Unpacking why EasyPost's enterprise-grade APIs are the best in the shipping industry: A deep dive on API reliability

Above all else, EasyPost's number one focus as an API provider is reliability. Our benchmark for reliability is perfection, with not a single outage event or second of downtime. In 2020 we made it through peak season without any downtime, and we plan to do so again in 2021. This guide delves into API reliability and what innovative methods we employ to maintain our industry-leading uptime.

What is API reliability and why is it so important?

API reliability refers to the APIs likelihood to return accurate information. The likelihood to return accurate information is based on the design and stability of the API infrastructure.

Consumers today expect fast and cheap shipping options when shopping online. In many cases, they evaluate brands entirely based on the shipping experience. Shipping APIs have become critical in the industry for allowing ecommerce companies to quickly integrate with multiple carriers to provide end customers with better shipping options. But this means major revenue streams for shippers often rely entirely upon third-party APIs. Quickly, ecommerce companies' evaluation criteria for shipping APIs have moved heavily towards how reliable the service is.

A reliable shipping API returns the requested information consistently and accurately, always. All the marketing dollars spent to get customers to make it to the checkout page goes to waste if your page fails to load shipping rates. An hour of downtime can result in significant revenue loss during peak season.

EasyPost understands this better than anyone, so we set out to build the industry's most reliable API offering. We proudly publish current and historical uptime metrics across all of our APIs here. In the next section, we describe in detail how we measure reliability.

How do we measure reliability?

EasyPost evaluates the reliability of our APIs by looking at # of outage events and total downtime during steady-state and previous peak seasons.

The below metrics detail recent historical performance across all core services. We detail recent performance to display our continued success as well as last year's peak season when we know reliability is most important for our customers.

In the next section, we outline some of the key innovative things we are doing to maintain our industry-leading uptime.

How do we do it?

The below list of items details some of the key innovative methods we employ to maintain our industry-leading API reliability. However, there are many common industry best practices we also employ not described below.

1. Rate limiting

EasyPost conducts extensive load testing to determine safe rate limits for all new releases to mitigate the probability of outages. Rate limits allow for customers to safely scale up their operations to the needed volume without impacting our broader customer base.

2. Diversified cloud storage

EasyPost diversifies cloud storage providers so that no single server outage will bring down services that rely upon cloud storage. Critical services such as our label API rely upon the cloud to fulfill requests.

3. Distributed data centers

EasyPost uses geographically distinct data centers to support all customer-facing services. Every data center has a fully replicated data center in another far-away region to ensure maximum reliability in the case of a regional outage.

4. Native rating engines

EasyPost has built native rating engines with as many carriers as possible so customers can continue to purchase labels with carriers even if carrier APIs are down. We currently support native rating engines with USPS and FedEx as well as several regional carriers and are actively looking to expand with more carriers. We want our customers to benefit as much as possible from our investment into reliability and uptime and are actively pursuing native rating coverage across additional carriers.

5. Carrier outage detection

EasyPost has carrier API outage detection processes in place to ensure our APIs reliably return useful information to customers, even when carriers are down. If a carrier has an outage, without outage detection our customer-facing APIs will consistently and redundantly wait for a timeout response for each request made to the API.

Were we to receive many requests without outage detection in place, processing the high volume of timeout responses would pose a significant risk to our system. For this reason, when outages are detected we update API responses to send back immediate error messages detailing there is an outage. This significantly reduces the risk to our system and provides a useful response to customers so they are better equipped to manage the carrier's outage.

6. Zero downtime releases

EasyPost releases require no downtime or maintenance and previous versions can be reverted instantly. We do this by saving previous versions of our codebase to ensure if any issues are identified from a new release, we can revert to the previous version immediately with no downtime. This infrastructure allows us to push changes live daily at no cost to customer experience. We also use what is known as a "canary" environment which allows for new releases to be tested with a small subset of production traffic before they are pushed live to all customers. This results in customers very rarely seeing issues that impact 100% of their traffic.

7. Security-first culture

All features and services offered to customers are first scrutinized and audited from a security perspective to mitigate the risk of malicious behavior bringing down our system. EasyPost follows industry best practices on authentication, data encryption, user visibility, bot mitigation, rate-limiting (as described above), and more.

EasyPost is compliant with the most up-to-date security standards to mitigate risk and to ensure we meet the needs of all of our customers'/prospects' security requirements. These measures holistically ensure our systems are significantly less vulnerable to malicious behavior that can bring down our system.

We know many components comprise an enterprise-grade API beyond just reliability. This guide is one part of a series of guides written which describe all of the different components that go into our enterprise shipping APIs. Click below to learn more!

Ready to talk with a shipping expert?

API reliability is critical for our customer's success and we are never satisfied with only being "good enough." Expect to see our reliability metrics continually improve and to see our list of innovative methods continually expand.