November 1, 2023

Runbook: What is it?

So, what exactly is a runbook? At its core, a runbook is a documented set of procedures, instructions, and guidelines designed to help IT professionals and operations teams carry out routine tasks, troubleshoot issues, and handle emergency situations effectively. These invaluable resources serve as the backbone of your operations, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Whether it's a routine server maintenance task, a complex debugging process, or a critical incident response plan, runbooks have got you covered.

According to research, technical employees waste half of their day looking for information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. A runbook is a unique form of knowledge-sharing document that saves such waste of time, making a positive impact on the bottom line.

In this guide, we'll explore the concept of runbooks, understanding what they are, why they're essential, and how they can transform the way you manage operational tasks. If you've ever wondered how to streamline your processes, improve efficiency, and eliminate downtime, you're in the right place!

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What is a Runbook?

A runbook is your go-to resource, your trusty manual for managing operational tasks. We can sum it up as: A runbook is a documented guide that outlines the procedures and instructions for routine and emergency tasks.

Runbook Example

To grasp the concept better, let's consider a quick example. Imagine you're responsible for maintaining a critical web server. Your runbook for this task could include step-by-step instructions for routine maintenance, such as checking for software updates, monitoring server performance, and conducting regular backups. In the event of an unexpected issue, the runbook might also contain procedures for troubleshooting common problems, like handling server crashes or addressing security breaches.

You can also have runbooks for deployment processes, continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, and incident response runbooks.

Here's an excerpt from a runbook that can hardens an Ubuntu server using Runme. You can find the full example for this runbook here.

Screenshot 2023-10-31 at 21.14.09.png

The above screenshot is a step-by-step process that helps in maintaining a record of system events.

The full example is a step-by-step process on hardening an Ubuntu server. It consists of how to set up your firewall to enable and configure UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall) to only allow necessary services, automatic security update, etc. To test this out in a bare metal Ubuntu server, you an use the Runme via SSH documentation to get started.

When You Might Want to Have a Runbook Available

Runbooks prove their worth in various scenarios. Whether you're part of a Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) team or in a DevOps environment, these are gold dust. Here are a few instances where runbooks are indispensable:

  1. Incident Response: During a system outage or security breach, a well-structured runbook can guide your team through the necessary steps to restore services quickly and minimize downtime.
  2. Routine Maintenance: For repetitive tasks like system updates, database backups, and log analysis, runbooks ensure consistency and reduce the risk of human error.
  3. Capacity Planning: When scaling your infrastructure, runbooks help in planning, deploying, and managing new resources efficiently.
  4. Security Protocols: Runbooks play a critical role in ensuring compliance with security best practices and helping teams respond to breaches.

What's an Interactive Runbook?

Interactive runbooks take things to the next level. They're not just static documents; they're a dynamic tool that can execute tasks and provide real-time feedback. Imagine having a runbook that can automatically apply patches, run tests, or even notify your team when an incident occurs. This is the power of interactive runbooks.

Runme is tool for building interactive runbooks that use markdown. At its core, it combines your docs with everything great about scripting and pipelines. Runme is also open-source and devoted to the community.

Runme works with your pre-existing documentation, so there’s no extra infrastructure to build, maintain, or manage. No extra TCO or bus factor.

It’s a great tool if you want to streamline and automate your operational tasks, making them more efficient and error-free. By combining the simplicity of markdown with the power of automation, Runme enables you to create interactive runbooks that guide your team through complex procedures step by step. This ensures consistency and reduces the risk of human error in critical processes.

In summary, if you're looking to enhance your operational efficiency, reduce manual effort, and increase the reliability of your tasks, Runme's interactive runbooks can be an invaluable addition to your toolkit.

In the following video, you can learn how to get started with Runme:

What's It Like to Work with a Static Runbook vs. an Interactive Runbook?

Working with a static runbook is like following a traditional manual. You have to read and execute the steps manually, which can be time-consuming and error-prone. On the other hand, an interactive runbook can guide you through the process, automate repetitive tasks, and reduce the chances of human error.

For a quick demo of interactive runbooks in action, check out the following to see how they can transform your operations. If you want to see some other ways you can use it, check out our article on elevating tasks over files in the CLI.

A runbook can also be:

  1. Manual: Step-by-step instructions followed by the operator
  2. Semi-Automated: A combination of operator-followed steps with automated steps
  3. Fully-Automated: All steps are automated and require no operator

Depending on their functions, runbooks can also be categorized as:

  • General runbooks. For routine IT department activities, such as reviewing audit logs, performing daily backups or monitoring system performance.
  • Specialized runbooks. For more complex operations processes, like disaster recovery (DR), network outages, DevOps, etc.

Once a runbook is created, it should also be constantly updated to ensure it is the most effective solution. Runbooks should always contain the most up-to-date information and account for any new methodologies within a company’s operations.

The best and most effective runbooks are those that are constantly evolving with product and process changes, as well as easily adaptable to new rollouts.


In this article, we've unraveled the mystery of runbooks, from their basic definition to their practical applications in various scenarios. Runbooks are the backbone of efficient operations and incident response, ensuring that your systems run smoothly and securely. Now, it's time to take action.

To experience the power of interactive runbooks firsthand, [try your own interactive runbook](link to: https://app.runme.dev). Your operations will never be the same again. Don't miss out on the opportunity to optimize your workflow and enhance your team's efficiency with Runme.