Application programming interfaces (APIs) are constantly running the backend operations of almost every customer-facing computer program. In the digital marketplace, where interconnected devices and programs are now the backbones of an enterprise’s operations and service delivery, a smooth-running, issue-free API is crucial to business continuity. And because APIs are essential for the execution and delivery of web- and cloud-based application services, they need careful and consistent monitoring to address problems swiftly, without causing inconvenience to the customer or end-user.
First, let’s take a deep dive into how APIs are defined, and their proliferation into every aspect of digital business applications. APIs are ubiquitous, meaning every part of any modern software system either is or exposes an API. An API is essentially a set of components (subroutine definitions, communication protocols, and other tools) that are used to construct software.
Efficient and effective APIs significantly simplify the process of developing a computer program, furnishing the developer with all the parts that go into putting it together. They can run anything from web-based applications to operating systems, to databases and software libraries.
As a software intermediary, the API relays information back and forth between applications, performing what is known as an “API call.” If you’ve ever used PayPal on an ecommerce site, you will understand an API in action. When you push the button, the retail site calls an API to your PayPal account to make the payment. PayPal’s API responds, and the deal is done.
The types of API interactions that are behind your online activity every day are as varied as they are numerous. Under the purview of an API, operating system calls, database and hardware signals and interactions, and software libraries (compilations of reusable code) are all handled in microseconds.
APIs can fail at any point in time due to many reasons. This could be due to hard disk operations limits, out-of-date SSL certificates, or undetected bugs in updated versions of the code. APIs therefore need constant monitoring so that issues can be quickly addressed when, or even before, a problem occurs.
Application downtime can incur significant costs to a business. While it can be hard to quantify business loss in general, the financial bleed can run up to hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour. Besides the business and revenue loss, downtime can also be a significant blow to employee morale and motivation.
API downtime can severely frustrate an enterprise’s development team, as it continuously breaks their code and can be monotonous to fix. If such problems persist, they will inevitably poison the well by affecting the sales and marketing side of the business and dealing a blow to the company’s reputation in the customers’ eyes.
Although we must accept that it is impossible to completely eradicate API downtime, by monitoring API performance consistently, teams can locate and resolve issues in a timely fashion before they start to hamper the customer or end user’s experience.
API monitoring is a synthetic monitoring process to test and evaluate an API for its promptness, correct responses, and overall performance. It helps identify when and where API calls perform poorly, leading applications as well as their dependent services and websites to failures and outages that negatively impact user experience.
Since the Ponemon Institute estimates that an average global 5000 company will incur costs of over $15M resulting from a certificate outage, APIs need to be carefully and constantly monitored to perform at their highest potential.
Monitoring services use remote machines to send test requests to an API. This remote computer will evaluate the speed, content, and response codes of the call that is then conducted. Anything that doesn’t rise to the acceptable minimum limit is recorded as an error, and the monitor will then run a second test from a different location. If the failure persists, the monitor will alert the provider or client that their API is not operational.
Depending on what type of API monitoring service it is, the monitor may either verify single test requests or test a range of end user scenarios. A basic API monitor will test a single API call through a checkpoint computer that reviews responses for promptness and code accuracy.
On the other hand, multi-step API monitoring will test entire API interactions. This is because an API may be able to respond quickly and correctly to a single call but can run into problems when reusing complex values like IDs and geolocation data, as well as remembered responses such as user authentication and page redirects.
Now that the world is going digital, APIs are becoming a regular, albeit hidden, part of customer interactions with businesses. Any business relying on an API or providing one themselves needs to ensure that it is available and running smoothly to guarantee their revenue stream and preserve their brand’s reputation.
If you want to solidify and maintain your organization’s brand trust, overall team morale, and revenue stream well into the future, monitoring your APIs will not only help to failproof your applications, but it will also empower your organization to grow securely and confidently into the digital future.
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