use cases, and documentation, any API will need to be worked on closely by a team that has a deep understanding of how exactly the API will be put to use. If this is in place, then you stand a much better chance of your API improving the experience of your business, whether for your customers, employees, or collaborative partners.

Want an API solution that will connect to your Sage system? PKF Smith Cooper Systems has two of our own – MRGE and WIRE – check them out here!

Alternatively, you can contact us on 01332 959008 or use the enquiry form.

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