7 reasons why API monitoring is so important

In this article, we talk about what you need to know about how APIs affect your business, and what you need to do to safeguard your API or your websites and services with API dependencies. So, if you’re wondering why API monitoring is so important, you’re in the right place. Read on!

You’ve heard it before, “APIs fuel the web.” In fact, there is practically no such thing as a freestanding website or application—not anymore anyway.

Just about every website depends on APIs from providers like Google, Amazon, social media providers, merchant services, geolocation services, or productivity tools such as Slack or Trello.

As the cloud and the Internet of Things grow, the number of APIs our products and users depend on rises too.

If any one of the APIs you provide or rely on go down or experience performance issues, so do the sites and services that rely on them, and failing APIs drag your revenue and reputation down with them.

7 reasons why API Monitoring is so important

You have put a lot of work and money into developing your API.

You have tested it, tweaked it, and tested it some more.

Everything works great during prelaunch testing, and the live version does well in the beginning.

You may have developed the API for internal use, or you have published a public facing API, either way, you have a lot—maybe even millions—of people, devices, and applications that rely on your API.

Let’s face it, APIs fail for many reasons (here is an entire list of possible reasons APIs fail), so your investment in time and cash needs protected. You owe it to the users of your API to ensure that it is performing at optimum levels 24/7.

Let’s take a look at the top 7 reasons it is important to monitor your APIs:

  1. It is YOUR responsibility: If you’re providing an API, you owe it to the users (whoever or whatever they may be) to make sure your API has the highest uptime, fastest possible returns, and that every method works correctly every time.
  2. Regular website monitoring may not capture API issues. Without explicitly monitoring API transactions, your service or page could be failing, and you won’t know until users start to complain because traditional website monitoring only checks the initial page load.
  3. Not every API method may be working: The API may be available, but one single failing method can bring your transactions to a screeching halt.
  4. Decreased brand reputation: Your customers don’t know what an API is, what it does, or why it is needed. All they know is things aren’t working, or they’re not working well. When a site or service suffers from clunky, slow user interfaces or things don’t work correctly or at all, 79% of your users abandon your product and they don’t come back.
  5. Reduced user satisfaction: Poor performance has a huge impact on user satisfaction. So much so that it affects how users perceive design and navigation.
  6. Reduced current revenue: If your API isn’t working, the chances are that your logins don’t work, your checkout and shopping carts don’t work, or things are unstable enough to decrease user trust. Any of these reasons hit you right in the wallet as users bounce.
  7. Loss of future revenue: Not only do you lose the immediate revenue, but you also lose future revenue as well. When users abandon your site or service, they aren’t coming back, and they tell others. They talk at work, they share at parties, and they leave bad reviews online. You haven’t just lost their business, you’ve lost every person with whom they shared their experience.

You may not have an API of your own, but chances are, your website or service requires many API interactions to facilitate a single transaction.

Hopefully, the owners of the critical APIs you rely on are watching their product closely, but maybe not. Maybe they conduct random checks on their product throughout the day, or they are testing from behind their own firewall.

Sporadic tests only capture some outages and performance issues, and testing from behind the firewall doesn’t guarantee that those beyond can access the API at all.

The only way you can be sure is to conduct your own testing to protect your investment from third-party API failures. To illustrate our point, let’s take a look how APIs operate in the e-commerce sector.

APIs fuel the web: An industry case study

Just about every interaction that we have with a device requires the use of one or more APIs, and those APIs frequently use other APIs to provide their service as well. What most of us perceive as a simple transaction may require many API connections to complete, and if any one of those APIs fail or experience delays, your bottom line suffers.  To make our point, let’s take a look at one business sector, e-commerce. E-commerce sites and apps use multiple APIs with very specific purposes to ultimately facilitate a single sale.

User Authentication: Typically making a purchase online requires user authentication. Those user authentications frequently use third-party APIs, and they may even use the Google or Facebook APIs to authenticate users. Additionally, two-step authentication may require a call to yet another API to send SMS messages or emails with authorization codes. A failure anywhere in the authentication process will cost a retailer sales due to the user’s inability to log into their account.

Location services: We’ve all seen the user dialog asking you to grant a website or app permission to use geolocation services. Location services are often used to obtain regional prices, item availability, locate nearby stores, and determine regional user preferences. For example, the Target app allows customers to search the store, get item locations, and check prices based on their current location obtained from a geolocation service. Sometimes the need for a user’s physical location is just for user experience enhancements, but some sites can’t give pricing information without the user’s location.

Product/Service information: Many e-commerce sites use APIs that connect with manufacturers and distributors to pull current product descriptions, specifications, user manuals, current images, warranty information, and pull in independent reviews from services like Yelp.  All of these APIs play important parts in a visitor’s buying decision, and if they can’t get the information they need when they need it, they go elsewhere.

Order fulfillment: Many retailers do not manage their own inventory, and they pay fulfillment centers to handle and ship their goods; in fact, Amazon operates as a fulfillment center for multiple brands big and small.  Also, manufacturers often operate as fulfillment centers for their customers. An API sends the order information to the fulfillment center, and the product is shipped out to the buyer often in the sellers branded packaging. Problems with the API may cause delays in shipping or lost orders.

Financial services: Merchant service providers offer APIs to get authorization for purchases, handle returns, and processes credit applications for branded credit accounts. Other APIs calculate sales tax based on the visitor’s account information, calculate shipping costs, verify addresses with the postal system, and connect with fulfillment centers. Any failure of these mission-critical APIs results in lost sales.

Gift registries: Wish lists and gift registries are big business. Many brands utilize third-party companies to maintain their registries, or they may offer an API so that their registries are available to sister retailers or third party applications. An API is used to create registries, add items, and update the registry when someone purchases a gift.

Outbound communications: Retailers send out order confirmations, password update requests, reminders, and targeted marketing campaigns using APIs provided by SaaS companies like SendGrid. SMS gateway services provide APIs that allow retailers to send reminder texts like, “Your prescription is ready for pickup,” and send two-step authentication codes. If people can’t reset passwords, log into an application or site revenue is affected immediately. If customers don’t receive order confirmations, it can erode user trust.

We’ve only skimmed the surface of how API’s touch on every aspect of e-commerce (We didn’t talk about the APIs used to render the pages.). Each API interaction is vital to enabling a fulfilling customer experience. If you’re a provider of one of the APIs mentioned above or rely on one, you need to monitor constantly for availability, performance, and function. Continuous effective monitoring saves reputation and revenue for you and those that use your APIs.

API monitoring options

The first step in determining which of the following monitoring options are right for the API you provide or rely on is to understand how a client interacts with the API. Start with the API’s documentation to make sure that you have all of the information you need to pick the right monitoring option. Once you know whether you need to make a single call or multiple calls to an API, you are ready to discover your monitoring options.

Single-step APIs: Webservice HTTP/HTTPS Monitors can check for uptime and validate a single API response. Webservice HTTP/HTTPS monitors are great for tracking SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and knowing that the service is up and responding quickly. The Webservice HTTP/HTTPS Monitors can check response codes, conduct a content match, check response size, and monitor for response times.

Multi-step APIs: When you need to handle redirects, authenticate a user, or manage multiple API calls that retain and reuse information between one API call and another, you will want to use Multi-step API Monitoring. With Multi-step API Monitoring, you can extract values from the response for reuse, use comparison operators, make assertions, generate random values, conduct authentication, and utilize client certificates. Multi-step API Monitoring allows you to verify the entire process while tracking performance for every API call.

Deciding which APIs to monitor

In our examples above, you may find the number of APIs used overwhelming. We get it, but not every API and every possible API function needs monitoring. To help you decide which API’s to monitor, we’ve put together a list:

1. APIs you provide

If you provide APIs, you need to make sure that those APIs remain available, perform well, and function properly. You have an obligation to the API’s users to respond quickly to issues and minimize downtime. Our API monitoring can test your API as frequently as once a minute from any of our 184 worldwide checkpoint locations to capture errors and watch for localized latency and outages.

2. Third-party APIs crucial to your API or service

If any API you rely on can break your API, app, service, or website, you need to monitor that API with the same diligence as you do your own. At the very least, you should maintain an availability monitor (Web Service HTTP/HTTPs) for critical third-party APIs.

3. Non-crucial third-party API calls

You may have some APIs that don’t affect function but may enhance the user-experience like type kits, image providers, and advertisers. Selectively choose which APIs in this category you may want to monitor. You may want to set up Webservice HTTP/HTTPS monitors to check certain API calls for SLA compliance. You can receive alerts based on API errors, response times, response size, and content matches.

Multi-step API Monitoring makes setup easy, even for complex API interactions

There are times when you just can’t verify an API in a single response or two, for some API interactions require the ability to handle redirects, reuse values, and handle authentication. Because your API is important, we developed Multi-step API to provide all the flexibility you need. Our Multi-step API Monitor’s intuitive step builder helps you break your complex API interactions into easy to manage steps. You have the flexibility to:

  • Predefine variables like usernames and passwords.
  • Extract values from responses and store them in variables for later use.
  • Build out your request headers using predefined and captured variables from previous responses.
  • Set assertions and use conditional operators.
  • Use dynamic value creation for GUIDs, date/time stamps, and random integers.

Complex doesn’t need to be complicated, and you can rest assured that if Uptrends encounters any problems with your API’s availability, responses, or performance, our advanced alerting systems will let you know immediately. You will always know the status of your APIs.

Takeaways

  1. APIs power the web.
  2. Your API’s availability and performance translates directly to revenue and reputation.
  3. Third-party APIs can hurt your business just as much as failures in your own API.
  4. If you provide an API, it is your responsibility to monitor it for uptime, performance, and function.
  5. API Monitoring from Uptrends helps you to improve both uptime and performance of your API.
  6. API Monitoring from Uptrends helps you track uptime and performance for the APIs you rely on.
  7. API Monitoring from Uptrends lets you test single API calls and multi-step API interactions.

Our Knowledge Base has an extensive section on API Monitoring. Be sure to read through the Knowledge Base to get familiar with all the available options for your API monitoring. If you don’t find what you need or need additional assistance, open a support ticket, and one of our support heroes will help you along.

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