Conceptual Article

Best practices for cloud integration with 3rd parties

Best practices for cloud integration with 3rd parties

For many SMBs and startups, providing services to larger corporations is commonplace. This tends to involve the transfer of all sorts of data, from commercial documents like purchase orders and invoices to contact lists, reports, and other pertinent service-related data.

Companies at the forefront of tech recognize the real need to refine these data-sharing processes. By leaning into automation, they’re not just aiming for increased accuracy, speed, and efficiency in data exchanges, but also for the elimination of manual handling. This proactive approach minimizes human errors, guarantees a consistent data flow, and introduces robust tracking mechanisms. Yet, it also reallocates human resources to focus on strategic tasks, a worthwhile pivot in business arenas that demand agility and light-speed responsiveness.

The rise of the APIs

Software companies usually opt to build APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for this kind of automation, and there are some good reasons to do so.

API pros

  • Standardization: Modern APIs, especially those harnessing the power of REST and GraphQL, have streamlined data exchange.
  • Real-time responses: APIs operate in real-time, ensuring actions are immediate upon client requests.
  • Data validation: APIs rigorously validate data structures during requests, promptly notifying clients of any discrepancies.

However, the allure of APIs isn’t universal. Larger corporations often exhibit caution, here’s why.

API cons

  • Resource demands: API-based integrations require specialized teams and consistent investment in training, infrastructure, and support. The continuous need for updates and monitoring, especially for large enterprises using multiple third-party APIs, intensifies these demands
  • Security implications: When integrating with external APIs, there’s a risk of exposing sensitive information, leading to potential security vulnerabilities. Large corporations usually have rigorous security measures, and these can be jeopardized by such external connections.
  • Regulatory challenges: Integration with third-party APIs can complicate compliance with various regulatory standards, more so if these APIs span international or cross-sector boundaries.
  • Reliance risks: Depending on another company’s API introduces a risk. There could be disruptions if the third-party alters their API, faces operational issues, or, in extreme cases, ceases operations.

So, what’s the alternative?

As enterprises grappled with the complexities and hurdles of API-based integration, SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) based file exchange soon rose into place as a leading alternative. By now, SFTP is not a new technology; it’s been a reliable method of secure data transfer for over two decades.

Heralded by devs and IT professionals alike, SFTP presents a dependable (and far more convenient) alt to API integration for several reasons.

SFTP pros

  • Proven track record: With over 20 years in use, SFTP has proven its stability, reliability, and effectiveness across various industries and use-cases.
  • Security: Utilizing encryption and secure channels, SFTP ensures that data is transferred safely, meeting the stringent parameters of most enterprise-grade security standards.
  • Ease of use: SFTP’s simplicity makes it accessible to both human operators and automated processes, enabling seamless integration with existing workflows, without the need to write a single line of code—all using CLI and GUI clients.
  • Flexibility: SFTP can handle any file type and supports both unidirectional and bi-directional data exchange, allowing for versatile implementation.
  • Efficiency: Unlike API integration, SFTP demands fewer specialized resources to implement and maintain, so it’s a cost-effective choice.
  • Interoperability: As a widely accepted standard, SFTP provides a high level of compatibility with various systems, further easing the integration process.

By offering a combination of security, simplicity, and flexibility, SFTP presents a compelling option for organizations looking to optimize their third-party integrations without the hurdles generally associated with API-based solutions.

Nevertheless, there are a few disadvantages to using SFTP instead of APIs.

SFTP cons

  • Less interactive: SFTP is usually a batch process, so it may not provide the same level of immediacy and interactivity that APIs enable through their real-time requests and responses.
  • (Lack of) Data structure constraints: While SFTP allows for the exchange of any file type, it does not enforce any particular data structure. This lack of standardization may require additional data transformation and mapping, potentially complicating integration.
  • Potential security risks: Although SFTP is secure by design, improper configuration or failure to keep the protocol up-to-date might expose vulnerabilities. Careful management and best practices are needed to maintain security.

Introducing SFTP To Go

SFTP To Go is a cloud-based file storage and sharing solution, available as an add-on in the DigitalOcean marketplace. It’s designed to address SFTP’s challenges while offering a feast of added advantages:

  • Security: SFTP To Go is a secure and managed service. You don’t have to worry about server configuration. It also acts as a standalone secure drop point that is not in any party’s private network, so that no private ports have to be exposed to the public internet. If needed, you can limit access to your storage from specific IP addresses or IP ranges.
  • Isolation: SFTP To Go is a storage separate from your Droplet, in which you can share or receive data. Moreover, each user gets a designated, isolated home folder accessible only via your permissions, ensuring data privacy.
  • Real time data processing: Webhook notifications let you, as the service provider, get the best of both worlds and bridge the gap between SFTP and APIs. While your customer’s uploading files (manually or automatically), you can trigger automatic processes just as if data was sent to you via API.
  • Simplicity: Use a simple web based interface to manage files, users, webhooks and settings.
  • Automation: You can also use SFTP To Go’s APIs to integrate it with your systems (for example, to create an SFTP user automatically for newly signed up users in your platform).

How to install SFTP To Go

  1. Log in to your DigitalOcean account and navigate to the cloud dashboard.
  2. Click <Add-ons> under <Manage> in the sidebar.
  3. Find <SFTP To Go> in the marketplace add-ons page and click on the <Add SFTP To Go> button.
  4. Pick a plan, type in your company name and select the region where you want to store your files.
  5. Awesome! The add-on is installed!

SFTP To Go on the DigitalOcean Marketplace Add-Ons Tab

How to add users and access your files

  1. Click <View SFTP To Go> (or the Dashboard button in the new add-on page) to access the admin dashboard.
  2. In the <Credentials> tab, you should find the access credentials for your root user.
    • Open your favorite FTP client (FileZilla, WinSCP, Cyberduck to name a few, or the sftp command line which is bundled with all modern operating systems).
    • Copy the host, username and password (or import your public key to SFTP To Go for SSH key authentication).
  3. To add a new user, click <Add credentials>.
    • Now, fill out the username, home directory and permissions you’d like to assign this user. We recommend leaving the username empty to get a long random one.
    • Note that each user is jailed (“chroot”ed) to its home directory, so that it appears as root when they log in, and they can’t see what’s in parent or sibling directories. You can either completely separate file access amongst users, or use shared or nested home directories for complete or partial sharing of files.
  4. You can also import public SSH keys, set inbound network rules (to specify that users can only connect from certain IP addresses) and rotate passwords.

Credential Settings in SFTP To Go on DigitalOcean

How to add webhook notifications

  1. Switch to SFTP To Go’s <webhooks> tab and click <Add webhook>.
  2. Enter your endpoint https endpoint.
    • Then, choose the notification topics (what kind of events you’d like to be notified on).
    • Now, optionally add filters to only send notifications when webhook data matches certain criteria (e.g. when an uploaded file is in a certain folder, or when a certain user uploads files).
  3. You can send a ping webhook by clicking the webhook item menu button and then <ping webhook>.

Webhook Settings in SFTP To Go on DigitalOcean

How to manage SFTP To Go using Rest APIs

  1. Go back to your DigitalOcean dashboard and expand the add-on configuration to view your API key.
  2. Use the API documentation for reference on how to create, update, modify and delete objects such as users, webhooks, ec.

SFTP to Go offers a fresh perspective on integration, blending the reliability of file transfer protocols with the immediacy of webhooks. As a cloud-based solution via the DigitalOcean Marketplace, it paves the way for developers and IT professionals to find the right balance between security, adaptability, and real-time responsiveness.

Frequently asked questions

What are the best practices for cloud integration with 3rd parties?

Best practices include leveraging automation for increased accuracy, speed, and efficiency in data exchanges, eliminating manual handling, and using robust tracking mechanisms.

Why are APIs popular for automation in data sharing?

APIs offer standardization, real-time responses, and rigorous data validation. They streamline data exchange and ensure immediate actions upon client requests.

What are the challenges of API-based integration?

Challenges include resource demands, security implications, regulatory challenges, and reliance risks, especially when integrating with third-party APIs.

How does SFTP differ from API integration?

SFTP has a proven track record, offers security, ease of use, flexibility, efficiency, and interoperability. It’s a reliable method of secure data transfer without the complexities of API-based solutions.

What is SFTP To Go?

SFTP To Go is a cloud-based file storage and sharing solution available in the DigitalOcean marketplace. It addresses SFTP challenges and offers added advantages like security, isolation, real-time data processing, simplicity, and automation.

How can one install and use SFTP To Go?

Users can install SFTP To Go from the DigitalOcean marketplace, add users, access files, set webhook notifications, and manage it using Rest APIs.

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