03.05.20

Alerting: Handling On-Call Management and Notifications

By Damian Velazquez Cafaro
Alerting - Handling #OnCallManagement and Notifications

Setting up an alert mechanism is becoming increasingly important due to the fast-paced nature of modern service development and delivery. Users are more sensitive to disruptions in their experience and organizations rely more on business solutions running in the cloud. For an event or an error to go unnoticed—and not handled properly—is unacceptable in the modern market.

For IT teams, on-call management and a good alert system are indispensable. Being on-call means staying on guard beyond the normal working hours. IT alerts are routed to responsible personnel by an automated system so that action can be taken to remedy the issues. With an on-call management solution, IT teams can work more efficiently.

Why On-Call and Alerting Solution Is Important

Before we get to the different ways alerts can be integrated into existing workflows, it is important to recognize why having a capable on-call management and notification system is important. As mentioned before, the demand for good IT services is higher than ever, and it is easy for the IT team to suffer from excessive stress and fatigue when alerts are not managed properly.

Without a good alert system, false positives can easily disrupt how team members work. Even when the alerts are not legitimate or are triggered by false events, DevOps specialists still need to perform manual checks to fully understand the situation. When false positives happen in the middle of a critical CI/CD cycle, they become more than just a nuisance.

Team fatigue is another big issue to mitigate. It is nearly impossible to have everyone on standby all the time. The overall team productivity will go down as a result—and significantly too. The best way to remedy the situation is by implementing on-call scheduling where team members can contribute to keeping the IT ecosystem safe and running smoothly at different parts of the day.

Other risks associated with unhandled alerts and errors are just as important to mitigate. When a failing cloud instance isn’t checked immediately, the risk of losing business-critical files and data becomes immensely higher. The risk is even higher when the personnel handling the crisis aren’t well-rested; human errors are more likely to happen in this situation.

More Reasons to Have Good Alerting System

The risks we discussed earlier are all worth managing, but they are not the only reasons why a good alert system is important. You also have the fact that a comprehensive on-call management system makes tracing issues and holding key personnel accountable easy. You always have complete control over where alerts are routed.

That’s actually one of the biggest advantages of a good on-call management system. Notifications are always routed to the right personnel based on pre-defined rules. This eliminates confusion during a crisis; everyone knows exactly who is responsible and how they can play their parts in solving the issue.

These two reasons lead to the biggest benefit of having an on-call management system: the ability to handle crises and issues your way. With an alert system in place, it is much easier to establish SOPs for different types of service disruptions. Even better, you have the ability to create contingencies and automate your responses to a certain degree.

Establishing Alerting and Notifications

There are multiple ways to establish a good alert system. If you are running on Amazon’s cloud ecosystem, you already have tools like Amazon CloudWatch Alarms and AWS CloudFormation integrated with notification systems like SNS. Though it’s important to note, if you don’t integrate these alerts with a notification system, these alerts will be just bounded to AWS.

This particular combination of AWS tools can be used to monitor everything from your EC2 instances to IAM policies, Network ACLs, and security groups.

Third-party solutions for handling on-call management are just as interesting. You can integrate native Amazon tools like CloudTrail events and CloudWatch Logs with tools like Dashbird for centralized monitoring. Naturally, integrating existing tools with services like OnPage (for on-call management) is just as easy thanks to open APIs and integration features.

Regardless of how you set up your monitoring and alert system, adding on-call management and notifications is still highly beneficial. You can eliminate the risk of team fatigue and human error completely while keeping the entire cloud ecosystem healthy. Maintaining accountability and making sure that issues get routed to the right administrators are also very easy to do. Investing in a good alert system will save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Don’t miss our recent post on DevOps and Team Communication to support your team and communication improvements.


Caylent provides a critical DevOps-as-a-Service function to high growth companies looking for expert support with Kubernetes, cloud security, cloud infrastructure, and CI/CD pipelines. Our managed and consulting services are a more cost-effective option than hiring in-house, and we scale as your team and company grow. Check out some of the use cases, learn how we work with clients, and read more about our DevOps-as-a-Service offering.