The Challenges of Data Exchange Made Easy

Loraine Lawson

Normally, when I try to point out the best integration articles, I focus on the high-level articles. The majority of articles - and by majority, I actually mean every single piece I've ever read - assume you know the tech jargon - things like API, the technical difference between REST and SOAP, and so forth.

It's rare to find a really good article that explains all the technical terms for the business readers, and yet still manages to convey information that's useful to IT readers.

But a recent feature - "XML, API, CSV, SOAP! Understanding the Alphabet Soup of Data Exchange" - on Idealware manages to do both, clarifying technical information without talking down to anyone. Peter Campbell, the director of Information Technology at Earthjustice, a non-profit law firm dedicated to environmental issues, wrote the article for non-profit groups, which typically have small IT departments - if they're lucky. That's probably why it breaks with traditional technology writing and manages to address both technical and non-technical readers so well.

I found the Data Transfer Methods section particularly helpful in explaining both the technical and business differences between REST and SOAP. REST, he explains, is easier to implement, but SOAP is more powerful. If you're still unsure which to use, he manages to break down the choice with a very concise series of logic:

  • Are you working with Microsoft servers or applications?
  • If yes, then choose SOAP.
  • If no, then do you only need to do a simple data exchange?
  • If yes, choose REST.
  • If no, choose SOAP.

He takes a similar, no-nonsense approach to buying software packages that manage data, advising you adopt this mantra: "I will not pay a vendor to lock me out of my own data." He then offers a series of questions you can ask about a product to make sure you abide by that mantra.


It's a good piece for business people still struggling to understand integration technology and small-shop IT departments who don't have time to waste on philosophical discourses about integration technology, but need to quickly identify simple, workable solutions.

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