July 19, 2021

    What is an API (Application Programmable Interface)?

    Recently, FTP Today launched a new feature as part of our platform called an Application Programming Interface, otherwise known as an API. Don’t be intimidated by the name! An API is useful for many things, and if your organization has access, it’s something you should take advantage of. This blog is meant to give an overview of what an API is and how it works.

    What is an Application Programmable Interface (API)? 

    According to NIST, an Application Programmable Interface (API) is: 

    A system access point or library function that has a well-defined syntax and is accessible from application programs or user code to provide well-defined functionality”

    For a developer, this would tell you a lot of what you need to know, but for those of us who are not developers, let’s make an easier definition to work with.

    An API allows different software solutions to communicate with each other.

    To even further simplify, let’s use a metaphor. Most of us have seen a translator on television or in movies, or you may have used one in real life.

    An API is just like a translator: it’s taking your words in your native language and translates them to the native language of the person you’re speaking with. Then, when the person you’re speaking with responds, the translator (API) takes their words and translates them back into your native language. The translator is ensuring a successful sharing of information that would otherwise be impossible if neither one of the individuals speaking with each other had an understanding of the other’s language.  

    Sometimes, “integration” and “API” are confused. These are related, but not the same.

    • An integration is when you connect one system to another system, and APIs are the software components of the integration used to make it successful. “Integration” is more of an umbrella term for connecting the two pieces of software, and an API is how it’s actually accomplished.
    • An API communicates by making a call. In a nutshell, when an API makes a call, it’s sending a request to a software solution, the request is processed, and the correct information is returned. 

    Does your current FTP Today plan include the API Integration?

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    Types of APIs

    There are several different types of APIs. If your organization is building one, it’s important you choose the right one for your purpose. In 2021, the most common APIs built are Web APIs. They can be accessed using HTTPS protocol. Since it’s using the same protocol, a Web API can generally be accessed via your web browser. There are four different types of Web APIs:

    • Composite API – Allows a developer to request information from several software services by making one API call to all of them simultaneously. This is helpful when someone needs information from several different software solutions to perform a single task. 
    • Internal API – An internal API cannot be seen from anyone who has not been granted access. They are primarily used for specific teams in a business to consume the tools, data, or resources of another team within the same company  
    • Open API – The opposite of an internal API. It’s also known as a “public API.” They have very low restrictions and are meant for external developers to access data or services very easily. In many cases, a developer does not even need to register to use it 
    • Partner API – Common for a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application stack. It’s similar to an Open API, but still has restricted access through a gateway. Once a user has logged in with credentials, you then have full access to the API.

    The FTP Today API is a combination of the Partner API and the Internal API. A user must first be granted access to the API by their organization’s administrator(s), and then create their own API key (similar to a password). The API key is unique to this specific user and can be refreshed in accordance with your organization’s security protocols. 

    Benefits of Using an API

    There are several key benefits for an organization to use APIs, and all of them help your organization solve modern day technology problems. We’re going to touch on the three we see our customers struggle with the most: 

    1. Automation – It’s the rock on which APIs are built, so to speak. A computer is doing the work so your people don’t have to, and this saves time and resources on tasks that might otherwise be cumbersome to perform. APIs make life easier for your developers and systems administrators  
    2. Data Accessibility – Data is more plentiful than ever and because there’s so much of it, it’s difficult to organize. Each piece of software in an organization is likely collecting some type of data and creating a full picture can be incredible valuable to an organization. By using APIs to pull/push data between resources, an organization can be better aligned 
    3. Mitigate Risk – Data is your organization’s most valuable resource, and there’s been a dramatic increase in security threats globally from both internal and external sources. APIs can act as a security layer by building in call limits and controlling data access. Administrators can require permissions and credentials for users to access certain data sets, and this protects sensitive information.


    An API is a great tool that if used effectively, can save your organization time and resources, while also adding to your security posture. FTP Today offers API Access on the FTP Cloud and GOVFTP Cloud for select top-tier plans. There are 24 different API commands across 6 different groups: 

    • Site Information 
    • Users 
    • Folders
    • Permissions 
    • Network Rules
    • File Log 

    If you would like more information regarding the API or how to gain access, please reach out to FTP Todays sales or by opening a support ticket from your FTP Today account.  

    See FTP Today in Action!

    Are you in the market for a secure file sharing software or switching providers? Let our experts customize a walk-through based on your business needs. Your demo will also give you the opportunity for personalized Q&A and to learn about exclusive discounts.

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    Brendon Ainsworth

    Brendon, Sharetru's CRO & VP of Sales, brings diverse industry experience, excelling in GCP & AWS infrastructure certifications.

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