PagerDuty Blog

SMS Alerts: Because No One Likes 3AM Phone Calls

Sms alertText messaging (aka Short Message Service, SMS) is one of the original “killer apps” for mobile phones. According to Forrester, 6 billion text messages are sent everyday in the U.S. alone. With the increase in mobile adoption, text messaging has become one of the most common communication methods in the world.

Text messages have changed how and when we choose to communicate. There is a lower barrier to start a conversation than compared to a phone call. Replies to texts don’t have to be instantaneous. We use text messaging to stay in touch with our social network so it makes sense to use SMSes to keep tabs on with what’s going on with our infrastructure.

Keep It Short and Sweet

When things are down, you want to know immediately. Traditional SMSes are at most 160 characters, so brevity is more than just the soul of wit, it’s essential to helping you take care of an incident. A PagerDuty SMS provides a basic summary with link to see all of the details in the message. You can also acknowledge or resolve the incident with a text reply.

Run Silent, Run Deep

You may have agreed to be on-call, but your partner probably didn’t agree to be woken up at 3AM from a phone call.  Most phones can be configured to either buzz or chirp a certain way when they receive text messages from specific numbers. PagerDuty publishes a SMS number list so you can always know the text is from us.

Smartphone Not Required

Even though it seems like the world is filled with iPhone and Android users, the reality is some of us can’t always use a smart phone for work. For example, some people work in areas where there’s poor data coverage and SMS delivery is more reliable. When this is the case, even though we have an awesome mobile app, it won’t be very helpful for you, and SMS is a better choice.

Also, if you lose your phone you have to reinstall the mobile app in order to begin receiving push notifications again. With text messages, as long as you keep the same phone number, text messages will continue to come to you. Never skip a beat with SMSes.

Text messages provides an easy, discreet, low-bandwidth way to reach you when there’s an incident, no matter where you are. Combined with other notification methods, it provides peace of mind to whomever is on-call that your infrastructure and alerts are well in hand.

Next week, we’ll debate why mobile push notifications are worthy of being your primary alerting method.