You’re monitoring your IT infrastructure for changes and errors, right? Of course! You need to know every time something hits the fan; it comes with the territory. You can barely pull up an incognito tab at work without getting an error message.
The problem is, a lot of alerts don't apply to you. Hey, but at least you get paged in the middle of the night when a backup server reads low on memory! And that weekend trip you cut short only to find a fix had already been checked in? What a rush!
Alright, you get the idea. You want to keep your site up but you don't want to waste your time on the pager that cried wolf. Maybe a monitor aggregation platform would be right up your alley, if only you knew what that was.
If, for whatever reason, “monitor aggregation platform” is not a phrase you find yourself throwing out at family dinner, or using to inspire your fantasy football team name (Gooooo Shelbyville MonAggroPlats!), here’s the deal: basically, it’s a phone tree. See, phones were these things you could use to talk to other people in their houses, and trees were….nevermind. Another way of putting it? The ideal monitor aggregator links up with all your monitoring software wherever it lives in your system. When something goes wrong, it notifies your on-call staff in the most efficient and least intrusive way possible. Using recorded data and notations you’ve made, your software of choice reminds you how you fixed the problem last time. Finally, it makes the process of auditing the incident quick and easy so you can use it on the next go-round.
While PagerDuty and VictorOps aren’t the only solutions on the market, they are two of the most popular. PagerDuty is relatively old by software standards, having first released about 5 years ago, while VictorOps is new to the space and experiencing rapid growth.
Both PagerDuty and VictorOps are designed to work with the biggest platforms in the industry: Nagios, DataDog, New Relic, and Amazon Web Services, to name a few.
Neither one will have an issue using Zendesk to coordinate with your ticketing or self-serve systems, and both can integrate with HipChat for cross-platform alert and update statuses.
Perhaps most crucially, the teams behind both PagerDuty and VictorOps have made sure that you get as much functionality as possible by offering the ability to create teams, automatic schedules, and routing policies, as well as useful methods for notifying those team members. SMS, e-mail, and push are available on both platforms.
The core functionality overlap here is obvious, but there are a handful of distinct differences between the two products.
The first barrier to entry for a new piece of software, assuming you’re already up and running, is determining how it fits into the system you already have. After all, the point of consolidating your systems’ alerts is to decrease headaches, not create them. Because of the relative ages of the companies, the number of monitoring systems they can integrate with will vary.
PagerDuty claims to be able to integrate with any service that has e-mail capability, which is probably why they have the distinction of having “the largest ecosystem of partners” when it comes to applications and tools. VictorOps is no slouch, but if you depend on Slack, StatusPage.io, Microsoft Azure, CopperEgg or a few others, you may be out of luck.
On the other hand, VictorOps’ main thrust is its DevOps Timeline, a cross-platform feature that combines alerts, statuses, hand-offs, and much more to give team members the complete picture of any incident. PagerDuty can’t quite match this functionality with its Mobile Incident Management App, which does not offer native chat. It’s up to you to decide how important being notified by push when someone @-replies you in the timeline is, but there’s something undeniably cool about having everything from live monitoring to private chat to post-mortem reporting all at your fingertips.
Fittingly, we’ve saved the discussion of the bottom line for last. Unfortunately, all these features can’t be 100% free. But some of them can! While both products offer a 14-day free trial, VictorOps goes the extra mile by offering a “Free Forever” option - a slimmed down version lacking automation and customization, essentially their DevOps timeline with no bells or whistles - for absolutely nothing. If you have more than 10 users, or don’t want all members to be notified every time there’s an incident, you’ll need to upgrade to their Basic Edition, at the cost of $27/user/month.
PagerDuty’s pricing structure is slightly different. You can choose from Standard or Enterprise editions, which will run you $19/user/month and $39/user/month, respectively, including your annual payment discount. For the extra $20 a month, you can add phone support, unlimited data retention, and a 300% increase in international alerts per user (up to 100), in addition to a few other goodies.
Ultimately the choice here depends on your company’s needs, of course. Are you looking to integrate with a specific service? Is it legacy or obscure? PagerDuty might be your best bet. Can you get away with a free, barebones service or, alternatively, do you need a robust mobile suite? VictorOps could be the solution. If you’re starting from scratch, verify that your monitoring system of choice is compatible, take advantage of the free trials offered by both companies, and decide which is more user-friendly for you. Despite the utility of the the VictorOps DevOps timeline, there may not be a silver bullet in terms of functionality for either platform. Your decision will likely come down to your subjective opinion of the interface -- and the price.