Updated Dec. 29, 2020
Atlassian’s website provides a fair amount of information about Jira, its popular issue tracking, and project management software.
However, no matter the breadth of available information, it can be hard to compare all the factors and what they can do for your business. We’ve created this Jira Buyer’s Guide to distill the most important information in one place.
For example, there are separate pages for the three main products, Jira Core, Jira Software, and Jira Service Management. And then, there are separate pages for the three hosting versions, Cloud, Server, and Data Center. Oh, and not all the products are available in the Data Center version in case your business needs extra levels of security. Licensing costs for Jira are likewise scattered.
Oxalis is here to help. We display the options here for you in one definitive overview of Jira Core, Jira Service Management, and Jira Software Buyer’s Guide. This covers pricing, features, and more. After presenting pricing, features, and comparisons, it will be clear which Jira options your business needs.
3 Factors That Tell You Which Version of Jira to Buy
Here are the three key factors to consider:
- Product: Core, Software, and/or Service Management
- Deployment: Cloud, Server, or Data Center
- Note: Core does NOT have a Data Center version.
- Licenses: number and type
Update: Atlassian Announced End of Life for Server Edition Products
On October 16, Atlassian announced they were sunsetting their Server edition support by February 2024, and would halt the sale and service of their Server licenses by February 2021. This announcement supports the company’s recent moves toward simplifying their self-managed options and doubling down on their Cloud support for Jira Software, Jira Core, Jira Service Management, and Confluence. With this announcement, they also announced pricing changes for Cloud and Data Center licenses by February 2021.
What This Means for You
- All of the information in this Jira Comparison Guide is still accurate. However, we strongly encourage any companies adopting Jira’s suite of high power Agile software tooling to consider Cloud licensing, if possible. If your company is unable to move to the Cloud for compliance reasons, Data Center products are available.
- We broke down Atlassian’s announcement and offered suggestions and steps forward on our blog. Read more here.
Jira Products Comparison: Core, Software, and Service Management
While these three products are independent, they can be used individually or partnered together. Despite the name, Jira Core does NOT mean it provides a baseline for the other two products. Rather, it reflects the fact that its business project functionality is at the core of what Jira does and is present in the Software and Service Management versions as well. So, if you want just Jira Software, you can without feeling the need to add other products.
|PRODUCT||TARGET USES||KEY FEATURES|
|Core||Project management, change requests, workflow approvals||Projects, tasks/issues, workflow, approvals, notifications, reports, dashboards|
|Software||Software development, product management, bug tracking||Stories, epics, sprints, releases, versions, boards, roadmaps|
|Service Desk||Help desks, service centers—anywhere a small team of people handle requests submitted by a larger organization||Self-service portals, SLAs, issue queues, knowledge base integration (Confluence)|
For a more detailed side-by-side comparison, see the Akeles.com article, “What are the differences between JIRA Software, JIRA Service Management and JIRA Core“.
The target uses listed above should give you a general sense of what each product is focused on. Keep in mind: Jira is flexible and extensible, not just by virtue of the hundreds of add-ons available in the Atlassian Marketplace. Due to Jira’s well-documented Java API that allows anyone to write custom code and even create add-ons. If your use cases don’t clearly match what’s listed, Jira may still meet your needs. We have included some examples below for your reference.
The fact that Jira offers a dedicated software version does not mean it’s necessary for software development. In fact, if you’re part of a small team or not following the Agile Development Approach, Jira Software could be more than you or your team needs. The fields Version and Components are built into both Jira Core or Jira Service Management for software development.
Jira Service Management Serves ITSM Needs
Jira Service Management stands separate from Jira Core and Software, as they have the self-service (or customer) portal. The portal provides a simple external interface to Jira that allows unlicensed users to create requests and check on the status of their requests. Add-ons and customization can expand the actions available through a portal.
Note the key phrase “unlicensed users.” In Jira Service Management, a license is only required to work on an issue. This allows the flexibility to allow for many more people to use Jira than you could otherwise afford.
Bottom line: Jira Software is a perfect fit if you’re doing Agile Software Development with a sizable team or multiple teams.
Is there a special case we didn’t cover? We’d love to learn about it. Contact us and we’ll find a solution that fits your team needs.
To illustrate Jira’s flexibility and extensibility, here are two examples of business processes that can be built in Jira:
1) Document Review
Say you’re a complex fabrication company that uses an engineering company to produce drawings and schematics needed to fill orders. Each document has to be reviewed both by you and by the customer and can go through several revision cycles before being approved and sent to production.
With Jira Service Management, you can create an external portal that engineers use to submit documents (including both attachments and metadata) and the customer uses to review them. In Jira, your team receives a document request and reviews it, then uses a custom workflow to send the request to the customer for review via the portal. The customer sends the request back with their feedback, you review again, send it to the engineer to revise. Eventually, the request is approved, and the workflow automatically routes it to production and the work begins.
2) Governmental Integration
In this scenario, you repair and service vehicles for the Army. Due to regulation, this process requires you to document every problem you find, your proposed fix, and get approval before doing any work. Your team uses an Army software application to report the problems and get work approval. It’s a very manual, time-consuming process—using a separate application to manage work items.
But, the Army’s software has an API.
Now, with Jira Core, you can handle the entire process. From logging problems to managing related documents, even integrating with the Army’s system so work items are sent off for approval without opening the Army’s clunky, difficult program.
Deployment Comparison: Cloud or Data Center
These three choices should be familiar with many other software offerings, such as Microsoft SharePoint.
|Cloud||No installation, maintenance, or upgrades to deal with; no capital cost for hardware||Reduced flexibility and customization; no control over which country your data is stored in, or other government security-related factors; annual cost is higher in most cases compared to annual maintenance for the same number of Server licenses||Atlassian hosts, sets up, secures, and maintains your products.|
|Data Center||Easy scalability; high availability; load balancing; improved performance with project archiving; Atlassian-supported disaster recovery||Highest cost for hardware and support resources; not available for Jira Core||Think of this as server, but at scale. Data Center products provide the same functionality as our server products but have additional capabilities to better serve enterprise organizations|
Here are some practical questions to consider:
- Will you have the resources to handle your own installation and maintenance?
- If not, Jira Cloud is best.
- Will you need full redundancy, high availability, or other enterprise-level architecture features?
- If so, Jira Data Center.*
- Will you have the resources for custom development?
- If not, Jira Cloud is best.
- Do you have government security requirements to meet, e.g. NIST or ITAR?
- If so, rule out Jira Cloud.
- Is it easier for your company to pay larger amounts of money annually or smaller amounts monthly?
- If monthly, then Jira Cloud is best, as it’s the only option that has a monthly plan.
*Oxalis recommends Data Center licenses only to those companies that have heightened security and compliance needs. Otherwise, we recommend going Atlassian Cloud.
What Are The Differences between Jira Cloud Licenses?
Atlassian sells their Cloud licenses with three different tiers depending on your required features: Cloud Free, Cloud Standard, Cloud Premium, and Cloud Enterprise.
|Jira Core||Cloud Free||Cloud Standard|
|Users||Up to 10||Up to 10,000/Up to 5,000|
|Support||Community Sourced||Standard Support, Local Business Hours|
|Price per Month||$0||$5 per User|
Jira Core, as a lighter version of the more robust Jira Software, only offers Cloud Free and Cloud Standard licenses. There are few differences between the two, however, the differences essentially separate daily users from casual users.
Atlassian’s Cloud Free version for Jira Core is great for businesses that are interested in checking Jira out as a whole, without committing fully. They offer a great collection of features; in fact, a company could use Cloud Free license for Jira Core up until they need more users. At that point, the value should be demonstrated and therefore the cost justified.
The Jira Core Cloud Free license shortcomings fall within storage, user count, and administrative tools like audit logs and advanced permissions.
The Cloud Standard version of Jira Core can be summarized by saying Jira Core Professional. The way Atlassian built their feature structure, businesses will need up upgrade to Jira Core Cloud Standard once they grow their user base, need actual storage (250GB to be exact). The real benefit is adding customer support, which is available to Jira Core Cloud Standard users between 9am and 5pm. Support will help with configuration, pulling reports, and configuring/customizing layout.
If you’re finding that Jira Core does not have all of the features that your business needs, consider making the leap to Jira Software.
|Jira Software||Cloud Free||Cloud Standard||Cloud Premium||Cloud Enterprise|
|Users||Up to 10||Up to 10,000||Up to 10,000||Up to 10,000|
|Advanced Roadmaps for Jira||--||--||Included||Included|
|Support||Community Support||Support from 9am-5pm||24/7 Premium Support||24/7 Enterprise Support|
|Price per Month*||$0||$7 per User*||$14 per User*||Contact Us for Pricing|
*Note: Pricing scales with the number of users—the more users the more affordable per user cost. Contact us for an accurate pricing estimate.
The Jira Software Cloud Free tier includes most of the dynamic features that sets Atlassian’s flagship products apart from the competition. Users have access to scrum and kanban boards, as well as Agile reporting, Roadmaps, and Automation (which most project management tools charge for).
However, the Cloud Free tier of Jira Software falls short with support, permissions, and storage. The 2GB of included storage can fill up relatively quickly depending on usage. Atlassian does provide a robust Community Support system, but many customization questions require more in-depth conversations and workshopping. If your company needs to separate viewing permissions within the company or with internal vs external users, the higher tier will suit you well.
All in all, Atlassian offering a free tier is incredibly helpful for those debating whether to make the Jira Software switch. There are several factors that, with adopted use, will all but require a paid tier.
The Jira Software Cloud Standard tier is the clear next step up for Jira Software or Jira Core users ready to unlock the full power of Jira. As an administrator, you have access to a bevy of new features including Advanced Permissions, Project Roles, Audit Logs, and 250GB of storage (rather than 2GB at the Cloud Free tier). Since you can have up to 10,000 users (starting at $7 per user per month for the lowest tiers), businesses could and likely do continue with this license for as long as they need it.
If you’re using Jira Software as your company’s hub, Jira Software Cloud Premium is well worth the cost. With the hightened tier, admins obtain access to insights, sandboxing, release tracking, and unlimited storage. This tier also has Advanced Roadmaps for Jira included—a robust planning and forecasting Atlassian App that we use extensively at Oxalis.
Cloud Premium is double the price per user of Cloud Standard, but Atlassian makes up for it with all of the aforementioned included features. Not to mention, Atlassian also includes 24/7 priority support for Cloud Premium users.
The bottom line: if Jira Software is your company’s central hub, Cloud Premium will help you save money and time down the road as your processes improve and become more trackable.
Jira Software Cloud Enterprise is the highest tier available. With unlimited storage, 24/7 enterprise support, Atlassian Access, and unlimited sites included (the other tiers only allow for one), Cloud Enterprise covers any base left to be covered.
Companies should only consider Cloud Enterprise if they require those higher level management and security requirements. Atlassian Access, Atlassian’s enterprise-wide subscription for enhanced security and centralized administration for Atlassian cloud products, brings an extremely high level of security to Jira Software. Features like SAML single sign-on (SSO), User provisioning (SCIM), Active Directory sync, Organization audit log, Organization insights, and Enforced 2FA are bundled into Atlassian Access.
You can purchase Atlassian Access for each of the other tiers if needed.
While pricing isn’t readily available for Cloud Enterprise, Oxalis is able to pull a quote for your needs. Contact us and we will get the process started for you.
Jira Service Management
|Jira Service Management||Cloud Free||Cloud Standard||Cloud Premium||Cloud Enterprise|
|Support||Atlassian Community||Cloud Support Team (Business Hours)||Cloud Support Team (24/7 Premium Support)||Cloud Support Team (24/7 Enterprise Support)|
|Major Incidents Per Month||5||100||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Pricing per Month*||$0 per Agent||$20 per Agent||$40 per Agent||Contact Us|
*Note: Pricing scales with the number of users—the more users the more affordable per user cost. Contact us for an accurate pricing estimate.
Atlassian provides their Jira Service Management Cloud Free for teams looking to understand what JSM has to offer at a high level. It includes most of the robust features that help users understand how JSM works, especially if they are testing JSM vs competitors like Zendesk or Freshdesk.
However, Atlassian built in several blockers to ensure that this is just a very small business or testing the system with one department. For example, JSM Major Incidents (Incidents that cause significant disruption to everyday business operations) are capped at 5 per month, which can be extremely limiting for anything larger than a small, local business. Postmortems (a process of evaluating incidents after they have passed), a cornerstone for a successful Agile framework, are also capped at 5 per month.
More than Jira Software or Jira Core, Jira Service Management Cloud Free is truly for those who are dipping their toes into JSM or exploring switching from competitors like Zendesk or Freshdesk.
Once you upgrade to Jira Service Management’s Cloud Standard, you get into the realm of a product that works perfectly for your needs. At this point, you only need to upgrade if there are specific admin features lacking on Cloud Standard.
With JSM Cloud Standard, you can get up to 5,000 agents (paying less per user as you scale up) with 250GB of storage and the Cloud Support Team ready to help you during local business hours. Cloud Standard users are allowed up to 100 major incidents per month (quite the jump from 5), with more auditing and reporting features available.
Cloud Standard really is the entry point for most companies adopting JSM for their ITSM needs. There is enough included to cover the major bases and run your ITSM operations. Once your company starts running into the major incident blockers, needs more in-depth reporting, or higher automation capability, then you’ll upgrade to Cloud Premium.
Cloud Premium is for those medium to large businesses who use Jira Service Management for their entire ITSM operation. This is the tier that unlocks unlimited major incidents, postmortems and storage. Customer support at the Cloud Premium level is also 24/7 premium support.
This tier also includes newer tools like Sandbox, which allows agents to test and control updates before rolling them out across the entire system. Not to mention, just as the other Jira tools, Cloud Premium offers higher levels of admin and reporting tools.
Outside of all that, Cloud Premium also introduces the Incident Command Center, where you command, control and coordinate incident response, and effectively collaborate through Opsgenie-hosted video bridge and other integrated communication tools. Admins can investigate incidents and monitor the health of their system with these tools, allowing for faster incident management and system improvement.
As with Jira Software, Cloud Enterprise for Jira Service Management includes the highest level of reporting and administration controls with unlimited storage and 24/7 enterprise support. Also similar to Jira Software Cloud Enterprise, Atlassian Access is included with JSM Cloud Enterprise—leading to extremely high levels of security for those large enterprises that require it.
Atlassian prices based on specific enterprise needs, so if you’re interested contact us and we will work with you to pull the best quote for your needs.
Jira License Comparison: Number and Type
Jira Core and Jira Software are licensed per user, meaning that a user cannot use the system unless a license is purchased and assigned. As mentioned above, Service Management only requires a license for those who need to work issues in Jira, called “agents“.
It’s worth noting that licenses for agents are more expensive than licenses for Core and Software users.
Jira Cloud licenses may be paid monthly or annually. Cloud licenses will expire if you fail to renew when required. Data Center licenses are only available annually, but they do offer a 50% discount for academic clients.
All three products offer an affordable starter option for small groups (meaning up to 10 users or 3 agents). Beyond that, volume discounts make larger numbers of licenses progressively cheaper.
One practical consideration for Jira Service Management: it includes the business process features in Jira Core. If you’re setting up projects in Service Management that do not use the extra features of Service Management, but only the business process features, you still have to pay for agent licenses. As a result, it may be cheaper to get both Core and Service Management to save the expensive agent licenses.
Sound confusing? Let’s chat and talk through what configuration will work best for your team.
Licensing Cost Overview and Comparison
To translate Jira’s license per user costs into more practical terms, we’ve picked some sample numbers of users to compare costs between products and deployment options.
Monthly Cloud License Comparison
Here are samples of the licensing costs per month for the Cloud version of each product.
Note: All costs are in US dollars.
|# of Users / Agents||Core Cost/Mo.||Software Cost/Mo.||Service Management Cost/Mo.|
|1-10 / 1-3||$0||$0||$0|
|50 / 15||$250||$350||$300|
|100 / 50||$500||$700||$1,000|
|250 / 75||$1,025||$1,450||$1,500|
|500 / 100||$1,300||$1,672.5||$2,000|
|2,000 / 200||$2,675||$3,100||$4,000|
Annual Cloud License Comparison
Since the Jira Cloud version also offers a discounted annual subscription plan, it’s worth comparing the annualized monthly cost for each product to the corresponding subscription cost. Here is a breakdown of the cost per year for Jira products.
|Annualized Monthly Cost||Annual Subscription Cost|
|# of Users / Agents||Core||Software||Service Desk||Core||Software||Service Desk|
|1-10 / 1-3||$0||$0||$0||$100||$100||$100|
|50 / 15||$3,000||$4,200||$3,600||$2,500||$3,500||$3,000|
|100 / 50||$6,000||$8,400||$12,000||$5,000||$7,000||$8,250|
|250 / 75||$12,300||$17,400||$18,000||$10,800||$15,050||$15,750|
|500 / 100||$15,600||$20,070||$24,000||$13,000||$17,250||$15,750|
|2,000 / 200||$32,100||$37,200||$48,000||$29,500||$33,750||$51,500|
This table shows how much business can save with the subscription plan. But, make sure to do the math for the number of licenses you actually need, as there are some beneficial points in the Jira cost-per-user hierarchy that might not be apparent from the surface. You can find Atlassian’s pricing calculator here: Jira Core | Jira Software | Jira Service Management
Atlassian announced they are raising their Data Center license prices as of February 2, 2021. Users who purchase or quote their license before February 2 will receive reduced pricing. If your company needs Data Center licensed products, reach out to secure your reduced pricing.
Jira Buyer’s Guide Conclusion: Where To Go From Here
In some cases, the information provided above will be enough to determine which Jira product(s) and deployment options are the best fit for you. But most companies, especially larger ones, have plenty of business processes that don’t clearly fall into those categories. And the truth is, we all know that reading the marketing materials doesn’t always provide the most accurate reflection of performance. This is where we come in. Oxalis can bridge that information gap, and help you figure out whether Jira products can meet your particular needs.
We covered many of the benefits, drawbacks, and differences between Jira Core, Jira Service Management, and Jira Software over the course of this post. However, if you need more information while deciding if the Jira Suite is right for you, send our team of experts a message—don’t let lack of information make your decision for you.
For more information, we offer Jira consulting services to help with best practices in configuration, customization, and more.