First Look

Zapier zaps connecting apps

Forget custom app connections and reinventing the wheel; Zapier can do it all for you.

connecting
Credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham / Flickr

You could argue that the main task of IT is to connect stuff together. We connect data to processes, processes to people and other processes, hardware to hardware … it’s all about getting stuff talking to achieve a goal. We turn shopping cart data into pick orders that result in people getting the junk they order online. We take text from users and relay it to other users and processes. We’re all about connections and connecting.

The problem is that we have to keep inventing and re-inventing ways to achieve these connections. Sometime — rarely — we can repurpose some old connection method to solve a new linking problem but even then, tweaks are often required.

There's a company that intends to make your app and data connection issues much easier: Zapier. In many ways, Zapier is like IFTTT which I first wrote about in 2011 with one major difference: IFTTT currently offers 160 “channels” (services that can be connected), while Zapier supports over 350 apps many of which are what you might think of as more business-oriented than those available on IFTTT; for example, Zapier can work with MailChimp, Zoho CRM, Github, Zendesk, and Quickbooks.  Some of these business apps such as Zendesk and Salesforce are premium services that aren’t available on the free plan.

Also, unlike IFTTT, Zapier has a developer platform so you can connect whatever apps you please which is great not only for custom corporate apps but also for app developers looking to extend the functionality of their offerings.

zapier define zap Zapier

Defining a "Zap"

Zapier uses “triggers” (i.e. events such as a message to customer support via Gmail) that execute “actions” (interactions with apps such as adding it to the inbound queue in Zendesk).

zapier task history Zapier

Zapier Task history

Subscriptions to Zapier start with a free account that allows for 5 “Zaps” (“a connection, or integration, between two apps that automates your workflow”) which run every 15 minutes and 100 “Tasks” (“A Task is counted every time we move a piece of data or take an action on your behalf.”). Charged-for accounts start with Basic at $20 per month for 20 Zaps every 15 minutes and 3,000 Tasks along with Premium Services (integration with business applications as discussed above), up to Infrastructure at $125 per month for $125 Zaps run every 5 minutes with 50,000 Tasks, Premium Services, and historical task logs. 

Zapier is a powerful tool to help IT to keep making connections without going broke in the process and without incurring the time delays associated with re-inventing the wheel time and time again.

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