The role of the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE), often associated with incident response, has gained significant attention in recent years. Google's SRE.google website is solely dedicated to guiding individuals on becoming an SRE and managing this critical function.

In this article, we will examine several tools commonly used for incident response and examine their unique perspectives and user experiences.

Pagerduty Alternatives Compared (Free/Paid) 2024:

PagerDuty Alternative Suited for Best for Primary value proposition and product focus Free plan Paid plans start at G2 rating
PagerDuty Large Enterprises, Established IM Teams, Pricing No Concern, Primary Interest in Incident Alerting, Interest in Automation Enterprise, B2B Incident alerting and MTTD minimization 14-day free trial $25 per user /month 4.5
Zenduty Large Enterprises, Small Businesses, Growing Startups, Established IM Teams, Companies Getting Started with IM Practices, Companies looking for an end-to-end IM solution, Companies Seeking Affordable Pricing, Companies Requiring Prompt Support, Interest in Automation, Interest in ChatOps Enterprise, B2B, E-commerce, Small businesses, Startups, SaaS Incident management with alerting and response orchestration, MTTR minimization 14-day free trial $5 per user/month 4.6
Opsgenie Large Enterprises, Growing Startups, Established IM Teams, Companies With High Error Budgets, User Experience Not a Concern Enterprise, B2B Incident alerting and MTTD minimization within Atlassian ecosystem 14-day free trial $11 per user /month 4.3
Xmatters Large Enterprises, Established IM Teams, Pricing No Concern, Primary Interest in Incident Automation Enterprise, B2B Incident alerting and MTTD minimization No Free Trial $9 per user / month 4.4
Splunk (formerly Victorops) Large Enterprises, Established IM Teams, User Experience Not a Concern, Support Not a Concern Enterprise, B2B Incident management within Splunk ecosystem 14-day free trial N/A 4.3
Datadog Large Enterprises, Teams Requiring Basic Incident Management, Pricing No Concern, Teams Not Interested in Alerting/On-Call/Escalations Enterprise, B2B Observability and diagnostics 14-day free trial $15 per host / month 4.3
FireHydrant Growing Startups, Not Interested in Alerting or On-Call, Primary Interest in ChatOps Enterprise, SMB, B2B Slack-centric incident response orchestration 14-day free trial $19 per user/month 4.4
AlertOps Large Enterprises, Managed Service Providers, User Experience not a Concern SMB, B2B Incident alerting and MTTD minimization 14-day free trial $5 per user/month (upto 10 users) 4.6
BetterStack Freelancers, Growing Startups, Small Businesses, Companies Getting Started with Monitoring/IM Practices, Primary Interest in StatusPage/Heartbeat Monitors SMB, B2B Observability and diagnostics Free Tier, No Trial $25 per user /month 4.8
Grafana On Call DevOps & SRE teams, Teams using Grafana for monitoring, Small to medium-sized teams SMB, Companies Using Only Grafana/Companies Getting Started with IM Practices On-call scheduling and management, Alerting and escalation, incident response Free Tier, No Trial $29/mo + on usage N/A

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.

Zenduty stands out as one such tool, preferred for incident management. Its comprehensive and user-friendly capability, along with strong security and reliability, makes it a favored choice among SREs.

PagerDuty

Founded in 2009, PagerDuty supports the role of Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) and operational duties. It became a public company in 2019, with over 900 employees and recorded revenue of $281 million in 2022.

Product Offerings:

  • Provides a range of products for SREs, including on-call management, incident response, runbooks, automation, event management, and operational analytics.
  • Stands out for offering a comprehensive suite, encompassing various services in one platform.

Key Features:

  • Reliable system for scheduling on-call coverage, routing alerts, and managing escalations.
  • Customizable to fit individual team needs, accessible through a user-friendly mobile app.
  • Wide range of integrations, connecting to over 300 other systems through its API.
  • Incident response includes best practices like blameless postmortems.

Machine Learning Capabilities:

  • Runbooks utilize machine learning to identify redundant events, suggest actions, and keep everyone informed during incidents.

User Feedback:

  • Users praise the reliability and robustness of scheduling and alert management.
  • Some dissatisfaction expressed regarding service pricing, additional license costs for certain features, and the quality of operational analytics.
  • User interface reported to be challenging for some, a common sentiment among PagerDuty's competitors as well.

Despite drawbacks, PagerDuty remains the most popular choice among SRE teams and similar roles.The company has been actively expanding and enhancing its product portfolio to sustain its market position.

Ongoing Improvements:

  • PagerDuty is actively enhancing its capabilities, notably with advanced runbook features derived from the acquisition of RunDeck.
  • The platform is integrating AI and machine learning technologies to enhance its functionality.
  • Continuous efforts to expand integrations, ensuring a more versatile and comprehensive user experience.

Full utilization of PagerDuty's advanced features may need additional payments for upgrades and licenses.This aligns with the common industry practice for mature enterprise software products.

PagerDuty Reviews
PagerDuty Reviews

1. Zenduty

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.

Built for Fast-Growing Cloud-Native Companies

  • Zenduty thrives in environments with defined SLAs and a strong SRE culture.
  • It seamlessly handles alerting and escalation, routing issues to the right teams based on impact and service.
  • Customizable Alert Rules: Define conditions to suppress noise, route alerts efficiently, and dynamically set priorities, assignees, and SLAs.

Powerful Features of Zenduty

Alert Rules: Zenduty's Alert Rules feature enables customized routing of alerts based on conditions you can create using the alert payload. It also facilitates the creation of robust noise suppression rules.

Dynamic Assignment: It allows dynamic assignment of escalation policies, assignees, priorities, SLAs, incident tasks, and notes based on different conditions, providing flexibility in incident management.

150+ Integrations: With integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts Chat, the UI of the platform enables seamless management of the entire incident workflow within your team chat application.

Efficient Incident Workflow

Before relevant teams acknowledge an incident, the tool automates the creation of associated Jira tickets, Zoom/Google conference bridges, and sends alerts to specific Slack channels. It also offers the option to create dedicated Slack war rooms for incidents, serving as the central communication hub.

Incident Tasks and Roles

The key differentiators include Incident Tasks and Incident Roles.

Incident Tasks are itemized checklists within incidents, allowing efficient delegation of specific tasks to individuals based on their skills or knowledge. Incident Roles facilitate a recursive separation of responsibilities during major incidents, ensuring clarity on who handles each aspect.

Stakeholder Communications

Zenduty simplifies stakeholder communications, enabling active incident responders to send updates to internal and external stakeholders in minutes using "Stakeholder templates."

Pricing:

Beyond these features, the tool offers capabilities such as Analytics with drill-down options, Incident Postmortems, SLAs, and Tags.

With plans tailored for both small and large teams, Zenduty provides excellent value starting from $5/user/month, going up to $21/user/month for their highest plan.

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What is incident analysis? Checkout the techniques used in incident analysis here!
Zenduty Reviews
Zenduty Reviews

2. Opsgenie

In 2018, Atlassian, a prominent Australian company with annual revenues surpassing $2.803 billion in 2022, acquired OpsGenie.

This acquisition aligned OpsGenie, previously considered a competitor to PagerDuty, within Atlassian's extensive portfolio, known for products like the Jira family and Trello.

Atlassian's Diverse Product Range:

With over 8,000 employees, Atlassian focuses on supporting agile software development, system fixing and support post-launch, software building, and collaboration.

OpsGenie, positioned under the support and fix category, stands out as a notable player in incident response.

OpsGenie's Approach to Incident Response:

  • OpsGenie distinguishes itself with its incident response approach, starting with its event and alert management capability.
  • The design focuses on preventing the oversight of critical alerts, ensuring SRE teams receive notifications through various channels.
  • The functionality enriches alerts, automates actions, establishes alert handling policies, and incorporates heartbeat and monitoring functions.

On-Call Management and Analytics Features:

  • OpsGenie stands out in on-call management, providing features like routing rules, escalations, and on-call reminders.
  • Robust analytics and reporting capabilities allow users to analyze alert activity, resolutions, and create diverse metrics.
  • Collaboration is streamlined with integrations with popular communication tools such as Slack, Teams, and Zoom.

Integration with Atlassian Ecosystem:

OpsGenie seamlessly integrates with other Atlassian products, including the Jira ticketing system and Confluence wiki, commonly used for knowledge capture and runbook creation.

User Appreciation and Concerns

  • OpsGenie's users value its capability to correlate alerts with recent deployment activity, aiding in the swift identification of issues caused by new code.
  • The popularity of the free version, supporting five users with unlimited SMS messages, is notable. However, concerns are raised by some users about the complexity of the user experience and documentation quality, particularly for onboarding.
  • Users express difficulty in setting rules and policies for handling alerts, and there's a desire for enhanced capabilities in orchestrating and automating tasks and responses.

OpsGenie's Position in the Atlassian Ecosystem

  • OpsGenie integrates seamlessly within the Atlassian ecosystem, offering essential incident response capabilities for SRE and technical operations teams.
  • It provides a straightforward and cost-effective entry point, yet its position in driving innovation within incident response remains uncertain.

The question remains whether OpsGenie will lead innovation in incident response or simply maintain basic capabilities in an evolving landscape where competitors are enhancing runbooks with various features to meet the growing complexity of incident response.

Opsgenie vs PagerDuty
Opsgenie Reviews

3. xMatters

Founded in 2000, xMatters was acquired by Everbridge in 2021 after raising $96 million across eight funding rounds.

Product Offerings:

Provides on-call management, event and alert management, adaptive incident management, reporting and analytics, and workflow automation.

While competitors focus on SRE and DevOps, xMatters caters to a wider range of use cases in infrastructure, technical operations, and business continuity.

Key Features:

  • On-call management appreciated for managing schedules and alerting based on signal intelligence rules.
  • Workflow automation enables non-coders to create automations using a low-code, no-code approach.
  • Extensible automations and integrations using JavaScript.

Integration and Incident Management:

  • Functions as an integration hub for consolidating and distributing information to other apps.
  • Adaptive incident management leverages automation and supports learning from events.

User Feedback:

  • xMatters users often express a desire for enhanced integration with ServiceNow, reflecting its customer base's prevalence in large traditional IT organizations where ServiceNow is extensively utilized.
  • Criticism is directed at the Android mobile app, with some users highlighting areas for improvement.
  • Requests for more flexibility in event and alert routing rules, including the ability to suppress routing of seemingly high-priority events in specific circumstances, have been voiced.
  • Similar to many xMatters competitors, users express a desire for a less confusing user interface.
xMatters Alternatives
xMatters Reviews

4. VictorOps

VictorOps, founded in 2012, raised $33.7M before being acquired by Splunk in 2018 and rebranded as Splunk On-Call.

Functionality:

  • Splunk On-Call receives events and alerts from various monitoring tools, notifying on-call schedules and escalating when necessary.
  • The Transmogrifier enhances alerts by applying rules, allowing annotations and document attachments for resolution guidance.

Key Features:

  • Users value the Twitter-style timeline, providing visibility into concurrent alerts being processed.
  • High ratings for mobile apps, especially the in-app messaging feature supporting rapid communication.

Communication and Collaboration:

  • Control Calling feature facilitates longer discussions via a conference bridge.
  • Integration with diverse communication channels is a focal point, ensuring seamless interactions.

Challenges and User Feedback:

  • Some users express a desire for a simpler user interface, citing challenges in overriding established on-call schedules for temporary personnel changes.
  • Requests for the implementation of runbooks within the product have been voiced.
  • Perceived slower pace of innovation since the acquisition by Splunk, compared to other alternatives, is noted by some users.
Splunk On-call Alternatives
Splunk On-call Reviews

5. Datadog

Datadog Incident Management, introduced in 2020, extends incident response capabilities to Datadog's cloud monitoring service.

Focus:

  • Aims to automate the analysis of alerts, incident creation, and team identification for resolution.

Key features:

  • Supports collaboration and knowledge capture through interactive timelines, allowing work within Slack or the mobile app.
  • Datadog's extensive integrations enable in-depth analysis of metrics and alerts, automatic ticket creation, and collaboration mechanisms.
  • Automatically collects activity data for post-mortem reports and incident response metric reporting (e.g., MTTR).
  • Offers interactive, real-time notebooks supporting comments and embedded graphics, eliminating the need for external runbooks.

Tight Integration with Observability:

  • Tight integration with observability functions facilitates seamless transition from incident to metric exploration.
  • Slack chatbot client enables quick issue responses before detailed analysis within the product.

Target Audience and Considerations:

  • Well-suited for Datadog enthusiasts, especially in complex environments.
  • May not serve as a one-stop-shop for incident response, particularly for SREs lacking extensive IT Service Management, observability, and automation tooling.
  • Note: Integration with other incident response apps like PagerDuty and Opsgenie is available.

Drawbacks:

  • Lack of on-call management features may be a limitation for some users.

6. FireHydrant

FireHydrant, founded in 2018, focuses on defining, supporting, and automating incident response processes.

Key Features:

  • Incident Management Framework: Based on FEMA's Incident Commander framework, FireHydrant allows incident declaration and management, integrating with tools like Slack and on-call notifications.
  • FireHydrant utilizes a service catalog, tracking services, service owners, observability data, and deployment activity to identify problem origins.
  • Automation in Runbooks: Emphasizes automation in runbooks to enhance efficiency and allocate more time for incident resolution.
  • Status Pages: Features end-user facing status pages that auto-update during service disruptions, capturing a timeline of incident activity for retrospectives.

Best Practices:

  • Clarifies roles in the incident response process, following FEMA's Incident Commander framework. Best practice processes provide a foundation, allowing customization for SRE teams.

User Feedback:

  • Some users express frustration over the lack of native on-call capabilities, inability to clone runbooks, update published retrospective reports, and unclear integrations.
FireHydrant Alternatives
FireHydrant Reviews

7. AlertOps

Alertops, established in 2012, specializes in providing solutions for incident management and IT service management needs.

Alerting Features and Monitoring Capabilities:

  • While Alertops lacks regular uptime monitoring or real user monitoring (RUM), it compensates with heartbeat (cron job) monitoring available in its higher-tier plans.
  • This heartbeat monitoring is particularly useful for tasks like monitoring database backups or other scheduled activities.
  • Higher-tier plans include the advantage of unlimited phone and SMS alerts, ensuring comprehensive notification capabilities.

Demo Requirement:

  • Teams interested in Alertops are required to schedule a demo before gaining access to features such as on-call scheduling and integrating monitoring and alerting tools.
  • Despite certain drawbacks, Alertops may appeal to teams seeking a robust, long-term solution for their incident management and IT service management requirements.

Pricing Structure:

  • Alertops is perceived as relatively more expensive when compared to other alternatives to PagerDuty.
  • The platform offers various paid packages, starting with the Standard package, tailored to specific feature requirements.
  • The Standard package comes with certain limitations, such as a 3-month data retention period and constrained escalations.
AlertOps Alternatives
AlertOps Reviews

8. Better Stack (Formerly Better Uptime)

Founded in 2015, Better Uptime stands out as a comprehensive platform, seamlessly integrating incident management, uptime monitoring, and status page creation.

Incident Management:

The platform includes a robust incident management system, featuring an on-call calendar that can be easily accessed within the app or integrated with Google Calendar. Additionally, it offers advanced team management and access options.

Alerting Capabilities:

  • Alerting System: Offers unlimited phone call and SMS alerts for paid plans, ensuring comprehensive communication channels during incidents.
  • Integration Capabilities: Seamlessly integrates with widely-used communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, facilitating efficient and real-time communication among teams.
  • Embedded Incident Data: Allows for the inclusion of incident screenshots and debug information within alerts, aiding in clearer context and faster incident resolution.

Uptime Monitoring:

One of the standout features is its built-in uptime monitoring, covering a range of checks such as HTTP(s), ping, SSL&TLD expiration, cron job, and port monitoring. Notably, these monitors seamlessly integrate with on-call alerting, eliminating the need for third-party monitoring tools.

Integrations:

Better Uptime offers a variety of integrations with monitoring and analytical tools, including but not limited to Heroku, New Relic, Datadog, AWS, and Grafana. This ensures flexibility and adaptability within different tech stacks.

Status Page Features:

The platform provides a free status page connected to existing monitors. Users can easily customize and publish this status page on a custom domain. In premium plans, additional features like password-protected pages and email and API status subscriptions enhance functionality.

Pricing:

While Better Uptime offers a range of useful features, it may not be the most budget-friendly option for small businesses. Some users have reported that the interface, while powerful, might be perceived as less intuitive compared to competing products.

Better Uptime Alternatives
Better Uptime Reviews

9. Grafana On-call

Grafana On-call, introduced in September 2022, is a purposeful extension to the Grafana monitoring tool. It focuses on advancing incident management practices for teams, incorporating best practices in the field.

Key Features for Incident Management:

  • Incident Declaration:Grafana On-call facilitates the declaration of incidents either through the web UI or chat interfaces. This flexibility ensures teams can adapt their incident management processes to specific needs.
  • Role Assignment: Teams can efficiently assign incident roles, fostering clarity in responsibilities during the incident resolution process. Well-defined roles contribute to smoother incident handling.
  • Chatbot with CLI: Integration of a chatbot equipped with a command-line interface adds an extra layer of communication. This feature provides teams with diverse channels for incident-related discussions.
  • Integrations: The tool allows for contextual integrations, enriching incident understanding by incorporating relevant context from integrated tools and systems.
  • Access to a task manager within Grafana On-call assists teams in organizing and allocating tasks during incident resolution. This feature contributes to a more systematic approach.
  • A visual representation of the incident's activity timeline aids teams in tracking and understanding the progression of incidents. This visibility is crucial for effective incident management.
  • Postmortem Feature: For postmortem purposes, Grafana On-call includes a present feature, enabling teams to review and learn from past incidents. This contributes to continuous improvement in incident response.
  • The Suggestbot feature employs machine learning and natural language processing. It suggests related dashboards based on incident titles, enhancing the efficiency of incident analysis.
  • User-Centric Approach:Acknowledging that the effectiveness of these features may vary, Grafana On-call recognizes the diverse needs and preferences of individual users. This user-centric approach emphasizes adaptability and customization based on specific requirements.
Grafana On-call Reviews

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.