Blameless vs. PagerDuty Incident Response
Who is Blameless?
Who is PagerDuty?
Questions to Consider
Here are some of the questions you should consider before reading this guide:
Blameless or PagerDuty?
In essence, PagerDuty gets people to an incident, and Blameless guides them once they’re there.
Let’s look at different stages of the incident management process, review what sort of pain points you could be experiencing at each one, and look at how PagerDuty or Blameless could help.
- Incident Detection using Blameless or PagerDuty
Having a meaningful understanding of your system’s health is a challenge with modern microservices architecture and 3rd party tool integration. Black box monitoring, where you simulate use of your service like a user would, can help get clarity. After all, if an issue isn’t experienced by users, it may not be worth dealing with.
Both Blameless and PagerDuty integrate with a number of monitoring tools. Blameless uses them to gather contextual data to better assess incidents. For example, if you’re dealing with a server outage due to overuse, Blameless can pull in historical monitoring data that shows you when different thresholds of use were reached to help you diagnose your server’s limits. PagerDuty integrates with monitoring tools to automatically trigger alerts. For example, if server use reaches a certain threshold, it will automatically alert specific people. Both abilities will help increase the speed with which you respond to incidents. Just make sure your monitoring tools can integrate with your other chosen tools.
- Incident Alerting using PagerDuty
PagerDuty’s customization allows for sophisticated triaging and classification of incidents. Discrete user groups and dynamic on-call schedules are also supported. If you’re having issues with engineers being bogged down with too many alerts, or missing out on alerts they need, PagerDuty can help. Having this step be fast, automated, and consistent is key, as you want engineers working on the problem as quickly as possible.
- Incident Response Process using Blameless
The response process is the most substantial part of incident management. It’s when the assembled engineers work together to diagnose the problem, brainstorm solutions, implement them, and iterate their ideas until the incident is resolved. There can be many problems that occur here:
- Engineers don’t know what to try or where to start, due to a lack of resources like runbooks, checklists, or past incidents to study
- Poor communication leads to poor work distribution, leading to redundant work
- Engineers keep breaking focus with other obligations and tasks, like sending updates to management or tracking down documentation, slowing their progress
- Engineers have a poor understanding of their individual responsibilities, leaving some tasks unfinished
All of these problems are compounded by the stress and time constraints of the incident. Solving the incident will never be trivial, but the goal is to make it as easy as possible by removing toil and making things smooth. That way, the engineers can focus on applying their expertise in the most efficient way.
Blameless does exactly that. It uses a role-based checklist system to make sure all the tasks of the response are handled without redundancy. It makes building helpful resources and infrastructure easy to get people up to speed fast. Previously distracting tasks, like updating stakeholders, are handled automatically so engineers stay focused. This stage of the process can be stressful and demoralizing, so making an investment in a tool like Blameless is key to keep your engineers happy and productive.
- Incident Escalation using Blameless and PagerDuty
Both Blameless and PagerDuty can help in this process. Blameless lets you update the severity and status of an incident from where you’re already working on the incident. This loops in additional people to your existing communication channels without any toil. Once you escalate, PagerDuty can handle sending out effective alerts to exactly the right people. Blameless’s dynamic checklists can get these newly added people working effectively right away.
- Incident Communication using Blameless
There are many benefits for them to stay informed and relay their knowledge to other stakeholders. At the same time, during these critical incidents, the time taken by engineers to respond to these update requests, including the break in their focus, can be hugely detrimental.
The key is to automate this process. Blameless’s CommsFlow feature allows you to set up communication templates that automatically send to preselected groups when certain triggers happen. You can have specific templates for the PR team and managers when an incident escalates, for example. If you want to keep your engineers working effectively while also keeping the whole organization informed, investing in Blameless CommsFlow is a must.
- Integrations and Tool Support for Blameless and PagerDuty
PagerDuty and Blameless both feature a large suite of integrations for all of their features. PagerDuty integrations help reach the on-call engineers in whatever apps they’re already checking and use monitoring data to automatically trigger alerts. Blameless integrations help gather contextual data from monitoring tools, let you work within your favorite communication tools, create tickets for incidents to orchestrate followup tasks, and more.
Take a look at where toil is being generated in your current incident management process. Your engineers are probably bouncing between a number of tools, manually passing data back and forth. Platforms like Blameless and PagerDuty can expedite this process, making everything smoother and centralized.
- Incident Learning and Retrospectives (Postmortems) with Blameless
Blameless facilitates easy incident learning with automatic retrospectives or postmortems and integration with ticketing services. As you resolve the incident, Blameless is automatically logging communication in incident channels and gathering relevant contextual information. Once the incident is resolved, responders will fill out a questionnaire to gather additional info, customizable for different types of incident. This turns into a retrospective or postmortem document linked to each incident that you can further customize and review. Building up a library of these documents gives your engineers a head start in resolving similar incidents.
Your retrospective or postmortem also serves a hub for followup tasks. Blameless can automatically generate tickets for followup tasks in platforms like Jira. Use this to improve the resilience of your system and prevent recurring incidents. Once you determine the contributing factors or root causes of an incident, including things like codebase bugs, insufficient resources, or lack of processes, create followup tasks for each of them.
- Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and Reliability Patterns with Blameless
Service level objectives, or SLOs, are a metric that ensure your customers are satisfied with your level of reliability. No service can be perfect, incidents are inevitable. You need to understand what parts of your service are most critical and what level of reliability will satisfy your customers. Although your services will go down sometime, as long as you stay above this objective, you’ll know that most users will remain happy and not look to competitors.
Blameless makes making and tracking SLOs easy. The impact of incidents are automatically accounted for in the SLO status, making sure you know right away if you’re approaching a breach. Policies for approaching the SLOs can be baked into the SLO itself, triggering deployment freezes or other plans to keep things afloat.
This data is also collected in Blameless’s reliability insights platform. This feature shows you patterns for your incidents over time. Which features of your service are breaking most often? Are there particular days of the week or times of day that services break? Which of your on-call engineers are spending the most time on incidents? Answering these questions can help you get ahead of repeat incidents, burnout, and the most critical failures.