Some quick thoughts about has been on my personal radar of technology to check out since seeing their shiny t-shirts at a conference last year (they do kind of stand out, in a good way). So I grabbed a trial account to take a look, figuring I’d write about what I found.

Firstly, what is Raygun? In brief, it’s real time error management that’s available for a range of platforms, designed to be a “smarter” system. If that’s not descriptive enough, then there’s more information on their website.

Initially my thinking was that I was going to be a technical post, however it became clear pretty quickly that there really wasn’t going to be a large amount of value in a technical post – because it “just works” ™. It’s quick and easy to implement, and there’s really not a lot more that I’d be adding on top of the existing documentation (I only used the .NET and JavaScript providers, however the trial on offer means you’d have the opportunity to test any of the providers before making a commitment). There are also other posts popping up covering the technical aspects, such as this one, which is slightly specific to Windows Mobile but still covers other aspects of the product.

However not needing to focus on the technical aspects is a positive thing, because the opportunities that Raygun presents around error related workflow and potential process improvements are where the full value of the product lies. It’d be easy to simply place Raygun in the category of “just another logging provider”, however the fact is that it is much more than that. Sure there’s a logging provider component to the offering (and the fact that one of those is a provider for JavaScript is an attractive bonus), however the real value is in the combination of the providers and the portal, and the processes that you can build around the pairing of the two.

The portal is simple but powerful, with clean styling. The opening dashboard contains an overview of the latest errors in each of the categories (Active, Resolved, Ignored, Permanently Ignored) with information displayed in ways that imply the involvement of a UX specialist. Translated: Shiny Web 3.0 (we’re not doing 2.0 anymore, right?) stylings and shiny graphs!

Identical errors are grouped together so rather than seeing a huge list of repeating text you can focus on the actual error and see at a glance the number of times it has occurred. This might seem like a small thing, but with the high signal to noise ratio one typically encounters with error management it has powerful results, and allows you to easily focus on the most pressing issues.

The Activity Log shows comments and status changes (workflow related) of an error, i.e. marking it as resolved and any comments that your team might choose to make. As you’d expect, if an error that has been previously marked as resolved reoccurs then Raygun sets its status back to active and notifies you. This allows you to focus on working with all occurrences of an error, rather than on a single instance. That’s a pretty subtle but important shift from other options for straight error logging.

The portal lets you use permalinks for specific errors so you can bookmark them and save time. This combined well with mobile device support (that’s continually being improved) to keep an eye on things if/when you’re on the move.

You can define multiple applications on an account, and can set email notification options on a per-application basis. Raygun can email you when an error occurs and/or you can choose to receive a daily digest of errors. There are also (optional) options and features for team management, so Raygun is suitable for small to large situations.

That’s just some of what’s available, and there’s more information on the website, specifically on the features page.

Raygun is a commercial app so you’re going to want to look at the pricing sheet and pick a plan, however you can easily justify the cost by looking at the amount of time you or your team would take to build something similar. Chances are you’ve worked somewhere that’s built their own error management portal. Some are better than others (I’ve seen quite a few), but I’d wager that even the most simple of attempts would work out to be more costly (and less feature laden) than Raygun when you calculate the cost of building and maintaining them. YMMV, but that’s my opinion.

Raygun is a Mindscape product, so anyone who’s used LightSpeed (or any of their other products) probably knows what that means – listening to customers, rapid iterations and frequent addition of new features/bug fixes. In fact there’s been quite a few iterations and changes while this post has been in draft (improved mobile support on the portal, improved management of company accounts, and improvements to the summary emails to name a few that I remember offhand).

In summary I really like Raygyun, and while we’ve not yet fully implemented it into our own internal products we do plan to do so (time permitting!), and we have already recommended and implemented it for a customer where it immediately offered quick wins through increased visibility of errors. Raygun is not just a set of logging providers, but more it’s a tool that enables you to implement some powerful processes around your error management. At the very least it should make you stop and think about how you can be more proactive with your errors, rather than just sweeping them under the rug.

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Posted on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 6:46 PM |

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