File or API: What's The Difference

There are two ways to integrate business applications: by importing and exporting files, or using an Application Program Interface (API).

With the importing and exporting method, data moves in batches by first transferring a file between two parties and then integrating the data with the business application. A purchase order for example, is exported from a customer’s accounting system, transported to the supplier, then imported into their ERP system or WMS. The shipment is confirmed then exported from the supplier’s WMS, transported to the customer, who in turn imports it into their accounting system.

The API method is most often used by business applications that work in the cloud. APIs move data between business applications one transaction at a time, in real time. Shopping carts, accounting systems, WMS and TMS software usually have APIs that can “talk” to each other. For example, when a consumer places an order in a shopping cart, it’s API connects to the API of the WMS and transfers the order in real time.

Each software publisher is responsible for making file or API integration methods available in their products. Regardless of the method, it requires a programmer to write code to make it all work.

Which method is better, file or API? Each has its own merits and Bedrock: Integration works with both methods.