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When is the right time to upgrade from a free API plan to a paid API plan?

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Many software company owners don’t program themselves; quite often they can just be individual start-up owners with great ideas for software, who get freelance software programmers to research and try out different APIs for their solution.

Sometimes the relationship between the software company owner and the software programmer is a new one, the company owner may be reluctant to providing their credit card details to a new freelance programmer to try out subscriptions to lots of API plans until the right API is found.  At the same time a freelance programmer is unlikely to use their own credit card details to test API services found on websites that they have never used before to do contract work for a hirer that has only just hired them.

Try before you buy

Even if a person is both the software developer and the programmer using an API, it just doesn’t sit comfortably with most people to provide card details until they know that a software solution works.  They want to know that a bona fide solution exists on the website that is claiming to provide the API service.  There are many reputable API service providers who have been in business a long time, and are respected in the API service industry, but first-time users of an API service won’t be familiar with who they are.  Unless the API service is provided by a globally recognised name such as Google, people will be reluctant to share their card details.

When searching for the right API to use, a free plan is good enough to test the API and pilot your project.

You know the API is the right API for your project when:

  •     you can extract the data that the API says it will allow you to extract
  •     you know that the API performs the functionality it says that it will perform
  •     you know that you or your programmer can nearly effortlessly integrate the API code in with your software code (it really helps if the API service provider provides example tutorial documentation for the programming language of your preference)
  •     you know that the integration of the API doesn’t cause any other conflicting issues with your code (it really helps if the API service provider provides clear and extensive documentation on the error codes that an API can return, so you can program better error handling code)

When your software is working, and all the above points have been figured out, then it is time to upgrade to a paid API service plan to bring your project to scale. This is when the free API calls aren’t sufficient to run your software all the time when you need it to run (your software regularly hits API call limit errors), this is also when the API calls are insufficient to scale your software so that more users can subscribe and pay for it.


Benefits of continuing with a paid plan

The benefits of continuing with a paid API plan are:

  •       Trust: Having tried the free plan you can now trust that the API service provider will provide you with the service that they say they will provide you with.
  •       Increased security: When you have provided your payment, the API service can now afford to give you a new level of security for retrieving and sending data to and from their service.  This is will often be in the form of https security, on more securely maintained servers.
  •       More calls and pay as you go scalability: The immediate benefit of upgrading to a paid API plan is that your software will get more API calls, this means it will less frequently hit API call limit errors, which is good for you and means uninterrupted service for your customers who may be dependent on your software service.  You don’t have to go for the most expensive API plan first, a good API service provider will let you upgrade your plan in line with your API call needs, giving you time to model and refine your business and customer pricing plan to cover your API usage fees.
  •   More support, basic or premium support: Unless you are developing software as a student or for a hobby, knowing that you have got a basic or higher level of support available when you need it is essential for most businesses providing or using Software As A Service to serve customers.  Even a relatively short-time of unresolved errors can result in customers cancelling a business service.  Basic and premium support included and guaranteed in your API service plan, means that you can build in to your own terms and conditions support response times.
  •   Livetime updates: Some API services are time sensitive, the better the API plan, the closer to live time updates you will be provided from the API service provider. This is particularly the case with financial market APIs, where the higher plans guarantee almost instantaneous market updates, whereas free plans might lag a few hours behind the markets.

If you have found a good API on a FREE plan that does all it says it will do and is easy to integrate into your software application, has good documentation for future programmers to follow in your preferred programming language, and that API is priced at a reasonable cost with scalable plans, and meets your needed support and live time update requirements, then what are you waiting for? Signup and reap the benefits.

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