3 Ways to “Follow-the-Sun” with Schedules in Opsgenie


Follow-the-sun schedules are a way for your company to offer 24/7 global customer support and also prevent on-call burnout for your engineering/customer support teams. Having someone on-call at all times, across different time zones means that no one team has to wake up in the middle of the night to deal with an alert or customer issue. True to its name, ideally it follows the sun in that the configuration usually consists of three rotations that are staggered to cover three 8-hour shifts. However, there are multiple ways to configure a follow-the-sun schedule using Opsgenie schedules.

When deciding which configuration best suits your team’s needs, here are some things to consider:

  1. Size of workforce: Do you have enough people spread across time zones to dedicate an extra team for around-the-clock support? What about a third team? Would it be more useful to hire a remote employee to cover a gap with a low-traffic shift?

  2. High support times: Prepare for your scheduling with some stats—What are your highest traffic hours for receiving support requests? If you have to sacrifice coverage, do so at a time where, historically, support requests have been low.

  3. Methods of contact: In addition to a more-immediate call number, do users have access to any means of instant messaging/chat support? Is customer self-service encouraged?  Can one person handle the different means in which you would receive requests?

In this post, keeping the above in mind, we'll discuss follow-the-sun best practices and possible configurations that are easily set up in Opsgenie. For more information about on-call best practices, download our White Paper: Scaling On-Call in a DevOps Organization.


I. Typical Follow-the-sun

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This schedule has 3 rotations, consisting of a US Team, EU Team, and Asia Team (With an added rotation for weekends). The shifts are 8 hours long, and rotate between two on-call responders within each rotation. This schedule assumes that your company has the appropriate workforce per time zone to afford having someone on-call. Considering the utilization of remote workers, your company may be able to manage a follow-the-sun schedule more easily than you’d expect. During a low traffic period, even adding one remote worker to cover that rotation increases coverage and therefore, customer satisfaction worldwide.


II. Two teams in different time zones

When setting up a follow-the-sun schedule for two different teams, another option is to set up a schedule for each team according to their time zone. This can get tricky with more than two teams, but it’s simple to designate the time zone when you set up each team’s schedule. Then, you can arrange each schedule to have it’s own escalation policy.

After adding a schedule, you can select the relevant time zone. Replicate the same process on the other team’s end for the different time zone, and coordinate to make sure the coverage is as desired.

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This method allows each team to configure from their work-day perspective with their own escalations. With this setup, though, it is still important to consider the coverage of the other team to make sure someone is always available for support.

III. One schedule (belonging to “No One”)

Schedules that belong to “No-One” (meaning, not assigned to any team) are standalone and can have escalations as participants in them so that there is a different way to handle who gets notified based on what time it is. Alert policies restrict time intervals of alerts so that during they are routed to the correct team during their day, following the sun so that the next appropriate team is notified (depending on workflow).

Using an Alert Policy allows you to use matching to route alerts, and when setting up a new Alert Policy you can **Restrict to time intervals** and designate a time zone, so that alerts are sent to the necessary Responders when all criteria is matched and the alert falls within the designated time period.

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These follow-the-sun schedule configurations help prevent your on-call team from alert fatigue and burnout, by directing alerts to whichever team is experiencing daytime. Using Opsgenie, there are many different options to support a myriad of workflows including use of schedules, escalations, routing rules, and policies. The first follow-the-sun option explored in this post, one schedule with three rotations, is generally best practice, but sign up for a free 14-day trial of Opsgenie and see just how flexible our schedule configurations can be.