The Future of IT Infrastructure is API Integration

October 17th, 2017

When selecting a VoIP provider, you’ll want to ensure you have access to an API to integrate your systems or to develop new applications. In our Explain It series, we explained an API is a set of protocols and rules that give a developer or programmer the ability to request specific functions or resources from an existing application to integrate with one of their systems. That’s an API’s function: receiving, relaying, and fulfilling requests. Before we discuss how API integration works, consider this simple example of how we apply the basic idea behind API integration outside of technology.

Let’s say you want to build a treehouse. You’ve selected a sturdy tree in your backyard, drawn up the blueprints, and gathered the tools to construct it yourself. All you need is wood. So, you go to a lumber yard and hand the cashier at the counter a list requesting twelve 8-foot long 2x4s, six 4-foot long 2x8s, and a box of nails. The cashier reads the list, asks you to wait a moment and then exits the back door. He returns with the wood you requested. He also tells you that, unfortunately, they don’t carry the nails you need, so he cannot sell those to you. After you pay, you take the wood, stop for nails at the hardware store, and build your treehouse.

In this example, the cashier was the API. You made a request. He relayed the request to the team working in the back and returned only with the resources he could provide. You then used those resources to implement a new function (the treehouse) around something that already existed (the tree). At its heart, that’s how API integration works.

The API is Boss

The API is the gatekeeper between the developer and the application/service to be integrated into the new platform, known as the client. There is a limited set of the application’s functions to which the API grants access. Therefore, the programmer can only perform a defined set of permissible requests known as HTTP methods. These methods simply tell the server what action the user wants to do. Common methods and simple examples include:
  • GET—A read or sometimes retrieve function that will return resources with information, such as lists of phone numbers.
  • POST—A create function used to create resources, such as a profile or a list.
  • PUT—An update function that allows for the updating or replacement of resources, such as changing your email address in a profile.
  • DELETE—A remove function that deletes a resource.
Think back to the lumber yard example. You don’t have permission to go into the back of that lumber yard, grab the wood, and start sawing. A programmer faces a similar limitation in API integration. The API sets the ground rules and only provides access to specific functions, which only allow specific actions.

Types of APIs

The two APIs you may encounter are called private and open. A company will use a private API for developing internal systems. These are only available internally. Open APIs are publicly available for developers to access. This allows for the freer development of new applications that can incorporate the functionality of the application or service that the API provides. Some open APIs are easily accessible, such as Google’s or Facebook’s developer portals. Others require an invitation for access but are free to use. Open APIs encourage creativity and innovation because developers can build anything they want with the resources the API provides. They can integrate functionality with existing business systems, or they can build something creative that no one has seen before.

What Can You Do with API Integration? Anything You Want!

With over 18,000 public APIs out in the wild, and companies both big and small providing custom API development, the question is no longer “if” something can be done, but rather “how.”  Here are some fictional use cases that show you how small and midsize businesses can tap into real API integration.

Herbie’s Finance Emporium

Herbie’s is a regional financial services company. To comply with Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulations regarding certain financial transactions in the equity and bond markets, the company must record customer order phone calls. Herbie’s has recently switched from PSTN to a SIP provider that offers an FSA-compliant recording service. In anticipation of storing a large number of calls, they’ve also upgraded their local database to MongoDB for its superior handling of binary large objects (BLOBs), such as call audio files. The IT team at Herbie’s used the APIs for the SIP service and the new database management system to integrate both into their proprietary CRM software.

Vacationland Travel Center

Vacationland operates several resorts across the country. They recently opened a unified call center that handles all inbound calls to a single toll-free number. They have a premium call routing system from their SIP provider. Using their SIP provider’s API, they integrated smart routing rule triggers into their IVR. Based on the caller’s response, the system routes the call to one of ten resorts across the US for local information; a central team of agents that handle calls about reservations, departure/arrival times and general customer service questions; or a team of multilingual agents that specialize in international travelers. Thanks to their call center’s software and their SIP provider’s API integration of custom routing rules, Vacationland has improved their overall customer experience rating by drastically reducing hold times while nearly eliminating poor connections and bad transfers.

Sabrina’s Startup

Sabrina has started a non-profit activist group that specializes in contacting people regarding highly-localized nature conservation issues. She has a background in software development and has written a platform that allows volunteers to use a mobile app to make outreach calls from anywhere in the country. The volunteer presses “connect” on their phone and Sabrina’s software and dialer take care of the rest on her end. She needed access to both a dialer with an open API and a SIP provider with TCPA compliance services to integrate with the platform she wrote. Because she targets issues in only two states at a time, she needed to be able to set up a DNC profile for just the states she is currently calling, with the option to change those profiles frequently. Her SIP provider’s API integration allowed her to integrate TCPA compliance into her systems and apps easily. Her small non-profit benefits from the same sophisticated, high-end services a national call center uses, without needing to shell out the capital normally required for expensive infrastructure.

In each case, API integration improves the operational efficiency of these businesses, who can devote their resources to serving their customers rather than hiring developers to reinvent the wheel. It’s the reason APIs are changing the face of IT infrastructure.

Seamless Experience with API Integration

In our case, as a SIP provider, our open API allows our services to be integrated into the client: your systems. Your employees are already trained to use your CRM, contact center software, PBX, dialer or other information systems. Employees don't care about APIs. They just want the functionality that enables them to do their jobs more efficiently. Outside of your IT staff and programmers, employees shouldn't even know of the existence of an API. The point of API integration is to provide new functionality without leaving "home." In a perfect world, users should be able to log in to your system, see their familiar dashboards, and find new functions that are intuitive and easy to use.

Custom Applications

API integration opens up a world of possibilities through the countless number of web services available. A business or app developer can come up with an idea that might pull data and functions from multiple services, such as integrating Voxtelesys' Dynamic Caller ID functionality into their PBX, enabling their sales team to present a local caller ID on their prospecting calls. It is also possible to discover a new way to envision how your business operates, enable your customers, agents, sales and customer service teams to operate at a higher level with more functionality or simply generate new business and revenue streams by offering add-on products and services without the overhead of infrastructure. The only limit is your imagination and available resources.

Vox DevGroup is here to help you pursue and execute on that vision. Sometimes there are reporting needs, compliance, routing or other problems and ideas your current providers can’t or won’t solve.  DevGroup will work with you to design and implement a solution that fits your specific needs. Contact us and let us know how we can help you access our API library and integrate any of the many SIP-based services we have available to you.

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The Future of IT Infrastructure is API Integration