Controlling Cloud Storage through a Standards-Based API

By Jennifer Marsh

Jennifer Marsh is a software developer, programmer and technology writer and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are perfect for allowing third party programmers to interface with internal hardware. One method for saving in the cloud is using a standards-based API. The reasoning behind an API is to control the way the user stores content on the cloud hard drive, making it easier for automation. The difference in automation is that the API writes to the drive and handles any errors or permissions. The advantage is that the company hosting the API can control the way files are handled and saved without giving full permissions to the cloud host server and hard drive.

Types of APIs

The type of API used is dependent on the cloud hosting company. Typically, the API uses SOAP, which is a style of XML used to standardize the response from the API system. SOAP uses XML to make it easier for programmers to understand how to call and implement the responses. XML is a common format, so most programmers can integrate a SOAP API with current processes intuitively.

Some newer APIs use JSON. JSON is similar to XML in that it has a standard response format programmers can use to read results. SOAP has been around longer than JSON, so SOAP is more common when working with cloud storage APIs.

Languages Used to Call the API

Another advantage of using a cloud storage API is that any language that supports SOAP calls can use it. If the language can parse XML, it’s a usable language for the company’s API processes. Since XML is a popular standard on the Internet, companies can use Java, C#, VB.NET, PHP, Python and several other languages.

An example of why a company would use an API is allowing users to upload files. It’s dangerous to allow users to upload anything and everything to the cloud storage device. Instead, the API controls the types of files uploaded to the cloud, the location of where these files are stored, and the allowable size of the file.

Features of a Good Cloud Storage API

When searching for a cloud storage API solution, the API is controlled by the hosting company, so the IT manager must look for a suitable solution that fits the programming structure of the local application. Look for encryption, if the files are sent over the Internet from the local application. Encryption is important if the files contain sensitive information such a social security numbers or medical data.

Make sure the API handles errors and corruption issues and offers restoration processes for failed file storage. If the automated software fails, the API must be able to handle the issue and not overwrite an existing, non-corrupted file. There should also be a way to restore files in case of data corruption or severe errors.

Finally, make sure the API is available at all times and the host offers support when it goes down. An API that is down for hours or days can interfere with company processes that rely heavily on cloud servers for file storage. If files are stored every day, re-initializing those processes after downtime can take up resources on the local network to “catch up” to where the file storage left off.