Thumbnail image showing API Proxy vs API gateway

The need for APIs has increased exponentially as the world becomes more technologically connected. Companies now look to how an API proxy can protect their data and create workflow efficiencies. But what are they, and why do you need one? Read on to discover more about API proxies, how they work, and whether you should use them in your business.

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What are API proxies, and what do they do?

An API proxy is a server that sits in front of an API and acts as a go-between for requests from clients and the API. While a proxy endpoint can be used for many reasons, people mainly use them to decouple the backend services from frontend services. This decoupling allows the frontend to forward requests to the appropriate resources while protecting the data behind the scenes.

Proxies are also often used to filter requests so that only certain types of traffic are allowed through or to cache responses so that they can be reused instead of making a new call to the API each time. This, in turn, can help improve performance by reducing the number of calls made to the API.

API proxies can also add basic security features and monitoring, which can help protect your data and ensure your API is being used as intended.

Benefits of an API proxy

There are many benefits to using an API proxy, including:

  • Security: By sitting in front of the API, the proxy can add an extra layer of security by filtering requests and blocking any deemed malicious.
  • Policies for API governance: The proxy can enforce policies that govern how the API is used. This can help prevent API misuse and ensure that it performs optimally.
  • Error reporting: If there is an error in the API, the proxy can report it to the appropriate team so it can be fixed.
  • API console: With an API proxy, you can easily create an API console that allows developers to test the API and see how it works.
  • Ease of use: Proxies can make working with an API easier by abstracting away some complexity.
  • API analytics: Proxies can track all traffic and generate detailed analytics about how the API is being used. This information can be used to optimize the API or troubleshoot issues.

Do you need an API proxy?

Now that you know what API proxies are and what they do, you may wonder if your business needs one. The answer to this question depends on a few factors, such as:

  • The size of your company: If you are a large company with many developers working on your API, then an API proxy can help govern how the API is used and ensure it is used as intended.
  • The sensitivity of your data: If your data is sensitive or private, an API proxy security may be too lightweight of a solution, and you may need something more robust. Sensitive data may include Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or health information.
  • The skill level of your developers: If your developers are new to working with APIs or software development kits (sdk), then a proxy can make the experience easier since it is generally less complex than working directly with an API Gateway.

API proxies vs API Gateways

API proxies and API gateways are often confused because they both sit in front of an API and can provide similar functionality. However, there are some critical differences between the two:

An API proxy is typically lighter-weight and easier to set up than an API gateway. It is also less complex, which can make it easier to use for developers who are new to working with APIs.

An API gateway is more feature-rich with greater API security than an API proxy and can provide rate limiting, authentication, and validation.

Some of an API gateway’s primary use cases and advantages include:

  • Service orchestration: API orchestration is the process of managing multiple API calls from different microservices and aggregating the results into a single response. This can be helpful when you need to retrieve data from various sources.
  • Mediation: A mediation layer transforms data from one format to another. This can be useful if you need to take existing data and make it compatible with a new system.
  • Transformation: As well as transforming the data itself, API gateways can also transform the structure of an API request or response. This can be helpful in cases where you need to change the format of the API’s returned data. Changes may include adding or removing fields or headers, changing the data type of a field, or filtering out specific data.
  • Load Balancing: API gateways can distribute load among multiple servers, improving performance and reducing latency. This is especially helpful when you have many users making requests to the API.
  • Throttling: An API gateway can throttle traffic to help prevent the overuse of resources during runtime. This can be helpful in cases where you need to limit the number of requests that can be made to the API.

Final thoughts on API proxies

API proxies can be a valuable tool for web applications of all sizes. They are easy to set up and use, making them a good choice for companies new to working with APIs. API proxies also provide several features that can help improve the performance and reliability of your API. However, it is essential to remember that API proxies are not a replacement for API gateways. If you need more advanced features, such as service orchestration or data transformation, you may want to consider using an API gateway instead.

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How Dreamfactory can help

No matter which type of solution you decide is right for your business API strategy or web service, selecting a platform to help you build and manage your API is essential. Dreamfactory is a platform that provides a complete solution for the entire API lifecycle, including both API proxies and API gateways.

Some of Dreamfactory’s top features include:

Low-code development: Dreamfactory provides a low-code developer portal and user interface that makes creating and deploying APIs easy. This lets you get your API up and running without writing much code.

Flexible deployment options: Dreamfactory can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, allowing you to choose the best deployment option that best meets your needs.

API analytics: Dreamfactory provides built-in API analytics that gives you visibility into how your APIs are being used. This helps identify and troubleshoot issues and understand the features used most.

Dreamfactory can help you create new APIs, regardless of which type of solution you decide is right for your business. Dreamfactory is easy to use, flexible and provides a wide range of features to make working with API design and management more effortless. Start your free 14-day trial of Dreamfactory today for more information.

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