Sysadmins prefer e-mail alerts and use iPhone more than Android

By David Mytton,
CEO & Founder of Server Density.

Published on the 23rd April, 2011.

The recent Amazon EBS outage has resulted in some good analysis about EBS in general and also the design of shared storage services. Our friends are PagerDuty also did a good writeup about the number of alerts sent out which demonstrates the reliance on AWS as an infrastructure provider:

Since the outage began, we have routed notifications to around 36% of our customer base…We have paged more than 10% of our entire user base. In other words, more than 10% of all of our customers’ operations staff have been woken up and/or called in by our systems to work on their problems.

Running our own server monitoring service (not on EC2) we have seen a similar pattern: on Apr 21 e-mail notifications increased 88% from the day before and then increased a further 43% on Apr 22 (a 170% increase in e-mail alerts on Apr 22 compared to Apr 20). This ties in with the incident start time at Amazon.

Server Density Total Notifications

But whilst it’s interesting to see the impact of this single outage on the internet, I thought it’d be just as interesting to see how notification patterns look as a whole.

Nobody uses SMS alerts any more

We provide several methods of getting alerts – e-mail, SMS, iPhone push notifications and Android push notifications – however, we see very few SMS alerts actually getting sent. In contrast, the guys at Pingdom sent almost 50,000 SMS alerts back in 2007. So why the difference?

Well, we have mobile apps and in 2007 neither the iPhone nor Android were available so there was definitely no option for push notifications. Indeed, although e-mails remain our most sent type of notification, iPhone alerts come in second.

Server Density Notification Types - 20 Apr 2011

Critical alerts go to Android and via e-mail

When the Amazon outage occurred on 21 Apr continuing onto 22 Apr, we saw a 170% increase in the number of notifications sent out. Interestingly, the number of SMSs sent actually fell, but there was a significant increase in mobile push notifications. However, this increase was only seen on Android devices – the number of iPhone push alerts fell. Perhaps this is because Apple doesn’t provide any guarantee that messages will be delivered, so those with iPhones have notifications sent by e-mail too.

Server Density Notification Types AWS Outage

iPhone is still most popular

Even though we did see a massive increase in the number of Android notifications we sent, the iPhone still remains the most popular of our mobile apps for sysadmins. This is helped by our iPhone app being available for much longer than the Android version but it’ll be interesting to see how usage changes over time as Android continues to grow.

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