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API Sandboxes: Best Practices To Achieve The Best Results

May 14, 2024Yamini Priya
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API Sandboxes Best Practices To Achieve The Best Results
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In today’s fast-paced digital world, APIs have become the backbone of modern software development, enabling seamless integration and interaction between various applications. However, before integrating an API into your application, it’s crucial to thoroughly test and understand its behavior. That’s where the API sandbox comes into play.

API sandboxes are like virtual playgrounds for developers, offering a safe and controlled environment to experiment, test, and fine-tune their code before deploying it to the real world. In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into API sandboxes and explore the best practices to ensure smooth testing experiences. According to Forbes, the market capitalization of organizations that adopted APIs has increased by over 12% compared to those that did not. That is how much APIs play an important role in today’s world.

What is an API Sandbox?

An API sandbox is a service that simulates the behavior of a production API. While the distinction between sandboxes and mock APIs may vary, sandboxes are typically intended for external developers. It provides a valuable platform for developers to test APIs without any risks or expenses, making them a vital part of a DX-oriented API strategy.

The primary purpose of an API (Application Programming Interfaces) sandbox is to enable developers to understand how to interact with an API, test their integration code, and evaluate the API’s capabilities before deploying it in a live application. It provides a safe space to experiment, troubleshoot, and validate API requests and responses.

Features of an API Sandbox

An API sandbox typically offers the following features,

1. Easily Accessible to Any API Client

The API Sandbox is a testing environment that enables developers to test APIs without real-time consequences. It’s open to all types of API clients, including web, mobile, and desktop applications.

2. High Versatility

The API sandbox is versatile and supports various API types, such as RESTful, SOAP-based, and GraphQL. This flexibility makes it an ideal tool for developers working with different types of APIs.

3. Simulated Environment

The API sandbox offers developers a simulated environment that imitates a real API. It enables them to safely test their API calls and responses within a controlled setting.

4. Customizable

The API sandbox is highly customizable, giving developers the flexibility to adjust it according to their requirements. They can modify and test various aspects of the API, such as endpoints, headers, parameters, and more.

7 Best Practices for Sandbox API

When working with a sandbox API, it’s crucial to follow the below best practices to ensure a smooth and effective testing process. Here are seven best practices for working with a sandbox API,

1. Isolate Your Sandbox

You should make sure that the sandbox remains isolated from the platform. A sandbox must allow the development team to simulate the API’s behavior, but it should not allow any direct interaction with the platform in a way a production API will.

That is why it is considered best to build your sandbox in an isolated environment from the ground up. Because when you’re not careful with the sandbox, it could affect the production systems, lead to billing confusion, or even expose real data.

2. Provide Free Access

Developers should have free access to the sandbox. It’s important to offer this because the main advantage of using a sandbox is that it’s free. This is especially beneficial for potential developer customers who might otherwise have to go through a lengthy approval process to get permission to try even the most affordable trials.

Although hosting a sandbox does come with costs, it’s essential for customer acquisition and developer experience. If providing an unlimited sandbox is not feasible, you can provide developers with a limited number of free sandbox credits when they register. This will reduce the amount of usage but still allow them to test.

3. Recreate Production Behavior

When creating a sandbox environment for developers, it is important to ensure that it closely mimics the behavior of the real production system. This similarity allows developers to test their integrations with confidence, knowing that the sandbox will behave the same as the actual production API. Without this assurance, developers would need to repeat their testing using the real API, which undermines the purpose of having a sandbox.

To achieve this, it is vital to align the sandbox with the production API’s features. For example, if the production API supports POST requests, the sandbox should also support POST requests. Similarly, the sandbox should also implement pagination if the production API includes pagination. It is likely that the sandbox will be based on an API specification, so it is important to identify any gaps or limitations in the specification and address them accordingly.

4. Remember About Authorization

Do not overlook the authentication or authorization methods used by your production API. It is often neglected but crucial for developers. Ensure that you include it in your sandbox environment, whether you utilize API keys or access tokens.

5. Account for Gateways or Proxies

While building your sandbox, it is vital to consider the impact of any gateways or proxies. Although they are not part of the API itself, they can still significantly impact developers’ integrations. A key example is rate limiting, often implemented at the gateway level and can greatly affect integration behavior.

You have the flexibility to manage and handle these issues. Some API owners apply the same rate limits to sandboxes as they do to production APIs. However, others, like Salesforce, increase sandbox limits to allow more comprehensive testing.

The most preferred approach is the one by Evernote. In this approach, rate limits for both production and sandbox APIs kick in after a specific number of calls per hour. However, sandbox users are only rate-limited for 15 seconds rather than the entire hour.

This approach allows developers to test and handle rate limit exceptions without waiting for the one-hour interval to end before resuming interactions with the API.

6. Review Sandbox Usage

It’s a good idea to regularly review how your API sandbox is used. By checking the sandbox’s logs, you can identify any unexpected usage patterns and provide support for them. It’s also important to look for frequently occurring errors, particularly during the onboarding process, as fixing these common pain points can improve retention.

7. Consider A Chaos Mock

In high-stake industries, it is recommended to develop a chaos mock along with the regular sandbox for mature API programs. The chaos mock, introduced by Microsoft architect Gareth Jones, is a form of API virtualization designed to incorporate various unpredictable behaviors.

Its purpose is to allow developers to test their code against a wide range of unpredictable API behaviors, ensuring that their integrations can withstand any situation.

Benefits of API Sandboxes

Some of its key benefits include,

  • It reduces the costs and potential risks related to testing third-party APIs.
  • It allows simultaneous testing and development, which accelerates application development cycles and reduces the time to launch the product in the market.
  • Allows risk-free testing and experimentation
  • It saves money and time
  • It improves security
  • Helps mitigate risks and ensures stability
  • Cost-effective development and resource utilization
  • Faster development cycles

Also, do not confuse between API sandbox and API testing. API sandbox provides a controlled environment for developers to interact with and test APIs, while API testing encompasses the broader process of evaluating the functionality, performance, security, and integration aspects of APIs.Also, you can automate your API tests using test automation platforms like Testsigma. Testsigma offers a free trial and two paid plans – pro and enterprise.


Conclusion

API sandboxes are powerful tools for developers, offering a risk-free environment to experiment, test, and refine their code before going live. By adhering to these best practices, businesses can foster a developer-friendly ecosystem, encourage innovation, and promote successful API integrations. Ultimately, it serves as an invaluable tool for streamlining the development process, reducing risks, and delivering high-quality APIs that meet the needs of developers and end-users alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Open API Sandbox?

An Open API Sandbox typically refers to a specific type of sandbox environment specifically designed for testing and exploring Restful APIs. Simply put, OpenAPI deals only with RESTful APIs and not with any other types of APIs.

Is API Sandbox free to use?

Yes, the API sandbox is a free testing environment that is built to simulate the production environment closely. It allows you to thoroughly test your API integration.

What is Sandbox API vs Production API?

The key difference between sandbox API and production API is the data returned by the APIs. That is, in a sandbox API, test data is returned, whereas in a production API, real data is returned.

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