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Exploring PagerDuty Alternatives for Incident Response

July 26, 2022
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Exploring PagerDuty Alternatives for Incident Response
July 26, 2022
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Incident response refers to effectively responding to infrastructure issues and resolving them in the shortest time frame possible. Due to several loss-inducing high-profile outages over the last few years, organizations have sought to create rigorous processes with specialized tools to resolve incidents quickly and learn from their failures.

As one of the first platforms to enter the incident response space, PagerDuty is a dominant player, but over the years, competing platforms have begun carving out their own niche in the incident response space.

In this blog, we look at some of the best incident response platforms that can help organizations improve their reliability.

What do Incident Management platforms do?

With increasing cloud infrastructure complexity, application data is often spread across multiple locations. Having a centralized incident response approach can help with efficient monitoring and response. First, it's important to have a clear understanding of why someone would seek a PagerDuty alternative. Incident response tools help with tasks like:

  • Ensuring appropriate alerting and escalation of incidents to the right resources when necessary.
  • Deduplicating identical alerts and understanding alert priority.
  • Integrating with alert sources, monitoring and logging tools.
  • Creating on-call schedules to bridge international time zone gaps to avoid unplanned scheduling, alert fatigue, and more.
  • Developing comprehensive analytics dashboards and reporting to track team performance and infrastructure health.
  • Setting up incident war rooms and using timeline creation features after a major outage for efficient retrospectives.
  • Automating routine tasks and incident response with the help of artificial intelligence, runbooks, etc.

Now that we have a basic understanding of incident response tools, let us take a look at some of the prominent platforms used by on-call teams.

PagerDuty

PagerDuty began operations in 2009. It was introduced as a tool to help on-call engineers deal with infrastructure issues before they were noticed by users.

In 2019, the organization went public on the New York Stock Exchange. PagerDuty's on-call scheduling, alert and event routing, and escalation management are all dependable and strong. Some users appreciate the ability of teams to customize alerts and event management. In addition, the API's ability to link to more than 300 other systems is a big benefit. PagerDuty supports the use of Runbooks to detect repetitive and duplicative occurrences, provide remedies, and alert all those involved.

PagerDuty does not position itself as an SRE tool and prefers to focus on incident response for enterprise players. As of 2022, SLO (service level objective) monitoring cannot be done on PagerDuty natively.

Current challenges with PagerDuty include expensive pricing tiers and smaller organizations having trouble getting their support queries resolved. Numerous PagerDuty users also complain about the unintuitive user interface. Users also find the functionality offered by the PagerDuty mobile app to be lacking. PagerDuty users find that alert deduplication and alert suppression are difficult to implement.

Opsgenie

Similar to PagerDuty, Opsgenie helps development and operations teams prepare for service outages and maintain control during incidents. It is geared towards enabling on-call teams to proactively monitor their infrastructure and prevent future outages. Opsgenie also offers integrations with monitoring, ticketing and ChatOps tools. It is very good at aggregating alerts, filtering out noise and delivering the required information for your team to promptly begin resolution.

Organizations prefer to use Opsgenie due to its strong affiliation with other Atlassian products. Atlassian tools such as Jira and Confluence are deeply connected with Opsgenie. This helps in executing runbook automation. Postmortem reports can be generated using templates in Opsgenie and further improved using queries and analytics.

Users have expressed dissatisfaction with the mobile application's user interface and the unintuitive on-call scheduling process. There are restrictions on what may be included in a Slack alert message coming from Opsgenie and it will need appropriate configuration. Some users have also found it difficult to use their in-built query language. Since it's expensive compared to other platforms, small businesses typically find it difficult to afford Opsgenie.

xMatters

xMatters, an Everbridge Company, is a service dependability platform that assists DevOps, SREs, and operations teams in automating processes, ensuring applications are always operational, and delivering solutions at scale quickly. Their code-free workflow builder, adaptive approach to incident management, and real-time performance metrics are some of the features that their users find most useful.

You can modify user schedules based on signal intelligence rules, which determine whether a user has to be notified or not. Due to its low-code approach and JavaScript's extensibility, workflow automation is often used by non-coders who want to build their own automations.

While the workflows and other automation features are appreciated, user reviews suggest the Android application can be enhanced for a better user experience. User reviews also suggest enhancements that support customization of alert tones based on priority. Certain users are also unhappy with the user interface of Xmatters. Due to the complexity of the platform, configuring workflows and understanding the user interface takes some time. This can be a buzz-kill for smaller teams that need to quickly set up a functioning incident management platform.

Splunk On-Call

Splunk seeks to differentiate itself with better observability features. It has integrations with leading observability tools to help DevOps and SREs gain better insights into their infrastructure.

Even though Splunk has on-call features, it lacks many standard SRE features. Instead, the focus is more on enterprise level observability and anomaly detection with the help of AI in their customers' infrastructure.

Splunk On-Call users feel the interface should be more user-friendly. Changing an on-call schedule to accommodate a temporary staff change is often cited as a source of frustration by some users. For some features, the charges depend upon the amount of data used, so the price may become unaffordable for teams on a small budget.

The web user interface and the query language feel unintuitive to some users. Overriding an on-call schedule with Splunk is inconvenient (unless you are an admin, you cannot change someone's on-call schedule). Complicated handoffs are tough to schedule. Often, teams and users struggle with Splunk page loading times. In terms of reporting, Splunk offers basic features only. Users cannot create hourly and daily timetables without using ingenious workarounds.

Datadog

In 2020, Datadog incorporated incident management into their cloud monitoring service.

DataDog Incident Management is partially a PagerDuty substitute since it focuses on incident management rather than on-call management like most of its rivals. Datadog Event Management automates analysis of alerts, creation of incidents, and identification of a resolution team for each incident.

By using Slack or the mobile app, users can complete the majority of their tasks while staying connected through the product's dynamic timelines. Datadog offers incident management notebooks, so runbooks and other important documentation doesn't have to be created in other systems anymore. These are interactive, real-time notebooks that incorporate comments and integrated visuals. Users also like the close integration of observability services with incident-to-metrics exploration. This makes the entire process smooth. Prior to further product study, the Slack chatbot client provides immediate problem resolution.

If you have a big, complicated environment and already use Datadog, Datadog Incident Management may make sense. In the absence of ITSM, observability, and automation technologies, SREs won't be able to locate a one-stop shop for issue response at Datadog. The billing process lacks transparency; this has been a major complaint among their users.

Squadcast

Squadcast is a tool that seeks to democratize SRE by combining the best elements of on-call and SRE best practices. Squadcast users have successfully used the platform as a central dashboard for their monitoring tools, as a place to rapidly communicate with the help of incident rooms after a major outage, and also to create detailed postmortems.

Squadcast users can also respond rapidly to outages with the help of the mobile app. It allows users to do one-click rollbacks with the help of CI/CD integrations. As modern cloud environments have become increasingly complex, there is a need for a platform that can separate meaningful alerts from the noise.

Squadcast is a platform that seeks to inculcate practices of the 5Rs of reliability. It is a continuous process that organizations can implement to get better at tackling incident outages. Squadcast has been praised by its users for being easy to configure and scale.

Conclusion

Each of these tools has its own strengths and weaknesses. The platform that you will use depends on the nature of your evolving incident response and reliability needs. Some offer better integrations, others have a more user-friendly setup in place. As your incident response system matures, you will need to decide on the platform that works best for you. We hope this blog helped you decide which of these PagerDuty alternatives serves your purpose best. (P.S. our customers have found us to be the best PagerDuty alternative).

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July 26, 2022
July 26, 2022
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