FTP vs API: which type of HR systems integration is right for you?



Read time
3 mins

With two connectivity options to choose from, there’s no reason not to link your HR, recruitment, and LMS systems together

If you want your HR team to be working as effectively, efficiently and strategically as possible, at the same time as delivering a brilliant level of service to your employees, you’ll want to be working with integrated HR and LMS systems.

But what technical options are there for connecting multiple systems together? And which option is right for your network of systems?

1. FTP integration

Historically, the majority of digital systems have been connected via an FTP integration, which involves one system exporting data in a ‘flat file’ format (often a spreadsheet), and another system importing the data. The integration enables a single connection, for example, between systems A and B, and does not facilitate the flow of data between multiple pieces of software.

When data is transferred via an FTP integration, it must be checked for errors and validated manually each time it is imported into the receiving system. This is not only time consuming, but it introduces into the verification process the risk of human error.

Because FTP is an older method of transferring data, such transfers are compatible with many legacy and/or on-premise HR and business systems, making it a useful option if you are seeking to integrate an older system with newer, cloud-based software. It’s also fairly easy to set up, run and store the data files – making this integration a useful choice for organisations that are less technology savvy.

However, because the data must be exported and imported via a secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) on a set schedule – such as at the end of each working day – it’s unhelpful if you are seeking to share data between systems in real time. That’s why this method is most commonly used for payroll and HR software that doesn’t require real-time data connectivity, and which have clear data cut-off points.

 2. API integration

APIs have recently emerged as a more modern, robust and secure way of making digital systems ‘talk’ to each other. When linked via an API, two (or more) systems can send data directly to and from each other: there is no need for a file to be imported or exported. This means that data is available in all the linked systems in real time – making this connection option essential for dynamic data that you need to be able to report on swiftly and accurately.

And, because it’s a two-way connection, you can make the same information available in each system. In an HR context, this might mean that the results of training courses completed in your LMS feed automatically into an employee’s record in your central HR management system, and training needs from your HR system feed into your LMS.

An API integration will require more technical effort to set up and configure the link – your chosen HR system vendor should be able to support you with this – but this initial work should pay dividends, because the connection will mean you won’t need to spend time manually checking and verifying data, and your data will be more accurate and secure.