A Runbook can be defined as a set of guidelines for tackling incidents and maintaining the smooth running of the ecosystem.

What is a runbook?

Often, we find operations teams losing their time to incidents that happen in regular day-to-day operations. Though the task would have a simple solution, the person working on it might be unfamiliar with it and ends up wasting a lot of productive man-hours to find the solution. This is where a runbook comes into play. 

A Runbook can be defined as a set of guidelines for tackling incidents and maintaining the smooth running of the ecosystem. It is a documentation of the experiential knowledge of engineers in the firm which is designed to help new engineers navigate through the bottlenecks faced during day-to-day operations. 

Why runbook?

Runbooks help in tackling specific issues by leveraging the knowledge of subject matter experts (SME). A well-made runbook eliminates the need for escalations by empowering the team to be self-sufficient. This significantly reduces downtime and enhances the productivity of the team as well as the management. 

Types of runbooks

Runbooks are primarily segmented based on level of automation as follows: 

  1. Manual: Manual runbooks contain step-by-step instructions which are to be performed by an operator. 
  2. Semi-automated: Involves human effort as well as automation. 
  3. Automatic: Does not require human effort. 

Runbooks can also be divided based on their functions as: 

1. General: For routine operations. 

2. Specialized: For specific complex operations or incidents. 

What is the difference between runbook and playbook? 

Though the names are used interchangeably, they are both significantly different. The basic difference between a runbook and a playbook is the scope. A playbook generally has a much larger scope compared to a runbook. A playbook could even contain multiple runbooks. 

If a playbook is a set of instructions to dismantle a car, a runbook would be the section dedicated to dismantling the engine alone. 

How to create your own runbook?

The first step in creating a general runbook is finding out the bottlenecks faced by your team in regular operations and identifying the easiest way to resolve them. 

In the case of specialized runbooks, an in-depth post-mortem of incidents would enhance the quality of the runbook. 

The runbook is to be tested and updated if necessary. 

Typically, a runbook contains: 

  1. Overview: A brief overview of the process. 
  2. Authorization: Who gets what level of access to the runbook. 
  3. Steps: Steps required to complete the process. 
  4. Monitoring system information: Specifies all the monitoring alerts that could be triggered and instructions to mitigate them. 
  5. DR plans: contains the different SLA’s, protocols, and instructions for reporting and communication. 
  6. Technical documentation: Critical system information, configurations, metrics, etc. 
The things to keep in mind while creating a runbook are:
  1. It should be simple and easy to understand. 
  2. The language used in writing the runbook should be comfortable for the reader. 
  3. It should be flexible and easily accommodate future amendments. 
  4. Runbooks are to be regularly tested for optimal functioning. An adaptive runbook would seamlessly accommodate changes keeping it updated and relevant. 

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