A friend of mine needs an analysis of bug-tracking systems with an eye towards picking one and implementing it for a small project team (less than 10 people). They’ve been using Google Docs to share a spreadsheet, but as you might well know, using a spreadsheet as a bug tracking problems has some inherent limitations. Moving to a more specialized tool is really a reasonable step for a group of their size, and they will have to worry less about managing the list and can spend those cycles knocking items off the list and into the “completed” pile.
When talking bug tracking systems, the first question to ask is: self-hosted or SaaS (Software as a Service)? I call this the “mode” of the system. The pros and cons of each are summarized below:
The next question to ask is: how much are you willing to pay? For many organizations, especially smaller ones, the correct (and reasonable) answer is “nothing.” This is not a severe restriction when talking bug tracking, as there are many free/open source offerings available. In fact, many of the so-called “enterprise” offerings provide a free version for small software teams; the cutoff is generally around 5-10 users, although it can be as small as 2 or as high as 25.
The Master Mega-Super Comparison Table
The following table lists a representative selection of many of the common issue-tracking systems. Some of them are pure bug tracking systems (identified by the “Standalone?” column, whereas most of them are part of a broader suite of project tracking tools.
|Product||Vendor||Standalone?||Mode||Hosting Model||Purchase Cost||URL||Implementation Language||General Complexity||Windows Server OS Friendliness|
|Rally Community Edition||Rally Software||No||Web||SaaS||Free up to 10 users||http://www.rallydev.com/agile_products/editions/community/signup/||?||High||n/a (SaaS only)|
|FogBugz||Fog Creek||No||Web||Self or SaaS||$25/user per month SaaS; $190/user for self hosted solution||http://www.fogcreek.com/FogBugz/||Wasabi|
|Jira||Atlassian||No||Web||Self or SaaS||$10 for self hosted solution for up to 10 users; SaaS starts at $15/user/month||http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/||Java||High||Low-Medium|
|TestTrack Pro||SeaPine Software||No||Client App||Self||$295/user||http://www.seapine.com/ttpro.html||C++||High||High|
|Unfuddle||Subventurate||No||Web||SaaS||10 users: $9/mo/user||http://unfuddle.com/||RoR||Low||n/a (SaaS only)|
|Team Foundation Server||Microsoft||No||Integrated w/Visual Studio, plus W32 client||Self||10 users: about $300/user||http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/teamsystem/default.aspx||C++||High||High|
|Pivotal Tracker||Pivotal Labs||No||Web||SaaS||Free||http://www.pivotaltracker.com||RoR||Medium||n/a (SaaS only)|
We can redraw the large table listed above based on the two primary criteria I described above, the “mode”, and the cost:
Team Foundation Server
|SaaS||Rally Community Edition
It’s almost unfair to put Unfuddle in the “paid” column, as the cost per user per month is so low compared to the other systems.
My Personal Experience
I’ve used the following systems for bug tracking on various projects:
- Pivotal Tracker
As a pure bug-tracking system, FogBugz wins hands down for its ease of use. Jira is powerful and configurable, but its sheer number of features and complex UI make it a second choice. SharePoint is functional and pretty easy to set up out of the box, but its functional capabilities as a bug tracker are fairly basic – kind of like a shared spreadsheet on steroids. I like Pivotal Tracker a lot, but its primary purpose is not bug tracking, but iteration management on agile projects, and so you have to “buy in” to their way of doing things if you want to make most effective use of the product. Trac? I didn’t like Trac all that much. The UI was clunky, IMHO, and didn’t give me anything that the better competitors offered. Unfuddle is nice, simple, and clean, but lacks some of the power-user features present in the heavier products.
The Microsoft Factor
Should a self-hosted solution be required, my friend has a tepid but justified preference for a solution that interoperates well with Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server, based on previous architectural investments. That need would tend to favor the two .NET-specific self-hosted open-source solutions, namely BugTracker.NET and BugNET. Of the two, BugNET seems to me to have a superior interface, but BugTracker.NET has a longer history and a more active release history. Hm.
I have to admit a strong preference for outsourcing non-core functions. The software industry is definitely architecting its solutions to support that model, what with all the talk about application service providers, which became talk about SaaS, and which is now talk about cloud computing. Move your stuff to the cloud; let someone else worry (for the most part) about the nuts and bolts of system administration, leaving you free to do whatever it is that you are excellent at.
Given that background statement, I would recommend FogBugz, at $25/user/month, as my first choice. You can be up and running in literally minutes, and your ongoing maintenance costs are virtually zero. The interface is the best in the class, and the vendor is a first-rate software organization run by one of the leading software development gurus out there.
If the solution absolutely, positively had to be free, I would go with BugTracker.NET. The setup and configuration of this particular product look to be pretty minimal for a Microsoft shop, and although you’re sacrificing a lot in usability, you do have the cost advantage.