What Can an API Do for Your Business?
WHAT IS AN API?
An API is a program that runs on a web server that other programmers can use to integrate your business logic into their own programs. It’s an application that has no user-friendly front-end even though it runs on a web server. It’s a program that exposes your own business logic to the world.
Salesforce is the perfect example of a popular API. Every sales person knows of Salesforce, and it’s required by many organizations. Salesforce doesn’t have a main website application such as Twitter or Facebook. Instead, its business model is focused on having developers integrate the Salesforce API into sales modules for internal applications.
Salesmen can still log into the main application on the Salesforce web server, but the interface is completely customized by internal developers. Most businesses use the API to synchronize internal database data with Salesforce, so sales people can get up-to-date information either from the internal application or the Salesforce interface when they travel.
The amount of Salesforce integrated structure is up to the developer and the business requirements set forth by business managers, but the flexibility of the API has given Salesforce a dominant place in the sales and marketing software industry. The Salesforce story can be your own if leveraged properly.
An API can have any amount of business logic and exposure of your core functionality in it. You control what users can do with an API by the way it’s programmed. You can scale the code up or down depending on your business needs.
WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OVER A REGULAR APPLICATION?
Development is expensive, so most smaller businesses can either go with a main application that runs in the cloud, on desktops or an API. The benefit to an API is that your business is integrated with the core of other businesses. It’s not easy to switch APIs when you build an application around one, so you have the benefit of long-term revenue from each customer.
API access is usually based on monthly subscriptions or the number of calls to the API that the programmer needs in order to satisfy users. You collect this monthly revenue without selling any product. As long as the customer continues to need the API, they will always pay the monthly subscription fee.
An API also requires far less support and bug fixes. With a desktop application, you have to support multiple operating systems and platforms. With cloud applications, you must support different browsers and fix bugs based on user feedback. With an API, you control the way users are able to interface with the API. As long as the right data is returned to the requestor, it’s the only public-facing interface you need to worry about. There is no front-end design, interface bugs, or user experience to work with.
All business logic is contained within the API. This means that you control the data exposed to the end user. You control the data that can be input into your system. You have control of the code rather than publishing the source to the general public.
Even better, when there is a bug that you must fix, you only need to fix it in one place. You don’t have thousands of desktops to update, and you don’t need to update several cloud servers. You just need to update the API code in one place, which makes testing and bug fixes far more efficient.
Overall, maintenance costs for an API are very low compared to desktop and cloud applications. However, they are extremely beneficial for the business especially when it takes off and becomes a core part of other business products.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET STARTED?
Even if you’re already sold, you need to know how much an API costs. The cost of an API is completely dependent on the complexity of your business logic and if you need any additional infrastructure. An API usually needs a powerful web server and a database to store the data. You can host the API on a cloud server such as Azure or AWS to ensure that it’s always up and you don’t suffer from extreme downtime.
An API can cost $5,000 or $50,000 depending on project complexity, your deadline, and your business. Some businesses need extreme security such as financial or healthcare APIs. You have several guidelines you must follow such as SOX or HIPAA, so it adds to the complexity of the APIs engineering. You may also need additional hardware to support the API, which also increases the cost.
If you run a business, the cost for an API might be a lot upfront, but in the end, it can be cheaper as you build revenue and maintain the application. It’s especially useful for cloud businesses, because most of them have some API possibilities available to them. There is usually some part of your business that users would love to integrate into their current internal software.
Your developers can be creative with the API and offer suggestions once they understand your business and what can be offered. You’ll need a plan and documentation for the API before development. The entire development process is not unlike a regular application. You need API developers and testers to ensure that what you launch is working well for your visitors, or your API could fail before it even takes off.
For a good API, your developers must learn your business. Before you approach a team, create documentation that explains your business model and what you want from an API. It can take months to build a good API, but your product will be stronger and finished faster with good documentation that helps guide the developer during the process.