May 3, 2018

Which came first, the API or the database?

Which came first, the API or the database?

How do APIs and databases work together? And why does it matter which was built first?

First let’s define what API is. An application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. Basically, an API specifies how software components should interact. Additionally, APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components. Okay that’s as technical as we are going to get!

A more simple explanation is that API is like a universal plug that grants everyone access. But that doesn’t mean access to everything. An API should give controlled access to certain information.

The web is made up of connected servers-- think about Facebook for example. Every time you type Facebook into your google search bar, you are trying to connect to their server. The API is the part of Facebook's server that receives requests and sends responses. Essentially, it is the part of their server that allows you to push and pull data from the social network.

Associations and non-profits are not much different. They need to be able to push and pull data and receive requests and send responses to their other software programs. For example, MemberSuite is Accounts Receivable only. Your members need to be able to come in and pay their dues through our software and because our API is completely open, their Accounts Receivable program can push and pull data from our AMS. And voila, their accounting info immediately floats over, for a seamless process for you and your members.

Seems easy enough of a process right? But not all AMS software is created equal. In order for this seamless experience to happen, the API needs to be built first with the database on top. Many associations have done this process backwards - built the API on top of their database. This means the API is out of sync with the core products, opening you up to all kind of errors within your software.

MemberSuite is more modern because there is only one line of code. This means any updates or customizations always allow for a constant push and pull of information without interruption. Plus the API allows you to integrate from as many vendors as you desire.

When evaluating different AMS solutions, always make sure that the API has been built first. If not, you could be up for a challenge when it comes to updates, customizations and more. You always want a smooth experience for your members, donors and prospects. and this is one way to guarantee it.