10 Disaster Recovery SRE Interview Questions and Answers for site reliability engineers

flat art illustration of a site reliability engineer

1. Can you explain your experience in building and implementing disaster recovery plans?

During my time at ABC Corporation, I was tasked with building and implementing a disaster recovery plan for our production systems. I worked closely with the SRE team to identify potential disaster scenarios and create a comprehensive plan to mitigate risks and minimize downtime.

  1. The first step was to conduct a thorough risk assessment, which involved analyzing past incidents, identifying potential failure points and assessing their impact on business continuity.
  2. Based on the risk assessment, we created a disaster recovery plan that included procedures for minimizing data loss and restoring services in case of an outage. We also established recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) to ensure that our plan aligned with the company's business goals.
  3. To ensure the effectiveness of our plan, we conducted regular drills to test the procedures and identify areas for improvement. During our most recent drill, we were able to recover from a simulated outage within 30 minutes, which was well within our RTO.
  4. We also implemented a monitoring system that allows us to detect potential issues and take corrective measures before they result in outages or data loss. As a result, we have been able to prevent several incidents and minimize downtime when issues do occur.

As a result of our efforts, we were able to significantly improve the reliability of our production systems while reducing the risk of downtime and data loss. Our disaster recovery plan was also recognized by senior management as a best practice that has been adopted by other departments within the company.

2. Have you ever encountered a major outage? How did you handle it?

Yes, I have encountered a major outage in my previous role as a Disaster Recovery SRE. We had a production outage that affected a significant number of customers for several hours.

  1. The first thing I did was to gather all the available information about the incident. I reached out to our monitoring team to understand what systems were affected and what the symptoms were.
  2. Next, we quickly convened our incident response team and started setting up a dedicated communication channel to keep everyone updated on the latest developments. This helped us to maintain transparency and ensure that everyone was working towards the same goal.
  3. As part of the investigation, I dug deep into the logs and identified the root cause of the outage. We found out that one of the components in the system failed, causing a cascading failure across the entire infrastructure.
  4. To address the issue, I worked with the development team to create and deploy a fix in the form of a hot patch. We conducted thorough testing to ensure that the patch was working as expected before rolling it out to production.
  5. After the hot patch was deployed, we continued to monitor the system closely to ensure that there were no more issues. We also conducted a post mortem to document everything that happened during the outage and identify areas for improvement.
  6. As a result of our efforts, we were able to restore service to our customers within four hours of the outage. We also implemented several changes to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

This experience taught me the importance of preparation, communication, and collaboration during a major outage. It also highlighted the importance of conducting thorough post-mortems as a way of continuous improvement.

3. What techniques have you used to minimize downtime during a disaster?

During my time as an SRE at XYZ Company, we experienced a disaster when a major server went down during peak business hours. To minimize downtime, I immediately implemented three techniques:

  1. Load Balancing: I shifted the incoming traffic to other available servers using load balancing techniques. This helped in keeping the website functional and users engaged.
  2. Cloud Backup: We used AWS cloud backup for our server, and I initiated a failover to our backup server. This helped in ensuring that data was still accessible, and users could still perform transactions on other servers.
  3. Continuous Monitoring: I set up monitoring tools that could track user complaints and server logs to detect any inconsistencies, helping us identify potential issues before they result in a full-blown disaster.

As a result, we were able to minimize downtime by 80%, ensuring that the business continued to function even during a crisis. This helped us maintain customer trust and reduce financial losses during a disaster.

4. How do you ensure the accuracy and completeness of backups?

My approach to ensuring the accuracy and completeness of backups involves implementing a three-step process:

  1. Regular Testing: I regularly conduct testing of backups to confirm their accuracy and completeness. This includes testing the backup restoration process to ensure that the data is being restored in its original form. In my previous position, I implemented a monthly backup restoration test where we simulated a disaster recovery and restored data from backups. This helped us identify any potential lapses in the backup process and address them promptly.
  2. Automated Monitoring: I have experience in implementing an automated monitoring system that alerts the team in case of any backup failures. This system sends real-time alerts to the team's communication tool, such as Slack or email, to ensure any issues are addressed promptly to ensure data is not lost. In my previous position, I implemented a monitoring tool that helped identify a data corruption issue in a backup. Thanks to this tool, we were able to identify the problem and fix it before it caused any significant loss of data.
  3. Periodic Auditing: I have structured a periodic auditing system to ensure the completeness of backups. This process includes testing the backup on an isolated system to ensure that it contains all the required files and configuration settings. In the last quarter of the year, I conducted audits on backups, and we discovered that we had been taking a backup every day, but we were missing some critical configuration files. Thanks to the audits, we were able to rectify the issue and ensure that we didn't lose any critical configuration files in the future.

These three steps help me ensure the completeness and accuracy of backups, and I ensure that data is restored to its original form in the event of a disaster.

5. How do you prioritize recovery efforts in the event of a disaster?

There are several factors that I consider when prioritizing recovery efforts in the event of a disaster:

  1. The type of disaster: Depending on the type of disaster, certain systems or components may be more critical than others. For example, if the disaster is a cyber attack, I would prioritize restoring databases and applications before addressing hardware issues.

  2. The impact on business operations: I would prioritize systems or components that are most critical to the organization's ability to function. For example, if the disaster has disrupted customer service, I would prioritize restoring those systems first to minimize impact on customers.

  3. The availability of resources: I would prioritize systems or components that can be restored with existing resources first, before allocating additional resources to restore less critical systems.

  4. The estimated time to recovery: I would prioritize systems or components that can be restored quickly first, to minimize downtime and reduce the impact on business operations. For example, if a system can be restored in 2 hours as opposed to 5 hours, I would prioritize restoring that system first.

I have used this prioritization method in the past and it has been successful in minimizing downtime and reducing the impact on business operations. For example, in a previous disaster recovery scenario, we prioritized restoring customer-facing systems and were able to reduce customer complaints by 50% within 24 hours of the disaster.

6. What tools and technologies do you commonly use for disaster recovery?

As an experienced Disaster Recovery SRE, I have used a variety of tools and technologies to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery. Here are some of the tools and technologies I commonly use:

  1. Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP): This is a crucial document that serves as a guide for recovering from any type of disaster. I always start with a detailed DRP that outlines step-by-step procedures for restoring critical systems, applications, and data.
  2. Backup and recovery software: I have extensive knowledge of backup and recovery software such as Veeam, Commvault, and Rubrik. These tools help to automate the backup process, reducing the risk of human error and ensuring better data protection.
  3. Cloud-based disaster recovery: I have experience setting up cloud-based disaster recovery solutions using Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. This approach can help reduce costs and provide greater flexibility in disaster recovery scenarios.
  4. Replication software: I am proficient in using replication software like Zerto and Veeam, which help to create replicas of critical systems and data in a secondary location, ensuring fast recovery times in case of a disaster.
  5. High Availability (HA) solutions: I have worked with HA solutions such as Microsoft Always On Availability Groups, VMware Fault Tolerance, and Oracle Data Guard, which help ensure that critical systems are always available and reduce the risk of downtime.
  6. Monitoring and alerting tools: I use monitoring and alerting solutions such as Nagios, Zabbix, and Splunk, which help track the health and performance of critical systems and alert me to any issues, minimizing downtime and ensuring quick recovery.
  7. Testing and simulation tools: To ensure the effectiveness of disaster recovery plans, I use testing and simulation tools like VMware Site Recovery Manager and Zerto Virtual Replication. These tools help simulate disasters and test the effectiveness of recovery plans.
  8. Network and infrastructure monitoring tools: I have used network and infrastructure monitoring solutions such as SolarWinds, PRTG, and ManageEngine, which help me keep an eye on network performance and detect any issues before they become critical.
  9. Security tools: I use security tools like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software to ensure that critical systems and data are protected against cyber threats.
  10. Documentation and reporting tools: Finally, I use documentation and reporting tools like Confluence, JIRA, and SharePoint, which help me keep track of disaster recovery plans, report on the effectiveness of recovery strategies, and make necessary improvements.

Through my experience with these tools and technologies, I have achieved impressive results such as:

  • Reducing recovery time objectives (RTO) from 24 hours to 4 hours for critical systems and applications
  • Increasing the recovery point objectives (RPO) from 24 hours to 15 minutes for mission-critical data, ensuring minimal data loss in case of a disaster
  • Successfully recovering from a ransomware attack within 1 hour, with minimal data loss and no interruption to business operations
  • Reducing the cost of disaster recovery by 30% by implementing cloud-based disaster recovery solutions
  • Automating the backup process and reducing the risk of human error, resulting in a 99.9% success rate for backups

7. What measures have you taken to prevent disasters from happening in the first place?

Preventing disasters is just as important as having a disaster recovery plan in place. At my previous company, we took several measures to prevent disasters from happening:

  1. We implemented a system for automated backups, taking regular backups of our data, and testing the reliability of these backups frequently. This ensured that, in case of any potential data loss, we were always able to recover.

  2. We instituted a strict change management process to ensure that all system changes were approved and tested before implementation. This helped reduce the risk of any unexpected system changes that could lead to outages or data loss.

  3. We used a monitoring tool to track the system health, identifying potential issues before they could cause a problem. This helped us proactively address any system instabilities before they could become a larger issue.

  4. We also conducted regular security audits and ensured that all security patches were promptly applied to keep our systems secure from potential threats.

  5. Finally, we established an incident response plan with clear roles and responsibilities for all team members involved. This helped us quickly address any issues and mitigate any negative impacts resulting from incidents.

As a result of our preventive measures, we were able to significantly reduce the number of incidents and the impact of those that did occur. Our automated backups helped us recover data quickly and efficiently, while our rigorous change management process prevented any unnecessary system disruptions. Our monitoring tools and security audits kept our systems stable and secure, and our incident response plan allowed us to respond to any issues quickly and effectively.

8. What experience do you have in testing and validating disaster recovery plans?

My experience in testing and validating disaster recovery plans stems from my time working as a Site Reliability Engineer at XYZ Corporation. One project I worked on involved testing our disaster recovery plan for our core system, which was responsible for processing a large volume of financial transactions.

  1. First, we conducted a risk assessment to identify potential failure points.
  2. Next, we simulated a disaster scenario by deliberately shutting down our primary data center while the system was live.
  3. During the simulation, we monitored the system's failover to the secondary data center.
  4. Once the system was successfully running on the secondary data center, we conducted load testing to ensure that it could handle the same volume of transactions as the primary data center.
  5. After the testing was complete, we analyzed the results and made improvements to the disaster recovery plan where necessary.

As a result of this project, we were able to reduce our system's recovery time objective from 24 hours to just 4 hours. This significantly improved our system's availability and minimized downtime for our users.

9. How do you ensure that disaster recovery plans are up-to-date and effective?

As an SRE, I believe that ensuring the disaster recovery plans are up-to-date and effective is essential to business continuity, and I do this in the following ways:

  1. Regularly review and assess the disaster recovery plans: I schedule regular reviews of the disaster recovery plans to ensure that they are up-to-date, reflecting the latest changes in the system, and ensure they conform to regulatory compliance. I also review and assess the effectiveness of our disaster recovery plans, which allows us to identify potential vulnerabilities and take remedial measures.
  2. Regular testing and simulation: I conduct regular testing and simulation of our disaster recovery plans, ranging from simpler tests such as power outages to complete shutdowns. By testing and simulating, our team can measure how effective the disaster recovery plans are and identify weaknesses that need to be addressed.
  3. Proactive monitoring: I use proactive monitoring tools and systems to identify potential risks of system failures and ensure the disaster recovery plan is ready to tackle any specific issue before as well as during and after the event.
  4. Collaborate with stakeholder: I work with the business, the IT operation teams, and other company departments to review and get their feedback on the plan to ensure that our disaster recovery plans adhere properly to the needs of the company.

Through the above methods, I have been successful in updating and ensuring the effectiveness of the disaster recovery plan at XYZ company. My implementation of a comprehensive process for disaster recovery planning led to a 99.8% reduction in system downtime, which resulted in $1.5 million worth of savings in business in the first year of operations.

10. How do you ensure that all relevant stakeholders are informed and kept up-to-date during a disaster?

During a disaster, communication is key to ensuring that everyone is informed and kept up-to-date. To make sure that all relevant stakeholders are in the loop, I implement a communication plan that includes regular updates via email or chat, as well as scheduled meetings with key stakeholders.

  1. First, I ensure that all stakeholders have up-to-date contact information, including email addresses and phone numbers. This information is stored in a centralized location that can be accessed quickly during an emergency.
  2. Next, I establish a communication protocol that outlines the frequency and method of communication. For example, during a disaster, I may send out daily email updates to all stakeholders and schedule weekly check-in meetings with key stakeholders.
  3. I also set up a system for stakeholders to ask questions and provide feedback. This can include a dedicated email address or chat channel where stakeholders can ask questions and receive timely responses.
  4. To measure the effectiveness of the communication plan, I track and analyze key metrics such as response rates, feedback, and satisfaction surveys. For example, during a recent disaster, our communication plan had a 95% response rate and received positive feedback from all stakeholders.

By implementing a strong communication plan and regularly collecting feedback, I ensure that all relevant stakeholders are informed and kept up-to-date, which helps minimize the impact of disasters on our business operations.


Congratulations on learning how to tackle 10 Disaster Recovery SRE interview questions! After preparing your answers, the next steps are equally crucial in landing your dream job. One of the first things you need to do is create a compelling cover letter that highlights your skills and experiences. We have a great guide on writing a cover letter that can help you make a strong connection with the employer. Additionally, make sure you have a winning CV that showcases your capabilities. Our guide on writing a resume for site reliability engineers can help you create a well-crafted CV that stands out from the crowd. And don't forget to leverage our website to search for remote SRE jobs. We have a job board dedicated entirely to remote DevOps and Production Engineering positions. Visit Remote Rocketship to find exciting opportunities that match your skills and interests. Good luck in your job hunt!

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