If you have a website, a group of websites, or even your own server, you probably worry that when you’re not physically looking at them, they might not be working It’s the old “when the door is closed, is the light still on?” refrigerator question. But with kind of a maternal twist, since most of us think of our websites as our children, with all of the time we put into them.
Except websites are more like dogs, since they don’t talk back much. They just flop down and stop doing stuff when they’re tired or sick. Then it’s up to us to guess what’s wrong.
Alright, enough philosophy.
PagerDuty.com is a site that will text message (SMS), call, or otherwise alert you when your server is down. Services like this have been around for a while, but they are often expensive or hard to use. Most companies get by with a few people on an email list who are alerted when the server doesn’t respond to a ping (check signal).
The problem with email is that the people who receive it may or may not be there to receive it quickly. This is especially true overnight. This is where PagerDuty comes in.
Instead of setting up the email to go to an account that someone might or might not be monitoring, you have that email sent to a specific (unique) account at PagerDuty. From there, the app pages, calls, emails, or texts (or any combination of those) the number(s) you’ve given it. You can set up rules so that certain people (numbers) can be on call on given days of the week, have only one person in charge, or have it send it to several every time.
PagerDuty has a very simple UI that is easy to use. Signup is only one page and account setup is pretty easy. PagerDuty doesn’t do any monitoring, but most good hosting accounts include this – especially for virtual servers and the like. What PagerDuty does is decide where to send the alert.
Once the setup is complete, you can build rules so that the people assigned can be alerted. Rules can be simple or complex, at your discretion. So a rule could be “email Bob@ and if he doesn’t respond in 3 minutes, page Bob #, and if no response in 3 more minutes, email Susan@…” Or it could be “email Bob@ and then page Bob #.”
The app is still in beta, but a 30-day risk-free trial is available and accounts start at $12/month. Multiple users can be set up as the accounts tier upwards, so a business or enterprise can scale PagerDuty to their needs. This startup is based in Toronto, Canada and some services (voice) are only available in Canada. As of last Friday, voice alerts are now available for most countries (whereas previously, they were only available for US/Canada).