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Thoughts on Data Quality and Contact Validation

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Posts Tagged ‘Uptime’

The Struggles with Deprecated Services

The word “deprecated” is thrown around frequently in the software development world. It is used to indicate a product or service that is either not going to continue being maintained or it is going to be sunsetted. Often times, when companies roll out a new product or API they decide to give their users a heads up that the older operations are going to be deprecated. This prompts the users to update to the latest version to take advantage of the latest and greatest features that the company is offering.

Marking a service to be deprecated is a warning to the users of the product or service that it will no longer be supported and it is highly recommended to upgrade to a newer, supported service.  Here at Service Objects, we don’t particularly like the practice of deprecating services.  Although we don’t rule it out completely, our mission is to maintain support for our legacy services. This is because we understand that it takes time, resources, and money to integrate with APIs. The time it takes for developers to integrate, test, and deploy new code inevitably costs money. To help solve the issue of legacy services falling behind the advancements, we keep our core code separate from the individual service outputs. A fixed set of output fields enables us to provide our clients with peace of mind that the service they have invested their time and resources into won’t change beneath their feet.

A clear picture of this concept can be seen in our DOTS Address Validation services. We have DOTS Address Validation 1, 2 and 3. The 3rd iteration is currently our primary and most robust address validation service yet. It has the latest and greatest in terms of available output fields. Even though Address Validation 3  is our latest version of our address services, both DOTS Address Validation 1 and 2 are actively supported.

The reason we are able to maintain these is due to the fact that the share a core address validation code set, which is continuously refined to return the most accurate and up to date data available.

By choosing our services, you can rest assured that the service you integrate will not be left to be put out to pasture in the future  and will continue to push to provide you with the best data, regardless of which version of the service you are using.

We invite you to get started testing any of our 23 data quality services today.

Service Objects Announces Record Breaking Number of Transactions Processed on Cyber Monday 2017

Cyber Monday 2017 was a busy day for many online retailers, including Service Objects. We were so busy, in fact, that we processed a record number of contact data validation transactions. Looking at the online shopping stats, we shouldn’t be surprised. According to numbers released by Adobe Insights, shoppers spent 16.8% more in 2017 than on Cyber Monday 2016, setting a new online record of $6.6 billion in sales.  The mobile sales record was also surpassed, reaching $2 billion over a 24-hour period.

So why did Service Objects’ break our own record? Because our contact validation services play a vital role in the online shopping process for many merchants.  We enable retailers to verify that an individual’s contact information is genuine, accurate and up-to-date. In addition, by validating a person’s name, address, phone number, email and device, businesses significantly increase package delivery rates and considerably increase their ability to detect fraudulent transactions.

In fact, some of the largest retailers in the world use Service Objects’ real-time contact validation services. While consumers were busy breaking sales number records on Cyber Monday, Service Objects’ customers processed over a million more transactions on that day than previous years, making it the largest day in our history.

And we see this trend continuing. As online shopping continues to capture a larger percentage of retailers’ overall sales every year, Service Objects will play a vital role in ecommerce by providing the ability for merchants to validate and clean their customer contact data against hundreds of authoritative data sources – all in a blink of an eye. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a 99.999% server uptime guarantee, unlimited no cost technical support and bank grade transaction security.

For more information or to test any one of Service Objects’ 23 contact validation solutions, please visit https://www.serviceobjects.com/products.

Follow This Checklist to Ensure a Smooth API Integration

There can be a lot of “i’s” to dot and “t’s” to cross when integrating with any API.  Here at Service Objects, we certainly recognize there can be a lot on the to-do list when starting an integration project. Integrating with our APIs is pretty straight forward, but we have developed a quick checklist that will ensure it is as easy as possible to follow our best practices.

Failover, Failover, Failover
Service Objects prides ourselves as having 99.999% server uptime. However, in the unlikely event that we do experience an issue with one of our servers, implementing a failover configuration is arguably the most important aspect of integrating with any of our APIs. Proper failover configuration will ensure that your application continues to operate unhindered in an event that the primary Service Objects web server is unavailable or not responding as expected. Below is an example (using C# syntax) of proper failover configuration.

The example above is for our DOTS Address Validation 3 – US service, but this scenario will be relatively similar for our other services. The main thing to note is that the primary call is pointed towards ws.serviceobjects.com and the backup call within the catch statement is pointed to wsbackup.serviceobjects.com.  In the event that the primary web server is unresponsive, producing strange errors or behaving abnormally, then the backup URL will be called and your application will continue to function as expected.  Another important item to note is that proper failover will check the web service for an error response with a TypeCode of 3. This indicates that a fatal error has occurred in the web service and that the backup URL should be called. If you are using one of our older services, then the error object that service will return may be different (there will be only “Number” and “Desc” fields present in the Error object) and you will need to check for a Number value of 4 to indicate a fatal error.

URL Encoding

Properly encoding the URL you are using is also an item you will want to place on your to-do list for integration. If you are using a path parameter to access our services, then you’ll need to use what’s called RFC3986 encoding to encode your URLs. If you are using query string parameters to hit our services, then you can use the RFC3986 encoding or the older RCF2396 encoding. What do both of those RFC standards mean? Well in short, if you are using a query string URL, spaces can be acceptably replaced with “+” in the URL. If you’re using a path parameter URL, then spaces will have to be encoded with its hex equivalent %20. Using the RFC3986 standard encoding is generally the safer bet since it is the most accepted and newest.

Logging (we’re not talking cutting down trees)

We also highly recommend implementing some code that will log the requests and responses that our services provide. For the sake of customer privacy, we do not log information on our end. Logging can be a big help when troubleshooting your code. It can also be a big help to us if you ever need technical support. Since we do not log customer requests, it is very helpful for us to have the exact inputs or URL used when contacting our services. This will allow us to provide the stellar customer support that comes with integrating with a Service Objects’ API. If you do run into any issues, please send us your request and response as this will help us get to the bottom of whatever issue you are encountering as quickly as possible.

Null or Nothing Strings
Our output structure for most of our services is consistent and won’t change without notice.  For the most part, our structure will stay the same and we’ll return the elements in our output structure as blank strings as opposed to null objects. That being said, we still highly recommend that your application performs null checks before using the response or any of the nested elements from our service. Even though the output structure for our services is very consistent, appropriately null checking our response can save you and your application a lot of headaches if something unexpected occurs.

URLs, IP Addresses and Whitelisting
Some clients or prospects will ask us if they can access our web services by IP address or whitelist the IP address in their firewall. Well, you certainly can, but we highly recommend whitelisting or hitting our web service by the domain URL. Most modern firewalls will support whitelisting domains by names and we highly recommend utilizing this. The reason being that IP addresses can and will change. We have a lot of backups and redundancy set up in our web services that will go unnoticed if you are accessing the service via a domain. If you absolutely need to hit our service by IP address or whitelist them like that, please reach out to our support team and we will be happy to make recommendations on best practices and provide you the information you will need.

Use Cases
If you are curious to know if you are understanding the results correctly or want to know if you are using the right operation to get the functionality you want, our developer guides can help provide more clarity about certain inputs and outputs from the service of choice.

Summary
As discussed, integrating with any API can bring up a lot of questions. If this list didn’t cover your questions or particular use case, please feel free to send your requests or questions to support@serviceobjects.com and we will be happy to help you get up and running with any of our 24 data validation APIs.

Service Objects’ Average Response Time Ranks Higher Than Google…

When comparing SaaS providers, one of the key metrics that is often measured is the service response time. That response time, or latency, is a succinct measurement of the approximate time it will take for a response to be returned for a given query. Often, the major challenge in reducing response time is determining which service component is adding latency. At Service Objects, we are continually scrutinizing application optimization, network congestion, and monitoring real-time, real-world API calls to ensure our SaaS response times are second to none.

Our goal is to exceed availability and response times in our industry as a SaaS provider. We’ve invested in bank grade infrastructure and security, with data centers operating throughout the US. All of our databases are operating on the latest flash storage technology, returning query responses in less than 0.1s, and we are constantly enhancing and expanding our web server application pools. Bundle all of that with robust VMware clusters, multiple layers of network redundancy, and one of the industry’s only financially back service level agreements of 99.999% uptime and the result: we don’t just achieve industry standard availability and response times, we’ve raised the bar.

Third-party monitoring providers have ranked many of our DOTS Web Services average response times within the same echelon as leading tech companies, such as Apple and Google. In many cases, we are better than some of the biggest and well-known technology companies. Just how fast are we? If you are connecting from Los Angeles, our DOTS Address Validation service hosted in San Jose, CA boasts an incredible 0.089s response time. If your business is connecting from New York, we have you covered, with a lightning fast average response time of 0.27s from our New Jersey data center.

Service Objects recognizes how important it is to our customers to have little to no downtime. We are so committed to achieving this goal that we made Outstanding Network Performance one of our Core Values. We are continually monitoring our servers and measuring our response times, and as the graphic below illustrates, the results speak for themselves.

 

We’ve Raised the Bar to a 99.999% Uptime Guarantee

For many years, we’ve provided a Service Level Agreement with 99.995% availability guaranteed. This equates to less than 26 minutes of downtime annually, or less than 2 minutes and 11 seconds monthly. We’ve consistently achieved and exceeded this promise to our customers year after year, but wanted to take this commitment up a notch…

We’re excited to announce that we increased our Service Level Agreement to a 99.999% uptime guarantee, equating to less than 5 minutes of service downtime annually, or less than 26 seconds monthly!

What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)

SLAs make use of the knowledge of enterprise capacity demands, peak periods, and standard usage baselines to compose the enforceable and measurable outsourcing agreement between vendor and client. As such, an effective SLA will reflect goals for greater performance and capacity; productivity; flexibility and availability; and standardization.

At the same time, an SLA should set the stage for meeting or surpassing business and technology service levels, while identifying any gaps currently being experienced in the achievement of service levels.

SLAs capture the business objectives and define how success will be measured, and are ideally structured to evolve with the customer’s foreseeable needs. The right approach to SLAs result in agreements that are distinguished by clear, simple language, a tight focus on business objectives, and ones that consider the dynamic nature of business to ensure evolving needs will be met.

How We Do It

Redundancy
Multiple data centers provide redundancy by using redundant components, systems, subsystems, or facilities to counter inevitable failures or disruptions. Our servers operate in a virtualized environment, each utilizing multiple power supplies and redundant storage-arrays. Our firewalls and load-balancing appliances are configured in pairs, leveraging proven high-availability protocols, allowing for instantaneous fail-over.

Compliance
Compliance is an important benefit of professional data centers. In today’s business climate, data often falls under government or industry protection and retention regulations such as SSAE 16 standards, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Compliance is challenging without dedicated staff and resources. With the third party data center model, you can take advantage of the data center’s existing compliance and audit capabilities without having to invest in technology, dedicated staff, or training.

Data Security & Management
We’ve invested in “bank grade” security. Several of our data centers are guarded by five layers of security, including retinal scanners. All systems are constantly monitored and actively managed by our data center providers — both from a data security and a performance perspective. In addition, we operate our own in-house alerting and monitoring suites.

Geographic Load Balancing
Another key factor for ensuring uptime has to do with geographic load balancing and fail-over design. Geographic load balancing involves directing web traffic to different servers or data centers based on users’ geographic locations. This can optimize performance, allow for the delivery of custom content to users in a specific region, or provide additional fail-over capabilities.

Ensuring a high level of uptime comes down to: redundancy and resiliency, compliance, geographic load balancing, great data security, and 24/7 monitoring. All of these factors are equally important and contribute to our 99.999% uptime results — guaranteed!

We Won’t Let Storm Stella Affect Your Data Quality

A macro-scale cyclone referred to as a Nor’easter is forecasted to develop along the East Coast starting tonight and estimated to continue throughout Tuesday. In addition to typical storm preparations, have you ensured your data is also ready for Storm Stella?

Although we cannot assist you directly with storm preparations (water bottles, canned foods, batteries, candles, backup generators, blankets…etc) we will always ensure the integrity and reliability of our Web services. Since 2001, we’ve been committed to providing a high level of uptime during all types of conditions including storms, even Nor’easters. All of which comes down to: redundancy, resiliency, compliance, geographic load balancing, great data security, and 24/7 monitoring, contributing to our 99.999% availability of service offerings with one of the industry’s only financially backed service level agreement.  We take great pride in our system performance and are the only public web-service provider confident enough to openly publish our performance reports.

To ensure you are fully prepared for this storm in particular, it is important to note that our primary and backup data centers are in separate geographic locations. If an emergency occurs, you can re-point your application from our production data center to our backup data center.

The failover data center is designed to increase the availability of our web services in the event of a network or routing issue. Our primary data center hostname is: ws.serviceobjects.com and our backup data center hostname is wsbackup.serviceobjects.com.

You can also abstract the actual hostname into a configuration file, in order to simplify the process of changing hostnames in an emergency. Even in the case where your application handles failover logic properly, an easy-to-change hostname would allow your application to bypass a downed data center completely, and process transactions more quickly.

For most clients, simply updating their application to use our backup data center hostname should immediately restore connectivity. Your existing DOTS license key is already permitted to use our backup data center and no further actions should be needed.

Many of our clients with mission critical business applications take this action of configuring for failover in their application. We are available 24/7 to help with best practices and recommendations if you need any assistance before, during or after the storm!

Tech Support in the Age of Instant Gratification

We live in an age where an overabundance of information and resources are just a few clicks away. Even physical goods can be delivered to your front door the very same day you order.  People want and expect to have the similar convenience and response times when they need technical support.

Us tech support experts here at Service Objects completely understand that. One of our core values is to offer outstanding Customer Support to our clients. We have a good day at the office when we can quickly and effectively answer questions about our services, resolve issues and get the data hungry masses up and running with their validation service of choice.  To help ensure that our customers can get back to using their validation service for their business we have several avenues where people can seek support.

24/7 Phone Support

Do you have a pressing issue after hours?  We understand that this can be exceedingly stressful and frustrating.  We want help you get it resolved as quickly as possible.  If you do ever run into an after hours support issue call our office phone number (1.805.963.1700) and follow the prompts. Once directed leaved a message with a detailed description of the issue you are encountering and the best way to contact you and a member of our team will typically contact you within 20 minutes.

LiveChat Through our Website

Have a quick question that you want answered right away? Like: what URL you should be using? What does this particular response mean from the service? Is this an expected response from the service? Are there any current issues occurring with the service?  Is there a different endpoint I should hit for a different operation? Questions like this are examples of ones we would be happy to answer in our LiveChat on our website. Simply navigate to our website during business hours and someone will be able to start a LiveChat with you once you are available.  Once they do, simply state the question or issue you are experiencing, along with pertinent account information and we will happily assist in any way we can.

Support Tickets

The primary method to address and keep track of all our support inquiries is through our support ticketing system.  Whether you call in, use LiveChat or send us an email, most technical support issues will get sent to our ticketing system and we’ll use it to quickly and effectively address any issues or questions you may have.  To create a ticket, simply email support@serviceobjects.com or click here and you can fill out the form to get a ticket created. Feel free to use any of the above channels to contact us and we’ll be glad to offer any support that we can!

How To Achieve An SLA Of 99.995% Uptime

Any business offering Web services needs to be concerned with uptime. After all, if the service goes down, it becomes unusable. Here at Service Objects, that’s unthinkable! We’ve built resiliency and data security into our systems to ensure the integrity and reliability of our Web services. Here’s a peek behind the scenes:

Redundancy

DatacenterMultiple data centers provide redundancy by using redundant components, systems, subsystems, or facilities to counter inevitable failures or disruptions. Hardware WILL fail eventually, but should that happen, the redundant element will take over and continue supporting services to the user base. Users of a resilient system may never know that a disruption has occurred.

We house our servers and devices in professional data centers. This allows us to access economies of scale, advanced infrastructure, greater bandwidth, lower latency, and specialist services and systems. It also delivers a high level of 24/7 security, redundancy, and a whole host of additional advantages.

For example, our servers operate in a virtualized environment, each utilizing multiple power supplies and redundant storage-arrays. Our firewalls and load-balancing appliances are configured in pairs, leveraging proven high-availability protocols, allowing for instantaneous fail-over. Internet connections are configured using the HSRP redundancy protocol which ensures there is no single-point-of-failure that could render services unavailable.

Compliance

Compliance is an important benefit of professional data centers. In today’s business climate, data often falls under government or industry protection and retention regulations such as SSAE 16 standards, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Compliance is challenging without dedicated staff and resources.

With the third party data center model, you can take advantage of the data center’s existing compliance and audit capabilities without having to invest in technology, dedicated staff, or training.

Geographic Load Balancing

Another key factor for ensuring uptime has to do with geographic load balancing and fail-over design. Geographic load balancing involves directing web traffic to different servers or data centers based on users’ geographic locations. This can optimize performance, allow for the delivery of custom content to users in a specific region, or provide additional fail-over capabilities.

Using geographic load balancing also reduces latency by routing requests to the closest data center. For example, a customer operating in Los Angeles, California would be routed to a San Jose, California data center, while a customer in Miami, Florida would be routed to a data center located in New Jersey.

Data Security and Management

Feel secure knowing that your data is protected and safe within the walls of a continually monitored data center. We’ve invested in “bank grade” security. Several of our data centers are guarded by five layers of security, including retinal scanners.

All systems are constantly monitored and actively managed by our data center providers — both from a data security and a performance perspective. In addition, we operate our own in-house alerting and monitoring suites.

Ensuring a high level of uptime comes down to: redundancy and resiliency, compliance, geographic load balancing, great data security, and 24/7 monitoring. All of these factors are equally important and contribute to our 99.995 percent uptime results — guaranteed!

Service Objects is the industry leader in real-time contact validation services.

Service Objects has verified over 3 billion contact records for clients from various industries including retail, technology, government, communications, leisure, utilities, and finance. Since 2001, thousands of businesses and developers have used our APIs to validate transactions to reduce fraud, increase conversions, and enhance incoming leads, Web orders, and customer lists. READ MORE