What is a runbook?

A runbook is a detailed “how-to” guide for completing a commonly repeated task or procedure within a company’s IT operations process (e.g. provisioning, software updates/deployment, change configs, and opening ports). Runbooks are part of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) protocols, which incorporate information from IT processes, such as knowledge management and problem management. Runbooks can be manual, semiautomatic, or automatic, depending on the level of human intervention required². They are different from playbooks, which tend to focus on overarching responses to more significant issues or events.  Solvaria DBAs and Solvaria fractional CIOs (fCIOs) utilize runbooks internally to make sure our clients receive consistent support experience. 

Why are Runbooks Important to Businesses? 

Runbooks are important because they increase consistency and efficiency through standardization. They provide detailed instructions for completing a specific task in a quick and effective manner based on previous experiences with resolving the issue. Runbooks also reduce system downtime and improve knowledge sharing among team members. They can also help with automating common tasks and procedures2. Runbooks are essential for both routine operations and incident response. 

How Does The Solvaria Team Create A Runbook? 

  • Planning. Identify the purpose, scope, audience, and format of your runbook. Gather the necessary information and resources for the task or procedure you want to document.
  • Writing. Use clear and concise language, headings, bullet points, tables, diagrams, and screenshots to explain the steps and contingencies involved in the task or procedure. Include any prerequisites, assumptions, dependencies, inputs, outputs, and expected outcomes. Use a consistent style and tone throughout.
  • Testing, updates, and improvements. Validate your runbook by running it on a test environment or with a sample user. Check for accuracy, completeness, clarity, and usability. Incorporate feedback and suggestions from other team members or stakeholders. Revise and refine your runbook as needed.
  • Publishing and Distribution. We make your runbook accessible to the intended users and operators. Use a suitable format and platform for your runbook, such as PDF, HTML, wiki, or IT management software. Ensure your runbook is secure and compliant with your company policies and standards.
  • Maintenance and Reviews. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the performance and effectiveness of your runbook. Keeping your runbook up to date with any changes or improvements in the task or procedure is important to the long-term success of the project. We proactively schedule regular reviews and audits of your runbook to ensure it is still relevant and useful.

Example: Database Maintenance Schedule Runbook

A common and important runbook example is a  database maintenance schedule, which shows how to schedule and perform regular tasks such as backup, restore, index, and statistics maintenance for a database. Below are three examples: 

  • Backup SQL database runbook. This example from Octopus Deploy shows how to backup a SQL database using a PowerShell script and Azure Automation. It uses parameters, variables, and credentials to configure the backup settings and execute the backup command. It also includes error handling and logging steps.
  • Automating Azure SQL DB index and statistics maintenance runbook. This example from Microsoft Community Hub shows how to automate index and statistics maintenance for an Azure SQL database using a stored procedure and Azure Automation. It uses a credential object to store the login information and invoke the stored procedure with the appropriate parameters. It also outputs the results of the maintenance operation.
  • Manage schedules in Azure Automation runbook. This example from Microsoft Learn shows how to create and manage schedules for Azure Automation runbooks using the Azure portal or PowerShell commands. It explains how to link a runbook to a schedule, modify or delete a schedule, and view the schedule status and history.