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Why API Monitoring is Crucial to Your Business

In today’s interconnected world, API monitoring is vital.

Businesses rely on data in everyday operations, and often rely on Web APIs to send and access data. But if an API is down, slow or not behaving as expected, it can severely impact business operations.

Whether you’re an API provider or rely on third-party APIs, continually monitoring your API environment lets you know when there’s a problem.

Why APIs Fail

Just like with websites, 100% uptime is a myth. There are a variety of reasons why an API call will fail.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the problems your API may encounter. While this isn’t a complete list, your problem is likely in one of these categories. (Source: More Than Coding)

Infrastructure Problems

SSL Certificates: Expired SSL certificates, information on the certificate doesn’t match server information. Create an SSL expiry check in Uptime.com for advanced warning of expiration.

Unstable Network Access: Accessing API with a network that varies in speed like mobile broadband or satellite, Though speed may not be an issue, the lack of consistency may be the problem.

Data Center Meltdowns: Data center outages can take your API offline completely

DNS Lookup Issues: DNS doesn’t respond and connection cannot be established. A DNS check can alert you to outages, as well as changes to your DNS information that may trigger other issues.

Communication Issues

Proxy Servers Block Access: Trying to use the API from behind a proxy such as at an airport, library or paid hotspot

Credentials Not Valid: Expired credentials, change in username or password

Timeouts: Overloaded services may take too long to respond, even if no timeout is set on your end

Redirects: Build your API with a library that handles redirects automatically or write into your code what to do when a redirect occurs.

Syntax Errors: Data received by the API client can not be decoded properly

Wrong Content Type: Data is not recognizable by the API

Breaking Same Origin Protocol: Web-based applications using an API cannot make AJAX calls to a second endpoint for security reasons

Too Much Information Returned: The data returned is too large for your API client to handle

Problems After Establishing Connection

API Shuts Down: Companies sometimes take APIs off-market without warning

Incompatible Upgrades: An upgrade causes a new data format to be returned with no access to the older format

Expired Subscriptions: Your API subscription wasn’t renewed

Throttling: You’ve exceeded the API provider’s traffic limit

Incompatible Time Zones: Time formats could cause problems with data returned from an API

How API Monitoring Uncovers Problems

You can use a basic HTTP/S check to make sure your API is available, but a multi-step API check will troubleshoot each step and report on where the process is breaking down.

You can monitor your own API or third-party APIs your organization uses on a regular basis.

API monitoring tests three values:

  • Uptime
  • Performance
  • Data Validation

Testing API uptime gives you peace of mind that your API is available. By using the GET command in an API check, we are querying the server. We can also include strings that Uptime.com should expect to receive, along with a particular response code we define.

If the server returns a 5xx status code, we know that there is an issue with availability and can run some tests to find out why the server isn’t responding.

Performance issues include timeouts, frequent errors and sluggishness. APIs that return large amounts of data often experience issues in speed.

If your API is pulling large volumes of data, and the process is taking longer than usual, you’ve got a performance problem. By continuously monitoring APIs, you can identify patterns that indicate performance degradation and make changes to enhance the user experience.

Data validation tests look at the data type, as well as what the response should or should not contain, based on the values entered in your test.

There are a variety of ways to validate data, and you should test for the most common use cases to ensure API users are satisfied.

API Monitoring Checks Critical Data Access Points

There’s no use in securing important data if no one can access it.

If you provide APIs, it’s your responsibility to ensure they are available and working. Monitoring these APIs is part of providing the best possible user experience. Don’t wait until your customer reports a problem.

When your service relies on third-party APIs, monitor those, too. Especially the ones that provide data you can’t live without.

Uptime.com’s multi-step API check gives you the power to check availability, identify performance issues over time, and validate data all in one place.

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Sharon McElwee is Uptime.com's former content manager.

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