10 Disaster recovery Interview Questions and Answers for site reliability engineers

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1. What experience do you have in disaster recovery planning and implementation?

I have extensive experience in disaster recovery planning and implementation. In my previous role as an IT Manager for XYZ company, I was responsible for leading the disaster recovery efforts for our organization. I created and implemented a disaster recovery plan that ensured the continuity of critical business operations in the event of a disaster.

  1. First, I assessed the risks and identified potential threats to our infrastructure, including natural disasters, cyberattacks, and power outages. I then worked with the IT team to create detailed recovery procedures for each potential disaster scenario.
  2. Next, I implemented a regular testing schedule to ensure the plan was effective and up-to-date. We ran simulation exercises twice a year to test the disaster recovery plan and identify areas for improvement.
  3. As a result of these efforts, our organization was able to recover quickly from a major cyberattack that occurred in 2020. Our disaster recovery plan allowed us to restore critical systems and data within hours, minimizing the impact on our business operations.

Overall, my experience in disaster recovery planning and implementation has taught me the importance of being proactive and prepared. By identifying potential risks and implementing a robust disaster recovery plan, organizations can minimize the impact of disasters and ensure continuity of operations.

2. What tools, in your opinion, are essential for effective disaster recovery?

When it comes to effective disaster recovery, there are a myriad of tools and technologies available to help mitigate risk and minimize downtime. Here are some that I believe are essential:

  1. Cloud-based backup: Storing backups in the cloud ensures that critical data is protected in the event of physical damage to on-premises infrastructure, and allows for faster restoration times. In my previous job, implementing a cloud-based backup solution reduced our recovery time objective (RTO) by over 60%.
  2. Virtualization: Being able to replicate servers and applications in a virtual environment allows for quick failover and minimized disruption during an outage. I have seen firsthand how virtualization can reduce downtime by up to 80% in the event of a disaster.
  3. Automated failover: Manually orchestrating failover is time-consuming and error-prone. Implementing an automated solution like Azure Site Recovery can drastically reduce RTOs and RPOs, as well as minimize the amount of time spent on manual intervention. In my previous job, implementing Site Recovery reduced RTOs by 90%.
  4. Monitoring and alerting: Proactively monitoring for potential issues and receiving immediate alerting can help minimize impact and prevent outages from occurring in the first place. I have used tools like Nagios and SolarWinds to keep a close eye on critical systems, and catching issues early has prevented countless hours of downtime.
  5. Communication tools: During a disaster, communication is key. Having tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom in place ensures that teams can coordinate quickly and effectively, reducing time to resolution.

Of course, the specific tools that are essential for effective disaster recovery may vary depending on the industry and organization. But in my experience, having these foundational technologies in place can make a significant difference in minimizing downtime and ensuring business continuity.

3. What are the three most important considerations when planning a disaster recovery solution?

There are several crucial factors to consider when devising a disaster recovery plan. However, I believe the three most important are:

  1. RTO (Recovery Time Objective): The RTO is the maximum period within which systems, applications, or operations must be restored after a disaster occurs. This time frame is defined by the organization's business requirements and determines how long the company can tolerate a system outage. The goal of an effective disaster recovery plan is to minimize RTO and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) to accelerate the restoration time of operations to hours, minutes, or even seconds.
  2. Offsite Data Backup: Storing backups offsite ensures that your critical data remains in a safe and secure location, which is critical to business continuity planning. This reduces the risk of data loss or theft and can help maximize up-time, which is an essential measure of an effective disaster recovery solution. Additionally, offsite backups are essential for regulatory compliance, ensuring compliance with industry-specific regulations requiring data backups stored in secure locations offsite.
  3. Regular Testing: An effective disaster recovery plan is one that has been tested repeatedly to address potential weaknesses, uncover errors, and prioritize improvement areas. Disaster recovery tests are essential to determine if your plan is effective in restoring operations quickly and efficiently. A regular testing plan ensures the correct recovery procedures are in place, all stakeholders are aware of the process, and any flaws in the plan can be remedied before an actual disaster occurs.

According to a recent study by TechValidate, organizations with effective disaster recovery plans in place have reduced downtime costs by up to 80% and 90% overall reduction in data center downtime.

4. How do you prioritize recovery of systems after a disaster?

When it comes to prioritizing recovery of systems after a disaster, I follow a criticality assessment process. This helps in identifying the most significant assets and their importance to the business.

  1. The first step in this process is identifying the business-critical systems which are essential for the company's operations. For example, systems that handle financial transactions or customer data. We have to recover these systems in the shortest time possible.

  2. The second step is looking at the recovery time objectives for each system. We prioritize systems with the highest recovery time objective to ensure that they are recovered and fully operational within the given time frame.

  3. Next, I look at other systems that are important but not critical, such as email or collaboration tools. Although these systems may not be essential to the business, they are still important in day-to-day operations, so we prioritize them for recovery.

  4. After identifying the priority systems, I work with the team to create a recovery plan that outlines the steps required to recover each system. This ensures that the recovery process is organized, and everyone knows their role in the recovery process.

By following this process, I have successfully prioritized systems recovery after a disaster. In my previous role, during a recent disaster, we were able to recover systems with critical data within six hours, meeting the company's recovery time objective. This helped the business continue operations with minimal interruption, and we received a commendation from the senior management team.

5. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen in disaster recovery planning, and how would you avoid them?

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in disaster recovery planning is not properly testing the plan. Many organizations will create a plan, but fail to put it through rigorous testing before implementing it.

  1. Lack of testing: Last year, I worked with a company that had a disaster recovery plan in place for their server room. However, the plan had never been tested. When disaster struck, the plan failed to work and the company lost important data. To avoid this mistake, I suggest running comprehensive tests regularly to ensure the plan is effective and up-to-date.
  2. Poor communication: In another organization, I witnessed a lack of communication during a disaster recovery situation. When the network went down, the IT team didn’t notify other departments or stakeholders, leaving them in the dark about the situation. To avoid this, I recommend creating a communication plan that outlines how information will be shared with all relevant parties in the event of a disaster.
  3. Insufficient backups: I’ve also seen companies overlook the importance of having multiple backups. One company I worked with had backups of their data, but they were all located in one location. When that location was hit by a disaster, they lost all of their data. It’s important to have offsite backups as well to prevent this type of loss.

Ultimately, disaster recovery planning should be taken seriously and given the proper attention it deserves. By testing the plan, establishing clear communication, and implementing sufficient backups, organizations can minimize the potential damage of a disaster and ensure a quick recovery.

6. What metrics or other means do you use to measure successful disaster recovery?

There are several metrics that we use in order to measure a successful disaster recovery:

  1. RTO (Recovery Time Objective) - This is the maximum amount of time it should take to recover systems after a disaster. Our goal is to keep the RTO as low as possible. Our current RTO is 4 hours, but we aim to reduce it to 2 hours by the end of the year.
  2. RPO (Recovery Point Objective) - This is the amount of data that can be lost during a disaster. Our goal is to have a low RPO, meaning that we lose as little data as possible. Our current RPO is 24 hours, but we are working towards achieving a zero RPO.
  3. Downtime - This is the amount of time that systems are unavailable during a disaster. Our goal is to minimize downtime as much as possible. Our current downtime during a disaster is 6 hours, but we aim to reduce it to 2 hours.
  4. Successful Recovery Percentage - This is the percentage of systems that are successfully recovered after a disaster. Our current successful recovery percentage is at 95%, but our goal is to achieve a 100% successful recovery rate.
  5. Business Continuity Plan Effectiveness - We conduct yearly testing of our business continuity plan. Our goal is to achieve a score of 95% or higher during these tests. Our current score is at 92%, and we are working towards achieving a higher score during our next test.

By regularly measuring these metrics and striving for improvement in each area, we are confident in our ability to react quickly and effectively to any disaster that may occur.

7. What types of tests do you recommend companies run to ensure their disaster recovery plans work?

When it comes to disaster recovery testing, there are several types of tests that companies can run to ensure their plans work. These include:

  1. Tabletop exercises: This involves walking through a hypothetical disaster scenario and discussing the steps that would be taken to respond to it. It helps identify weaknesses in the plan and can improve overall readiness.
  2. Functional testing: This involves testing individual components of the disaster recovery plan, such as backups or failover procedures, to ensure they work as expected.
  3. Full-scale testing: This involves running a complete simulated disaster scenario to test the entire disaster recovery plan. It helps identify any gaps in the plan and can provide valuable data on recovery time and other important metrics.
  4. Cloud-based testing: This involves testing the plan in a cloud-based environment to see how it would function in a real-world scenario.

At my previous company, we utilized a combination of functional testing and full-scale testing to ensure our disaster recovery plan was up to par. Our full-scale testing involved simulating a power outage in our primary data center and switching over to our secondary data center. We were able to successfully recover and continue business operations within 30 minutes, which was well within our recovery time objective.

8. What are some commonly overlooked aspects of disaster recovery planning?

When it comes to disaster recovery planning, there are a few commonly overlooked aspects that are crucial for ensuring the resiliency of a business. One such aspect is having backups for all critical data and applications that can be restored in case of a system failure. While this may seem obvious, many organizations neglect to test their backups to ensure they are effective and complete.

Another overlooked aspect is having a clear and comprehensive communication plan in place for employees, customers, and other stakeholders. In the event of a disaster, communication channels can become disrupted, making it difficult to share critical information. Additionally, many companies overlook the importance of training their employees on how to respond to business disruptions and disasters.

Furthermore, it’s essential to identify all the dependencies that may impact the restoration of services following a disaster. For example, if a particular application requires specific hardware or software, and they are not available during the disaster, it may result in a longer recovery time. Conducting a thorough risk assessment and creating a plan to address potential issues can help mitigate these dependencies and minimize downtime.

  1. Testing and verifying backups regularly to ensure their effectiveness.
  2. Maintaining a clear and comprehensive communication plan for employees, customers, and stakeholders.
  3. Training employees on how to respond to business disruptions and disasters.
  4. Identifying all dependencies that may impact the restoration of services following a disaster.
  5. Conducting a thorough risk assessment and creating a plan to address potential issues.

9. How do you stay informed of the latest trends and best practices in disaster recovery?

As a disaster recovery professional, it is essential to stay informed of the latest trends and best practices, which I achieve through continuous learning and research.

  1. In my current role, I attend conferences such as DRJ, BCI and Techcrunch.

  2. I also subscribe to industry publications such as Continuity Insights, Disaster Recovery Journal and the BCI's Continuity Magazine.

  3. I attend webinars from leading vendors and providers like DellEMC, IBM etc.

  4. Additionally, I follow leading professionals in the space on social media channels, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, where I participate in relevant discussions and communities.

By employing these methods, I have gained a significant understanding of the current market trends, emerging technologies, and best practices that have led to my success in my role.

10. What are your thoughts on cloud-based disaster recovery versus on-premises solutions?

When it comes to disaster recovery, I believe cloud-based solutions offer several advantages over on-premises solutions. First, cloud-based solutions offer greater scalability and flexibility. With a cloud-based solution, businesses can easily scale up or down based on their needs, and they can quickly and easily add new resources as needed. In contrast, on-premises solutions can be more difficult and costly to scale.

Second, cloud-based solutions often provide greater reliability and availability. Many cloud providers have multiple data centers and redundancy built-in to their infrastructure, which helps ensure that data is always available in the event of an outage or disaster. Additionally, cloud providers often have more experience managing disaster recovery than individual businesses, which can lead to faster and more effective recovery in the event of an incident.

Finally, cloud-based solutions can offer significant cost savings over on-premises solutions. By leveraging cloud-based disaster recovery, businesses can avoid the capital expense of building and maintaining their own infrastructure, and they can reduce ongoing costs related to maintenance, updates, and staffing.

  1. According to a recent study by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, businesses using cloud-based disaster recovery solutions were twice as likely to fully recover from an outage than businesses using on-premises solutions.
  2. In addition, the study found that businesses using cloud-based disaster recovery solutions experienced an average recovery time objective (RTO) of less than four hours, while businesses using on-premises solutions had an average RTO of over eight hours.

In summary, while on-premises solutions may be appropriate for some businesses, I believe that in most cases, cloud-based disaster recovery solutions offer greater scalability, reliability, and cost savings, along with faster recovery times and higher RTOs.


Congratulations on preparing for your disaster recovery interview! As you move forward in your job search, remember that your cover letter and CV are also critical components of your application. Don't forget to write a compelling cover letter by using our guide on writing a standout cover letter. Additionally, you want to ensure you have an impressive CV that showcases your qualifications. Use our guide on writing a resume for site reliability engineers to create a powerful CV. Remember, Remote Rocketship has an extensive job board for remote site reliability engineer jobs. Search for your next opportunity at Remote Rocketship's job board. Best of luck in your job search!

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