Sunday, June 5, 2016

Zip code data in Sitecore

The source code and documentation for this solution are available on GitHub. Download

Good old postal Zip Codes. Not a very exciting subject, but it seems like every year or two, I run into a solution that requires access to a zip code database.

There are several commercial services that provide extensive zip code data, but there is at least one free database available ( that includes a decent amount of data, including coordinates, city and state, and time zone.

Latitude and longitude can be useful if for example you needed to put an "approximate" pin in a map.

We recently ran into a situation where we needed to know the visitor's time zone. Sitecore GeoIP data includes zip codes, but not time zones. All I need is to wire that up to a zip code database, and I'm all set. (And before you quibble over the accuracy, don't. I know it's not perfect; I think of this as a "good enough" solution).

So I set up a solution to provide Sitecore with an API for looking up zip codes. I started with a few goals:

  • I want to be able to use this in any Sitecore solution.,
  • I don't want to use SQL. It's always administrative and deployment hassle to use custom SQL tables.
  • I don't want to impose a schema on every application that uses this. Sure, that free zip database is fine for what I need now, but others may have more detailed data they'd like to use.
  • I want to use a swappable provider so other applications can change how the data is imported, where it is stored, and/or how it is queried.
  • For my default provider, I want it to "just work". I drop the file into a folder, and my Sitecore app has access to the data (well, I did end up also needing to add a mongo connection string to the connectionstrings.config file).

I decided to use MongoDB to store the data. Once I have a connection string, I can create collections and add data with any schema I want, without bugging the SQL admins. I also added to add a caching layer. I'm probably going to access this data from rules and such, and I want it to be zippy-quick.

The data flow looks like this:

The idea is, the operational data stored in MongoDB, and accessed through a caching layer at runtime. At application start (and via an administrative interface), the data file date is compared to the last time the data was imported, and if the file is newer, it is re-imported.

Installing the module

Install the update package in your Sitecore application. When Sitecore starts, it will populate a MongoDB database with data from a provided zip code document located in App_Data. This file is sourced from

Whenever this file is updated, it will be reloaded the next time Sitecore starts.

Add a connection string to your ConnectionStrings.config file with the name you'd like to use for your Mongo database. For example

<add name="zipinfo" connectionString="mongodb://localhost:27017/zipinfo" />

If you want to use a separate mongo database for each Sitecore instance sharing a common Mongo server, change the connectionString e.g.

The update package will place a copy of the data file in your App_Data folder. You can relocate this to the Sitecore data folder if you desire.

Using the module

The module exposes a "manager" static class (ZipInfo.ZipInfoManager) with static methods like Get(int zipCode) to access the data. I won't get into all the methods here (see the documentation), but there are methods for both retrieve/update and cache management operations.

The update package will also install a utility at /sitecore/admin/zipinfo.aspx that'll allow you to query the database, manage the cache, and re-import the data.

The module exposes a provider class that can be swapped out with your own provider. If you have more detailed data in a a csv file, you can simply inherit from the default provider, create your own POCO class, and override the LoadRecord method that maps fields on the csv line to the POCO. If you need a different method for loading the data rather than reading it from a csv file, override the Load method. If you don;t want to use mongo, you can replace the entire provider by creating a class that implements IZipInfoProvider. More information about the provider is available in the docs.

The source code and documentation for this solution are available on GitHub. Download

No comments:

Post a Comment