What Does a Site Reliability Engineer Do?


When something goes wrong with a business’ website, how does it get fixed? You may imagine IT staff scrambling into a server room, fumbling through wires, sparks flying and choice vocabulary filling the air. Today, this kind of chaos can be avoided with site reliability engineering (SRE).

SRE is all about using technology to ensure organizations’ websites work 24/7. While that doesn’t rule out the occasional server room rush, Site Reliability Engineers work to minimize the time, effort, and resources needed to keep a company’s site up and running.

Read on to learn what a Site Reliability Engineer does, the techniques they use, what they’re paid, and how our courses can help you launch your career as an SRE.

How does site reliability solve problems?

A Site Reliability Engineer uses software solutions to ensure users have a good experience with a company’s website. Along with using software, Site Reliability Engineers may also manually perform reactive fixes to problems.

These differ from proactive fixes, which are typically engineered using software. Let’s dig a little deeper into these two kinds of solutions.

The differences between reactive and proactive site engineering

Reactive site engineering addresses issues that pop up with internal or external users of a company’s site. In other words, someone has a problem, and the Site Engineer has to figure out a way to fix it. Problems could involve:

  • Access to the site.
  • The functionality of a specific aspect of the site, such as an online shopping cart.
  • Issues with the site’s functionality, such as when someone clicks on a link, and it leads them to the wrong place or a 404 error.

Reactive site engineering is all about fixing these and other kinds of problems that can pop up at any given time.

Ideally, proactive site engineering forms the bulk of a Site Engineer’s job. And, when done right, proactive measures can significantly reduce the amount of reactive work that has to be done. Proactive site engineering may involve technologies such as:

  • Observability platforms.
  • Visibility technologies.
  • Self-healing network technologies, like those that address network problems by automatically shifting traffic or resources.
  • Root cause analysis (RCA) technologies and techniques, which are used to identify the source of a problem.

A Site Engineer identifies, deploys, and manages technologies that do much or all of this kind of work automatically.

For example, suppose a business has an e-commerce site to sell sneakers. The front end of the site relies on several dependencies to function. For example, the checkout process needs to pull information from a database regarding a repeat customer’s name, address, email address, shipping address, and credit card number.

A Site Reliability Engineer can use a root cause analysis (RCA) solution that identifies when a malfunction inside one of these databases causes a problem in the checkout process. The RCA system will send out an alert so admins can quickly address the problem and get the checkout process working again. An SRE can save the company many thousands of dollars this way — even over the course of a few hours.

Site reliability engineering skills

To become a Site Reliability Engineer, you need to have a background in coding and the languages used by System Administrators to manage network components and design effective solutions. We offer courses that focus on several of the languages used by SREs, including:

Plus, as a site reliability engineer, you need to be:

  • An effective problem-solver and critical thinker, able to identify the root causes of issues quickly and accurately.
  • Able to perform well under pressure. Often, time is not on your side as an SRE.
  • Able to understand networks, how they work, and how to protect them.

A Site Reliability Engineer needs to understand how software solutions work, what causes them to fail, and how to balance the implementation of new features and maintain the stability of a web app.

For instance, the dev team may want to launch an awesome new feature that can take the company’s site to another level. But if, as the Site Reliability Engineer, you think the new features may make the site less stable, you need to be able to explain and demonstrate why.

SRE salaries

Site Reliability Engineers make around $127,718 a year in the U.S., keeping a business’ digital assets available and advising dev teams on how to enhance stability. The amount you make as an SRE will vary significantly based on the company you work for. For instance, an SRE at Google makes an average of $151,470 a year, while at IBM, the average pay range is around $119,767.

If you’re just getting started as an SRE, your salary may be closer to $90,000 a year or slightly less. Either way, considering your earning potential, it’s a good idea to dive in because your pay can skyrocket as you get more experience.

How to become a Site Reliability Engineer

To become a Site Reliability Engineer, you’ll want to educate yourself on how networks and web applications work, as well as the programming languages used to design solutions for them. Along with the courses listed above, aspiring Site Reliability Engineers should consider taking our Back-End Engineer Career Path. This will give you a foundational understanding of the back-end technologies that power software solutions.

Once you have the knowledge you need to ensure the reliability of sites, you’ll need to gain some experience. No two apps are quite alike, especially when it comes to the dependencies that power them. So, it’s important to gain exposure to as many different kinds of web apps and network configurations as you can.

Our courses, Skill Paths, and Career Paths are a great place to start your SRE journey. You’ll gain the knowledge required to keep businesses up and running and build an impressive portfolio of your work. Sign up now to get started.

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Web Development is the practice of developing websites and web apps that live on the internet. Whether you’re interested in front-end, back-end, or going full-stack, the content in our Web Development domain will help you get there.

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