Exploring Options for Incident Management: A Comparison of PagerDuty and Other Tools
Effective incident response is crucial for managing operational issues and resolving them in a complex technology environment. With the increasing complexity of systems built from numerous services, it is important for companies to have a way to keep these systems running smoothly.
The role of the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE), often associated with incident response, has gained significant attention in recent years. Google has even created a website, SRE.google, dedicated to providing information about becoming an SRE and managing the SRE function.
The skills, knowledge, and tools required for building, running, and debugging large applications and platforms composed of numerous microservices differ from those needed for building and running large, complex applications and services, known as monoliths. The SRE skill set has become an essential part of implementing DevOps practices.
In this article, we will examine several tools commonly used for incident response and examine their unique perspectives and user experiences. These include PagerDuty, Opsgenie, Better uptime, xMatters, VictorOps (now Splunk On-Call), DataDog, and FireHydrant.
While PagerDuty is a popular choice among SRE teams, there is a significant amount of innovation happening in the development of new systems to better serve the needs of SREs. One such tool is Zenduty, a preferred choice for incident management due to its comprehensive and user-friendly platform, as well as its strong security and reliability."
The Functions of Incident Response Tools
To understand the importance of seeking out alternatives to PagerDuty and to provide useful guidance, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what incident response tools do. These tools generally assist with the following:
On-call management: Alerting the appropriate individual or incident response team through various communication channels, escalating to find another team member if there is no response, ensuring sufficient resources are available, and calling in additional help if the team becomes overwhelmed. They may also support self-scheduling for on-call shifts.
Event and alert management and analysis: Helping to make sense of a large number of events and alerts from various monitoring systems in order to identify the root cause and assign it to a team for resolution. This may involve grouping and analyzing alerts automatically.
Incident Response: Organizing the process of defining an incident, linking it to events and alerts, building a team to resolve it, updating stakeholders on progress, coordinating the team's work, monitoring the resolution process, and learning from the incident to identify root causes, improve runbooks, and identify opportunities for automation and prevention.
Operational reporting and analytics: Providing dashboards with information about team performance and service health through the use of reporting and analytics. Integration with application monitoring tools is often critical for this function.
Runbook creation, execution, and maintenance: Capturing knowledge about how to resolve common incidents, maintaining that knowledge, using it during incident response, and suggesting ways to address root causes. Runbooks may also advise on how to execute processes, when to use relevant automations and analytics, and suggest methods for collaboration.
Automation of tasks and processes: Increasing automation for tasks and processes involved in monitoring, gathering information during incident analysis, analyzing the information, and taking action to resolve incidents. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly being applied to all aspects of incident response.
Connectivity, integration, and orchestration of related systems: Connecting and integrating data and services from a wide range of systems is crucial for incident response. This connectivity expands the potential for automation and analytics.
With this understanding of what incident response tools do, we can now examine the available options.
PagerDuty is a company that has been around for a while and has helped support the role of SRE (Site Reliability Engineer) and manage operations duties to ensure uptime. Founded in 2009, PagerDuty became a public company in 2019 and has over 900 employees. In 2022, the company recorded a revenue of $281 million.
PagerDuty offers a variety of products that cater to the needs of SREs including: on-call management, incident response, runbooks (which were improved by the acquisition of RunDeck), automation, event management, and operational analytics. While many other companies in the same field offer some of these services, PagerDuty is one of the few that provides all of them.
One of the things that PagerDuty is known for is its reliable and robust system for scheduling on-call coverage and routing alerts and events from monitoring tools to the right people, as well as managing escalation. This system can be customized to fit the needs of individual teams and is also available through a user-friendly mobile app.
PagerDuty also has a wide range of integrations and allows users to connect to more than 300 other systems through its API. In addition, the company's incident response capability includes best practices like blameless postmortems. PagerDuty's runbooks use machine learning to identify redundant and duplicate events, suggest actions for resolution, and keep everyone involved in the incident informed of what is happening.
However, some PagerDuty users have expressed dissatisfaction with the price of the service and the need to pay for upgrades and additional licenses to access certain features. The quality of the operational analytics and reporting has also been a point of criticism for some users.
Additionally, some users have reported that the user interface can be difficult to work with and not always clear. This issue with user experience is a common complaint among users of PagerDuty's competitors as well.
Despite these drawbacks, PagerDuty is currently the most popular product among SRE teams and those doing similar work. In an effort to maintain its position in the market, the company has been expanding and improving its product portfolio with advanced runbook capabilities (based on the RunDeck acquisition), the use of AI and machine learning, and even more integrations.
However, users should be aware that to fully utilize all that PagerDuty has to offer, they may need to pay for additional upgrades and licenses. This is something that is not uncommon for enterprise software products that have reached maturity.
Zenduty vs PagerDuty
Launched in 2019, Zenduty is the only full-stack alternative to PagerDuty, which combines both incident escalations and response orchestration capabilities into a single, powerful, and end-to-end major incident management system.
Zenduty’s strength lies in the fact that it can scale your incident response as your business and teams grow. The Zenduty customer is a fast-growing, cloud-native company with well-defined SLAs and a thriving SRE culture.
Right off the bat, Zenduty handles incident alerting and escalations of alerts across different teams, depending on the impacted service and the nature of the impact. Zenduty’s Alert Rules is an extremely powerful feature that not only helps you custom route alerts depending on conditions that you can create based on the alert payload but also lets you write robust noise suppression rules as well. You can also dynamically assign escalation policies, assignees, priorities, SLAs, incident tasks, and notes to the incident based on different conditions. Large teams have the option of managing their escalation policies and on-call schedules via API or their Terraform providers.
Zenduty has hands-down the best Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts Chat integrations in the market. For teams that practically live in their favorite team chat platform, Zenduty’s bot UI pretty much lets you handle the entire incident workflow within your team chat application.
Before the relevant teams even acknowledge the incident, Zenduty automatically creates the associated Jira tickets, and Zoom/Google conference bridges, and sends the alerts to specific Slack channels with an option to create dedicated Slack war rooms for incidents. These serve as the “Comms” for the incident.
Next, Zenduty pulls all associated playbooks (or as they call “Task Templates”) within the incidents, except they are not your traditional incident response document, but an itemized checklist of “tasks” that need to be performed.
This brings us to one of the key differentiators of Zenduty - Incident Tasks and Incident Roles. Roles and Tasks play a very key part in the overall incident response experience within Zenduty, in that it allows you(as the on-call engineer or Incident Commander) to efficiently delegate specific tasks (which may need specific access or knowledge) to specific individuals. Incident Roles help you implement a recursive separation of roles and responsibilities during a major incident - everybody knows exactly who is handling which aspect of an incident. To key stakeholders, management and observers, Zenduty serves as a single source of truth for all major incidents.
Another killer capability that Zenduty has is stakeholder communications and the ability for active incident responders to send out incident updates to key internal and external stakeholders in a few clicks in less than a minute using “Stakeholder templates”. Stakeholder communication is an often overlooked aspect of incident response, and rightly so - responders are so laser-focused on remediation that stakeholder comms can sometimes be deprioritized. But Zenduty makes Stakeholder comms super easy.
There are so many more capabilities under the hood like their Analytics with cool drill-down capabilities, Incident Postmortems, SLAs, and Tags. Their plans are crafted for small and large teams and it’s probably the alternative that gives you the best value on price (their plans start from $5/user/month and go to $21/user/month for their highest plan).
Opsgenie vs PagerDuty
In 2018, OpsGenie was acquired by Atlassian, a well-known Australian company with annual revenues exceeding $2.803 billion in 2022. With over 8,000 employees, Atlassian has a diverse range of products including the Jira family of products and Trello, a Kanban-style project management software.
These products are focused on supporting agile software development, fixing and supporting systems after they have been launched, building software, and collaboration. OpsGenie falls under the category of support and fix in Atlassian's portfolio and has long been considered a competitor to PagerDuty.
Unlike other companies in the same field, OpsGenie's approach to incident response (IR) begins with its event and alert management capability, which is designed to "ensure you will never miss a critical alert," according to the company's website. This alerting function can notify SRE teams through multiple channels, enrich alerts, take automated actions, set policies for how alerts are handled, and implement heartbeat and monitoring functions.
The product also handles on-call management with a range of features including routing rules, escalations, and on-call reminders. The analytics and reporting capabilities allow users to analyze alert activity and resolutions and create various metrics. OpsGenie also supports collaboration through integrations with popular communication tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom.
One thing that users appreciate about OpsGenie is the ability to correlate alerts with recent deployment activity, which can help quickly identify problems caused by new code. The free version of the product, which supports five users and unlimited SMS messages, is also popular. As you might expect, OpsGenie is tightly integrated with other Atlassian products like the Jira ticketing system and the Confluence wiki, which is often used for capturing knowledge and creating runbooks.
The company also offers the ability to create postmortem reports using templates that can be enhanced with queries and analytics to show exactly what happened during an incident and how it was resolved. The mobile apps for Apple iOS and Android are well-liked by users, a feature that is becoming standard among OpsGenie's competitors.
Like many IR products, some users have expressed concerns about the complexity of the user experience, particularly for those who are new to the product. Additionally, some users have said that the documentation could be improved, especially when it comes to onboarding and initial setup, and that it can be difficult to set rules and policies for handling alerts. Users have also expressed a desire for more capabilities for orchestration and automation of tasks and responses.
Overall, OpsGenie fits well within the Atlassian ecosystem and provides most of the basic IR capabilities needed by SRE and technical operations teams. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to get started with the product. It remains to be seen if OpsGenie will be the kind of product that breaks new ground or simply keeps up with the basics of IR capabilities.
For example, many other OpsGenie competitors are enhancing their runbooks with a variety of features. While Confluence wikis have been a helpful tool for capturing knowledge, it is uncertain if more will be needed to keep up with the increasing complexity of IR.
xMatters as a PagerDuty Alternative
xMatters is a company that was founded in 2000 and raised $96 million in eight rounds before being acquired by Everbridge in 2021. The company provides on-call management, event and alert management (which it refers to as signal intelligence), adaptive incident management, reporting and analytics, and automation of workflows.
While many of xMatters' competitors primarily focus on SRE and DevOps, xMatters seeks to address a wider range of use cases in infrastructure and technical operations, as well as business continuity. This broader focus aligns with Everbridge's larger mission to provide solutions for critical event management use cases. Therefore, while xMatters could be a PagerDuty alternative, it can also handle a variety of other use cases.
Some customers use xMatters as an integration hub to consolidate information and distribute it to other apps. The adaptive incident management features make use of this automation, but also support learning from events to improve future performance. The desire to support learning is a focus shared by many of xMatters' competitors.
Many xMatters users have expressed a desire for more robust integration with ServiceNow, which may reflect the fact that xMatters' customer base includes large traditional IT organizations where ServiceNow is widely used.
Additionally, the Android mobile app has been a point of criticism for some users. Some users have also requested more flexibility in event and alert routing rules, especially the ability to suppress routing of seemingly high-priority events under certain circumstances where resolution is less urgent. As is the case for many xMatters competitors, some users have also expressed a desire for a user interface that is less confusing.
Compare PagerDuty with VictorOps (Splunk On-call)
VictorOps was founded in 2012 and raised $33.7M in funding over four rounds before being acquired by Splunk in 2018 and rebranded as Splunk On-Call. Splunk On-Call often falls under the category of PagerDuty alternative.
Splunk On-Call receives events and alerts from a variety of monitoring and alerting tools and then notifies those on an on-call schedule, escalating to backup personnel if needed. The alerts can be grouped and enhanced by the Transmogrifier, which applies a set of rules that allow annotations and documents to be attached to the alert to provide guidance on how to resolve it. Notifications are received via mobile apps and other channels. The reporting feature analyzes how alerts have been handled.
One thing that users like about Splunk On-Call is its Twitter-style timeline that allows anyone handling an alert to see the other alerts that are being processed. The mobile apps, particularly the in-app messaging feature that supports rapid communication, are also highly rated.
When a longer discussion is needed, Splunk On-Call's Control Calling feature sets up a conference bridge and invites everyone to join. The integration with various communication channels is a focus for many of Splunk On-Call's competitors. In general, once the Transmogrifier rules are set up, SREs receive alerts with suggestions on how to resolve them.
As with many other Splunk On-Call alternatives, some users have expressed a desire for a less complex and confusing user interface. A common complaint is the difficulty of overriding an established on-call schedule to accommodate temporary changes in personnel. Some users have also expressed a desire to implement runbooks within the product.
Additionally, some users feel that the pace of innovation has slowed since the acquisition by Splunk compared to other alternatives.
PagerDuty Alternative: Datadog Incident Management
Datadog Incident Management was launched in 2020 to add incident response capabilities to Datadog's cloud monitoring service. Unlike most of its competitors, DataDog Incident Management does not offer on-call management capabilities, which makes it only a partial PagerDuty alternative. The aim of Datadog Incident Management is to automate as much as possible the process of analyzing alerts, creating incidents, and identifying the team needed for resolution.
The product supports collaboration and knowledge capture with interactive timelines and allows much of the work to be done from within Slack or the mobile app. Datadog's wide range of integrations allow for in-depth analysis of metrics and alerts and automatic creation of tickets and other tracking and collaboration mechanisms. Activity to resolve incidents is automatically collected to create post-mortem reports and report on common metrics related to incident response, such as MTTR.
Datadog Incident Management offers interactive and real-time notebooks that support comments and embedded graphics, eliminating the need to create runbooks and other key documents in other systems. Users appreciate the tight integration with observability functions that allows for seamless transitioning from incident to metric exploration. The Slack chatbot client also allows for quick responses to issues before diving into the product for more detailed analysis.
For users who are already Datadog enthusiasts, Datadog Incident Management may be a good fit, especially in complex environments. However, SREs looking for a one-stop-shop for incident response may not find what they are looking for at Datadog, particularly if they do not have a large amount of IT Service Management, observability, and automation tooling in place.
The lack of on-call management may also be a drawback for some users, although Datadog does integrate with other incident response apps such as PagerDuty and Opsgenie.
PagerDuty vs FireHydrant
New York-based company FireHydrant was founded in 2018 and has raised $32.5 million in two rounds. The company, which has over 50 staff, aims to help its clients "manage the mayhem" by defining, supporting, and automating incident response processes. Like DataDog, FireHydrant is not a complete PagerDuty alternative as it does not offer on-call management.
FireHydrant seeks to bring best practices to incident management based on the FEMA's Incident Commander framework and allows incidents to be declared and managed from Slack and through integrations with other tools such as on-call notifications and ticketing. The company aims to speed up incident resolution by using its service catalog, which tracks services, service owners, observability data, and deployment activity.
By monitoring deployments, FireHydrant aims to identify where problems began. The product also seeks to increase automation in runbooks to boost efficiency and free up more time for resolution. It offers features such as end-user facing status pages that are automatically updated when services are disrupted and automatically captures a timeline of activity during an incident to support retrospectives.
Users appreciate the way FireHydrant clarifies roles in the incident response process, assigning responsibilities to the incident commander and other supporting roles, which brings consistency to the entire lifecycle.
While the best practice processes in the product are just a starting point and can be modified to fit the needs of an SRE team, they bring process discipline and accountability and provide a structure for introducing new processes.
The Slack integration and automated reports for retrospectives are also popular. However, some users have expressed frustration about the lack of native on-call capabilities, the inability to clone runbooks, the inability to update and correct a retrospective report once it is published, and lack of clarity on how integrations work.
PagerDuty Alternative: AlertOps
Founded in the year 2012, Alertops is a tool for incident management and IT service management. With no free plan available, Alertops offers a range of paid packages, starting with the Standard package, which includes limited features such as data retention for only 3 months and limited escalations and alerting features.
While Alertops lacks regular uptime monitoring or RUM (real user monitoring), it does offer heartbeat (cron job) monitoring as part of its higher-tier plans, which can be useful for monitoring database backups or other scheduled tasks.
In addition to its paid packages, Alertops offers unlimited phone and SMS alerts as part of its higher-tier plans. However, the tool is on the more expensive side compared to other Pagerduty alternatives and requires teams to schedule a demo before starting to schedule on-call and integrating monitoring and alerting tools.
Despite these drawbacks, Alertops may be a good fit for teams looking for a long-term commitment to incident management and IT service management.
Compare PagerDuty with Better Uptime
Better Uptime is a platform founded in 2015 that combines incident management, uptime monitoring, and status pages into one product. Its incident management feature includes an on-call calendar that can be accessed in-app or integrated with Google Calendar. This feature also includes advanced team management and access options.
When it comes to alerting, Better Uptime offers unlimited phone call and SMS alerts for paid plans and integrates with Slack and Microsoft Teams. It also allows for the embedding of incident screenshots and debug information in alerts.
One of the main benefits of Better Uptime is its built-in uptime monitoring, which includes options for HTTP(s), ping, SSL&TLD expiration, cron job, and port monitoring. These monitors can be integrated with on-call alerting without the need for third-party monitoring tools.
In terms of integrations, Better Uptime offers a variety of monitoring and analytical options, including Heroku, New Relic, Datadog, AWS, and Grafana.
Additionally, Better Uptime provides a free status page that is connected to existing monitors and can be edited quickly. The status page can be customized and published on a custom domain, and paid plans allow for the creation of password-protected pages and e-mail and API status subscriptions.
While Better Uptime does have several useful features, it should be noted that it may not be the most budget-friendly option for small businesses and some users may find the interface less intuitive than competing products.
PagerDuty vs Grafana On-call
Grafana On-call is an extension to the Grafana monitoring tool that aims to improve incident management for teams. It was introduced in September 2022 and follows best practices for incident management.
The tool offers various features to help teams manage incidents, including the ability to declare an incident in the web UI or chat, assign incident roles, use a chatbot with a command-line interface, add context to incidents through integrations, access a task manager, view an activity timeline, and use a present feature for postmortem purposes.
The tool also includes a Suggestbot feature that uses machine learning and natural language processing to suggest related dashboards based on the title of the incident.
However, it is worth noting that the effectiveness of these features may vary depending on the user's needs and preferences.
Resolver a PagerDuty Alternative
As a business, it's important to have a solid incident management plan in place to ensure security and reliability. That's where Resolver comes in. This software offers a comprehensive solution for incident management, with a focus on catering to the needs of big corporate players like Toyota, Starbucks, and T-Mobile.
One of the standout features of Resolver is its hotlines and incident portal, which allow you to create easy-to-use channels for incident reporting. This helps ensure that incidents don't go unreported, which is crucial for maintaining security and reliability. Plus, the AI-Enabled Intelligent Triage feature automatically tags your incidents to speed up the process and identify correlations and trends across incidents.
But Resolver is more than just a tool – it's also focused on understanding your team's workflow and adapting to it. Its customizable features allow you to tailor the product to your specific needs, and you can even build your own analytics and reports to deliver essential information, including root cause analysis and data warehouse analytics.
However, it's worth noting that Resolver is primarily geared towards large enterprise clients, and the scale of incidents it can handle may be more than what an ordinary client would need. Additionally, some users have reported that the software can be complex and difficult to use for those unfamiliar with it.
Overall, Resolver is a solid choice for businesses looking to improve their incident management and ensure security and reliability. Just be aware that it may not be the best fit for smaller companies or those with simpler needs.
This analysis should give you a better sense of what PagerDuty does vs. the alternatives. Whether you are interested in PagerDuty vs. Zenduty, PagerDuty vs. Opsgenie, PagerDuty vs. Better Uptime, PagerDuty vs FireHydrant, PagerDuty vs. xMatters, PagerDuty vs. VictorOps, the sweet spot of each of these products should be more clear.