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The Cloud Engineer Interview Questions (and answers) That Matter

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

We are not going to look at a hundred questions for a cloud engineer interview in this blog. In fact, we’re not even going to look at 50.


In this post, we’re only looking at 10 cloud engineer interview questions and answers. There’s a good reason for that.

Cloud engineer interview questions

We are a job board and cloud jobs are particularly popular on Simple Job Listings. We’ve seen annual pay of more than $250,000. This means that we get to speak to quite a lot of recruiters who are hiring cloud engineers at the moment.


This blog is a result of those conversations. These 10 questions, in some shape or form, are going to form the bulk of your cloud engineer interview, at least, the technical part of it.


For each question, we’ll look at three important parameters.

  1. Why the question is asked

  2. A good example answer

  3. What makes the answer good


The third section is particularly important because it gives you a clear idea of what a good answer should contain. For the example answers, we use a persona of an imaginary cloud engineer. Obviously, your experience won’t be exactly the same. So, to fill in the gaps, simply read the third section. It’ll allow you to match your experience with the example answer.


With all that out of the way, let’s get started.


10 Important Cloud Engineer Interview Questions

Can you describe how the shared responsibility model works in cloud computing?

Why is this question asked?

Your interviewer wants to know how well you understand the concept of the shared responsibility model, a crucial concept in cloud security.


The idea is to find out your knowledge of how security tasks are divided between the cloud service provider and the client.


This question can reveal the depth of your understanding of cloud security and your ability to implement security best practices in cloud environments.


Example answer:

The shared responsibility model outlines the security responsibilities that are shared between the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) and the client, ensuring all aspects of cloud security are adequately covered.


From the perspective of the cloud service provider, their responsibility, often referred to as the "Security of the Cloud", is focused on protecting the foundational infrastructure that supports the cloud.


This infrastructure includes things like hardware, software, networking, and even physical facilities.


For instance, Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a CSP, is accountable for the safeguarding of the underlying infrastructure that runs all AWS cloud-based services. This means they're responsible for the data centers' integrity, secure server maintenance, robust firewall configurations, and overall physical security of their facilities.


On the other side of the coin, the client is entrusted with the responsibility of managing the security measures within the cloud environment - the "Security in the Cloud".


This can range from managing secure cloud applications, ensuring the right access controls are in place, encrypting data-at-rest and data-in-transit to complying with industry-specific security regulations.


However, the degree of responsibility shared between the CSP and the client can change depending on the cloud service model used.


When dealing with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), the client has more security responsibilities compared to Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS), where the CSP takes on more security roles.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The answer clearly defines the Shared Responsibility Model, making it accessible even to non-experts.

  • The distinction between "Security of the Cloud" and "Security in the Cloud" is well explained, demonstrating the candidate's detailed understanding of the subject.

  • The inclusion of a real-world example (AWS) lends practicality and relevance to the answer.

  • The candidate demonstrates deeper knowledge by mentioning that responsibility sharing can vary depending on the cloud service model (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS).

  • The candidate emphasizes the significance of the shared responsibility model in maintaining cloud security, revealing an appreciation for its practical implementation.


How do you design for failure in the cloud?

Why is this question asked?

The question aims to understand how well the candidate can anticipate potential failures and plan preventive and mitigating measures.


It provides insight into the candidate's thought process when creating a disaster recovery strategy, highlighting their understanding of best practices in achieving system reliability and business continuity in the cloud.


Example answer:

I always approach cloud architecture design with the idea that components will fail at some point, and I focus on how the system will respond and recover when they do.


First off, redundancy is a fundamental principle that I apply in all cloud designs. Every critical component of the system should have a backup or failover, ensuring the service remains available even in the event of a component failure.


This includes creating redundant instances in different regions or availability zones, using load balancers to distribute traffic, and implementing auto-scaling to handle fluctuations in demand.


Secondly, regular data backup is crucial to protect against data loss. A strong backup strategy involves automatic and frequent backups, storing them in different geographical locations to ensure they are safe from any localized disaster.


For databases, multi-region replication can be used to keep the data intact and available even if a primary database fails.


I also design systems to fail gracefully by implementing automatic failover mechanisms. In the event of a failure, these systems will automatically reroute traffic to healthy instances, minimizing service disruptions.


Lastly, monitoring and alerts play a critical role, I think. By continuously monitoring the system's health and setting up alerts for anomalies, I can proactively identify and address issues before they escalate into significant failures.


So, designing for failure is not about avoiding failure altogether but about anticipating it, minimizing its impact, and ensuring a quick recovery. It's about creating systems that are resilient, robust, and can maintain business continuity even in adverse situations.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The candidate has effectively addressed the question by laying out a comprehensive strategy for designing for failure in the cloud.

  • The answer demonstrates a deep understanding of key principles such as redundancy, data backup, automatic failover, and monitoring.

  • The use of specific technical terms and references to cloud design strategies indicates a high level of expertise.

  • The proactive approach towards failure, emphasizing anticipation and preparation, shows a mature and professional mindset.

  • The mention of business continuity indicates an understanding of the ultimate goal behind designing for failure in the cloud.


Can you explain the difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

Why is this question asked?

This question is asked to know your understanding of the fundamental service models in cloud computing: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).


These models represent different levels of abstraction and control in a cloud environment. Understanding the distinctions and use cases for each is crucial for a cloud engineer in making informed decisions on deploying and managing applications in the cloud.


Example answer:

In cloud computing, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS represent different service models, each offering varying levels of control and management to users.


These models essentially define the boundary between what is managed by the cloud provider and what is handled by the user.


IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service, is the most flexible model where the cloud provider manages the underlying physical infrastructure - servers, storage, networking, and virtualization - but leaves the rest, including the operating system, middleware, data, and applications, to the user.


This model is akin to renting a fully-serviced plot of land on which you're free to build and manage your own house. AWS EC2 is an example of IaaS.


PaaS, or Platform as a Service, offers a higher level of abstraction. Here, in addition to the infrastructure, the cloud provider also manages the operating system, runtime, and middleware, leaving the user to manage only the data and applications.


PaaS is like renting a fully-serviced house with all amenities included, where all you need to do is move in with your belongings. Google App Engine is an example of PaaS.


Finally, SaaS, or Software as a Service, provides the highest level of abstraction. Here, the cloud provider manages everything from infrastructure to applications, and users simply access the software over the internet without worrying about any underlying complexities.


SaaS is like renting a hotel room; you don't need to worry about the infrastructure, amenities, or services. You just use it. Gmail and Salesforce are examples of SaaS.


The right model to use depends on the specific needs of a project. IaaS offers the most control but also requires more management. On the other hand, SaaS offers the least control but is the simplest to use, and PaaS falls somewhere in the middle.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The candidate provides clear and concise definitions of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

  • The use of analogies makes the complex topic more accessible and easier to understand.

  • The mention of specific examples (AWS EC2, Google App Engine, Gmail, Salesforce) adds credibility and practical relevance to the answer.

  • The explanation of which model to use depending on the needs of a project demonstrates a holistic understanding of the topic.

  • The answer's overall structure, moving from the most control to the least, logically presents the information.


Explain the concept of “Infrastructure as Code (IaC)” and its benefits.

Why is this question asked?

IaC is a critical component of DevOps practices and is integral to efficient, scalable, and repeatable infrastructure deployment. Understanding IaC and its benefits indicates that you’re familiar with automation and efficient deployment strategies.


Example answer:

Infrastructure as Code, or IaC, is a key DevOps practice that involves managing and provisioning computer data centers through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools.


As a cloud engineer, I think IaC is an essential component of an efficient cloud strategy.


One of the primary benefits of IaC is that it allows developers to automate the process of setting up and modifying infrastructure, making it more reliable and less error-prone than manual setup.


For example, instead of manually setting up a new server, developers can use IaC to automatically spin up a server with a predefined configuration.


Secondly, IaC promotes consistency across environments as the infrastructure setup is codified. This significantly reduces the possibility of discrepancies between different environments like development, staging, and production.


Another significant benefit of IaC is speed. By automating setup processes, teams can deploy infrastructure rapidly and respond to changes more swiftly. This allows for a more agile development process.


Lastly, IaC supports version control, which means infrastructure changes can be tracked and managed in the same way as code changes. This improves accountability and makes it easier to revert changes if necessary.


In terms of implementation, popular IaC tools include Terraform and AWS CloudFormation. These tools allow you to define your infrastructure in code and use these definitions to set up and modify your infrastructure.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The candidate provides a clear and comprehensive explanation of the concept of IaC.

  • They successfully elaborate on the key benefits of IaC, such as automation, consistency, speed, and version control, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the topic.

  • The mention of specific IaC tools (Terraform and AWS CloudFormation) provides practical context to the discussion.

  • The concluding statement summarizes the benefits of IaC, reaffirming the candidate's grasp of the importance of IaC in modern infrastructure management.


How would you handle data migration to a cloud environment?

Why is this question asked?

Not every company has made the transition to cloud, yet. And there are whose business premise is getting other companies transitioned to cloud. So, this is quite a frequent question. The interviewer will usually ask this question to assess your understanding of what a data migration process entails.


It’s a critical part of any cloud transition strategy, and it can come with significant risks and challenges. It's essential for a cloud engineer to plan carefully and mitigate potential issues like data loss, excessive downtime, and performance issues.


Example answer:

To start off with, it's important to analyze the data to be migrated. Understanding the data types, sizes, and their interdependencies will inform the migration strategy. For instance, databases may require different migration techniques compared to flat files.


Next, I would perform a thorough risk assessment, identifying potential issues and creating a contingency plan. Risks could include data loss, security vulnerabilities during transit, and extended downtime affecting business operations.


Then, based on the data analysis and risk assessment, I'd select the appropriate migration method. For small amounts of non-sensitive data, a network transfer might suffice.


But for larger volumes or sensitive data, I might opt for offline data transfer devices like AWS Snowball or Azure Data Box.


One of the critical steps, I think, is to schedule the migration to minimize disruption. Depending on the business requirements, this might mean conducting the migration during off-peak hours or in stages to ensure services remain available.


Additionally, I'd validate the data post-migration to ensure its integrity. This might involve running checks on the data in the new environment to confirm it matches with the source.


Lastly, it's essential to have a rollback strategy in place if things don't go as planned. This could mean maintaining a copy of the data in the original location until the migration is deemed successful.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The candidate's answer demonstrates a methodical and risk-aware approach to data migration, indicating strong planning skills.

  • The mention of specific tools and techniques for data migration shows a practical understanding of the topic.

  • The answer illustrates a proactive approach to risk mitigation, highlighting the candidate's ability to anticipate and handle potential challenges.

  • The importance given to validating data post-migration indicates the candidate's commitment to data integrity and reliability.

  • The mention of a rollback strategy emphasizes the candidate's understanding of the need for contingency plans in cloud operations.


What is cloud bursting and when would you use it?

Why is this question asked?

This question is asked to assess your knowledge about cloud bursting, a strategy used in cloud computing to handle peak loads. It's a concept that's essential to understand for efficient resource management and scalability in a cloud environment.


Example answer:

Cloud bursting is a strategy used in cloud computing that allows a system running in a private cloud or data center to "burst" into a public cloud when the demand for computing capacity spikes.


The advantage of cloud bursting is that it allows businesses to manage spikes in demand without paying for the maximum needed capacity at all times.


An ideal scenario for cloud bursting is when an organization's data center runs the majority of its steady-state workloads, while peak loads, which exceed the capacity of the private cloud or data center, are handled by a public cloud.


This strategy can be highly cost-effective as it allows organizations to pay for extra compute resources only when they are needed.


As an example, consider an e-commerce company preparing for a Black Friday sale. Throughout the year, their private servers can handle the traffic, but during the Black Friday sale, they expect a spike in users.


Instead of investing in and maintaining more servers that will be underutilized most of the time, they can use cloud bursting. During the sale, the additional traffic will be routed to the public cloud, ensuring smooth service for all users.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The candidate provides a clear and straightforward explanation of the concept of cloud bursting.

  • The real-life example of an e-commerce company preparing for Black Friday illustrates the practical application of the concept.

  • The candidate highlights the importance of careful planning when implementing a cloud bursting strategy, demonstrating an awareness of potential challenges.

  • The mention of considerations for sensitive data during the transition shows the candidate's understanding of the security aspects of cloud bursting.


Can you discuss some of the key cost optimization strategies for the cloud?

Why is this question asked?

This question is aimed at gauging your knowledge and skills in managing cloud resources efficiently to save costs. Cost optimization is crucial in cloud computing, as it can significantly affect the financial sustainability of a business's cloud strategy.


Example answer:

Sure, there are several cost optimization strategies I employ when managing cloud resources:


Firstly, I prioritize right-sizing. This means provisioning resources to match the actual usage. Over-provisioning can lead to unnecessary costs, while under-provisioning can impact performance. Regular monitoring and adjustment are needed to ensure the resources are just right.


Secondly, using reserved instances for predictable workloads can bring substantial savings. Cloud providers like AWS and Azure offer significant discounts for long-term commitments, making reserved instances a cost-effective option for steady workloads.


Thirdly, leveraging auto-scaling is another effective cost-optimization strategy. Auto-scaling adjusts resources based on real-time demand, which not only saves costs but also improves performance during peak times.


Additionally, choosing the right storage class for data can also help optimize costs. For instance, infrequently accessed data can be moved to a lower-cost storage class, such as Amazon S3 Infrequent Access.


Lastly, it's essential to continuously monitor and track cloud expenditures with tools like AWS Cost Explorer or Azure Cost Management. These tools can help identify where costs are being incurred and highlight opportunities for savings.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The answer provides multiple strategies for cost optimization, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the subject.

  • By bringing up specific examples such as right-sizing, reserved instances, auto-scaling, and different storage classes, the candidate shows a practical understanding of the topic.

  • The mention of continuous monitoring and tracking further emphasizes the candidate's proactive approach to cost management.

  • The candidate's answer showcases their understanding of the balance between cost-effectiveness and performance in cloud resource management.


Describe the principles of cloud-native architecture and why it’s important.

Why is this question asked?

With the shift towards cloud-native development, understanding these principles is crucial for building effective, scalable, and resilient cloud-based applications. The interviewer is trying you assess your understanding of the idea.


Example answer:

Cloud-native architecture is about building and running applications that exploit the advantages of the cloud computing model. Some of the main principles of cloud-native architecture are:

  • Microservices: This architecture breaks down applications into loosely coupled, small, and manageable services that can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently. This approach increases the flexibility and scalability of applications.

  • Containerization: Containers package an application along with its runtime dependencies, providing a consistent environment that is isolated from other applications. This allows developers to focus on writing code without worrying about system compatibility issues and enables easy and reliable deployment across different environments.

  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): This practice involves regularly integrating code changes, testing them, and deploying the changes to production as soon as they're ready. This leads to faster feedback, lower risk, and more reliable software.

  • DevOps Practices: The collaboration between development and operations teams is a core principle of cloud-native architecture. This collaboration, along with practices like infrastructure as code (IaC) and monitoring, fosters a culture of rapid iteration and continuous improvement.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The answer provides a comprehensive description of cloud-native principles, demonstrating the candidate's knowledge of the subject.

  • The use of specific examples like microservices, containerization, and CI/CD shows practical understanding.

  • The candidate emphasizes the importance of DevOps practices, highlighting a holistic view of software development and operations.

  • The clear explanation of why cloud-native architecture is important shows the candidate's understanding of business needs and the value of technology in addressing them.


How do you approach troubleshooting a cloud-based application?

Why is this question asked?

This question is designed to understand your problem-solving skills, methodologies, and experience in diagnosing and troubleshooting issues in a cloud environment.


It's crucial for a cloud engineer to have strong troubleshooting skills to quickly resolve any problems that could affect the application's performance or user experience.


Example answer:

Troubleshooting cloud-based applications is often a complex task due to the distributed nature of the cloud. However, I follow a systematic approach to make the process more efficient:

  • Understanding the Problem: The first step is to understand the problem thoroughly. This might involve communicating with the team or the users to gain more context about the issue.

  • Checking Logs: Logs are a critical resource for diagnosing issues. Cloud platforms provide extensive logging capabilities that can help identify when and where the issue occurred.

  • Recreating the Issue: If the problem isn't evident from the logs, I try to recreate the issue in a controlled environment. This can often provide more insight into the conditions under which the problem occurs.

  • Identifying the Root Cause: Once I've gathered enough information, I analyze it to identify the root cause of the problem.

  • Implementing a Solution: After identifying the root cause, I proceed to implement a solution. This could be anything from changing a few lines of code to modifying the infrastructure configuration.

  • Verifying the Solution: Finally, it's important to verify that the solution works and doesn't introduce new issues. This typically involves testing and monitoring the application to ensure the problem is resolved.

Throughout this process, I ensure to document everything. Proper documentation helps in future troubleshooting and provides valuable knowledge for the team.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The answer provides a detailed and structured approach to troubleshooting, reflecting the candidate's systematic problem-solving skills.

  • By mentioning specific techniques like checking logs and recreating issues, the candidate demonstrates a practical understanding of troubleshooting.

  • The inclusion of steps to verify the solution and document the process highlights a thorough and responsible approach to problem resolution.

  • This answer demonstrates an understanding of the complexity of troubleshooting in cloud environments and how to manage it effectively.


Can you describe a situation where you had to ensure compliance with regulations in the cloud?

Why is this question asked?

This question is meant to evaluate your knowledge and experience in dealing with legal and regulatory requirements in a cloud environment. Compliance with regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA is crucial in the cloud, especially for organizations dealing with sensitive information.


Example answer:

Certainly, ensuring compliance is a critical part of my role as a cloud engineer. I'd like to share an experience from my previous role where I was responsible for a healthcare project that required compliance with HIPAA.


To ensure that our cloud-based applications were HIPAA compliant, several steps were undertaken:

  • Understanding HIPAA Requirements: The first step was to thoroughly understand the HIPAA regulations that were applicable to our system, which mainly involved protecting the privacy and security of patients' health information.

  • Choosing a Compliant Cloud Service Provider (CSP): We chose a CSP that had experience in dealing with HIPAA-compliant applications. Most top-tier CSPs like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud provide a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) and adhere to HIPAA compliance rules.

  • Implementing Security Measures: We made sure to encrypt all data at rest and in transit, implemented multi-factor authentication, and set up strong access control policies. Regular security audits were also a part of our strategy.

  • Logging and Monitoring: We had extensive logging and monitoring in place to detect any suspicious activity and promptly react to potential security incidents.

  • Training: Lastly, we trained the team about the HIPAA requirements and the importance of maintaining privacy and security.

By carefully implementing these measures, we were able to successfully build a HIPAA-compliant cloud application.


Why is this a good answer?

  • The answer provides a real-world example where the candidate had to ensure compliance with regulations, reflecting their practical experience.

  • By describing specific steps taken to ensure HIPAA compliance, the candidate demonstrates an in-depth understanding of regulatory requirements.

  • The mention of training the team shows the candidate's awareness of the broader organizational context of compliance.

  • The candidate's approach emphasizes a comprehensive understanding of the importance and methods of ensuring regulatory compliance in the cloud.

Conclusion

Not all of these questions are going to be asked in every cloud engineer interview, of course. And they're not all going to be framed in this exact way but the content within these ten questions is going to be a huge part of your cloud engineer interview.


Get your answers to these questions in order and great job offers won't be too far behind.


If you're already looking for cloud engineer jobs, check out Simple Job Listings. We only list verified, fully remote jobs. Most of them pay amazingly well and most of the jobs that we post simply aren't listed anywhere else.


Visit Simple Job Listings and find amazing cloud engineer jobs. Good luck!


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