How to Write a Runbook

Quick Tips to Create a Runbook – Sample Template

We focus on how to write a runbook in this article, however, questions may arise on what exactly a runbook is? An Information Technology (IT) system operator or administrator normally carries out routine computer system maintenance procedures. A runbook aids this process by containing all the set of instructions needed to make the computer or network system maintenance easier. The runbook is normally referred to whenever there is a maintenance work to be carried out.

Runbook Formats

A runbook is normally written by technical writers who are experts that work with managed service providers. A runbook normally takes the form of a decision-tree.  The decisions or steps give a likely outcome to every problem. When writing the runbook, these technical writers ensure that all the likely scenarios that may arise are adequately captured in the runbook. A runbook can either be physical (that is written in a book) or may be electronic.  A well written runbook will consist of detailed steps to take in fixing or troubleshooting a system or network.

By providing a guideline to follow, other system operators can easily use the laid down procedure to fix problems. Knowing how to write a runbook requires you to first qualify as a technical writer. We will not delve into the specifics, but will provide an overview of vital things needed to write a runbook.

Uses for Runbooks

Runbooks have a wide range of uses in the IT sector. A runbook can be used to carry out emergency tasks, system administration tasks, tasks involving the collection of data as well as security tasks. These are not all as the runbook has several other uses all aimed at troubleshooting problems and finding a solution by resolving same.

The Automation of Runbooks

The automation of runbooks has been necessitated by the desire to increase efficiency in the repair or fixing of IT problems. Manually fixing such problems may likely take a longer time, but automating such process considerably reduces the downtime while increasing efficiency and productivity levels.

Writing a Runbook

When writing a runbook, certain things should guide your action. One of such requirements is patience. Why patience? Because it takes a considerable amount of time to produce a runbook, it needs all the dedication on your part. There are tons of documentation to be penned down, and without the determination to finish the work; you may end up pushing the work to a much later time, which may generate more problems as you may need to start all over due to a possible mix-up.

Consider Other Users

Knowing how to write a runbook involves a consideration for other users. By writing a runbook, it will likely not be used by you alone, as there are other system operators who may likely use the workbook. It is important therefore to ensure that every information and procedure included in the workbook is as clear enough for easy understanding by others. The runbook is only useful to the extent that other users are able to easily follow the information.

Also, knowing how to write a workbook requires being trained as a technical writer. By having technical writing knowledge, all the needed information required for writing a runbook is gained. The training to become a technical writer will cost you. However, the derived benefits can be immense as there is a growing need for technical writers across the United States and beyond. This is supported by the fact that IT has gained an increased level of usage.

Providing Solutions to Anticipated Problems

This is the basis of the runbook. Therefore, when writing a runbook, if it does not provide solutions to anticipated problems, then a problem has been created instead of a solution, because its application to real life problems will be impossible. By providing solutions to IT problems, the workbook will have been much useful document which can be used not only by the user/technical writer, but by other system administrators as well.

Increasing Efficiency Levels

When writing a workbook, it is important that you take advantage of tools which increase your level of efficiency. Process documentation software for instance significantly increases efficiency levels over manual process documentation. This enables easy updates to be effected as opposed to carrying out all the operations manually which can take a considerable amount of time to do, and may likely be fraught with mistakes.

Create a Draft

A draft runbook helps in no small measure in avoiding likely mistakes that may occur in the course of a pre-live system readiness testing. Here, the mistakes are noticed on time and such mistakes are corrected. The likelihood for mistakes in the final runbook is very minimal or totally absent. This helps in eliminating problems which may be faced by other users of the runbook in future.

The practice of writing a runbook is very technical and requires the necessary training to achieve this goal. However, knowing how to write a runbook comes with its own challenges which if well handled can bring immense job satisfaction to the technical writer. It is not enough to write a runbook, as you will have to continuously update same to increase efficiency levels.

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