As business shifts more and more to the Internet, enterprises find themselves increasingly driven to provide better access to their IT systems.
Webpages with dynamically generated content were a first step, allowing users to retrieve specific information they wanted using their browsers.
But now business partners may want more, meaning automated extraction of information from your enterprise databases. Business continuity says to be wary of giving outsiders access to your systems.
But business continuity also says that without retaining strategic business partners, your company may not survive.
Enabling automated access to a system or application is often done using an API (application programming interface).
This is a function or a group of functions in the application that can be activated by another application. One example is the information transfer between the Microsoft applications of Word and Notepad, for example.
Another example is in web services where a standard protocol allows one system to pass a request over the web to another system and retrieve information from it.
Today, supply chains stretch across company boundaries, making it essential to maintain good data flows and access to information for business partners.
Mobile applications for third-party end-users may depend on access to internal company databases; for example, an airline offering mobile check-in to passengers.
The trend is to offer more information rather than less, especially when this contributes to building customer and partner loyalty. The API is in vogue as the technical solution for doing this.
The challenge is then to ensure that such automated access is designed with security measures tight enough to prevent data being compromised, yet supple enough to allow everyday business to continue.