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System Design Course BATTLE ROYALE: SystemsExpert vs. Grokking the System Design Interview review

When you want to ace the programming interview, it’s hard to know what system design course to take.

Maybe you’ve created system design projects. Or maybe even successfully deployed system design on a small scale.

This is good experience to have, but it doesn’t always help with the interviews.

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With system design, you need to define:

  • architecture
  • modules
  • interfaces
  • data
  • components

But when interviewing at a FAANG, they’ll want you to effectively create a system design that’s:

  • reliable
  • scalable
  • maintainable
Even experienced engineers can get stuck on the system design interview

In addition, you’ll need to differentiate between functional and non-functional requirements.

On a large scale.

And that can be difficult if you’ve never done it before.

Or even if you have.

Because of the unstructured nature of system design interviews, even seasoned engineers can get stuck.

When there’s no standard answer, how do you know what’s right?

Not to worry.

We’ve been on the lookout for the best system design course out there. One that will help you deeply understand system design and help you prepare for the interview.

For these reasons, we considered everything from inclusion of system design fundamentals all the way up to designing large scale systems.

The result?

Despite our efforts, we could not pick just one system design course.

So we narrowed it down to 2:

Grokking the System Design Interview by Educative

SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interviews by AlgoExpert

🥊 Today they’re competing head to head in an all-out, no holds barred comparison.

And it’s up to you to decide who wins. 🔔

🍥 Grokking the System Design Interview

⚠️ Level: Beginner

Code Snippets22

FAANG companies want to be confident in your ability to work with complex systems. Therefore, system design questions at interviews have become standard practice.

Grokking the System Design Interview by Educative is a text-based course.

And it was created by hiring managers who have worked at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. As a result, this course contains some of the most frequently asked questions at FAANG interviews.

This course is separated into two sections: System Design Problems and Glossary of System Design Basics.

🍥 System Design Problems includes:

  • Instagram
  • Dropbox
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Netflix
  • Ticketmaster

And that’s just to name a few.

For each topic, you’re given step-by-step guidance. From there, you work on a series of challenges.

Example of Reliability and Redundancy in Grokking the System Design Interview

What do the lessons look like?

Let’s take a look at their Designing Instagram challenge section. By becoming familiar with the details of each problem, you can better understand what to expect in this system design course.

Designing Instagram:

1. What is Instagramin depth definition of the photo-sharing service
2. Requirements and Goals of the Systemfunctional and non-functional requirements
3. Design Considerationspracticality, low latency, reliability
4. Capacity Estimation and Restraintstotal daily and decade-long space requirements based on uploaded x pictures, x size, x customers
5. High Level System Designupload photos and view/search photos scenarios
6. Database Schemadata storage processes for Photo, User, UserFollow
7. Data Size Estimationdecade-long storage needs scenario based on data input for Photo, User, UserFollow
8. Component Designcache served photo reads, separation of read and write requests
9. Reliability and Redundancymultiple file copies on multiple servers to avoid lost files
10. Data Shardingpartitioning based on UserID, generate PhotoIDs, partitioning scheme issues
11. Ranking and News Feed Generationfetching most recent, popular, and relevant photos using pull, push, and hybrid
12. News Feed Creation with News Sharded Dataphoto creation time on PhotoID using epoch time
13. Cache and Load Balancingpush user content using geographically distributed photo cache servers and content delivery networks (CDNs)

From here we move onto the glossary. It contains all terminology you should feel completely comfortable with by the end of this course.

Glossary of System Design Basics goes over:

And more.

Example of Load Balancing in the Grokking the System Design Interview course

🏫 Lesson Example

With a thorough understanding of the fundamentals, you can solve larger-scale problems.

To better understand their approach to system design basics, let’s look at Grokking the System Design Interview’s section on Load Balancing:

Load Balancingdefinition and functions
Benefits of Load Balancingfaster service, less downtime, predictive analytics, etc.
Health Checks of Load Balancing Methodsleast connection, least response time, least bandwidth, round robin, weighted, IP hash
Redundant Load Balancerscluster formation with additional load balancers

💰 Cost:

You can buy the course for about $80.

Or get full annual access to over 130 Educative courses for about $21 per month.

You can check out the Grokking the System Design Interview course here.

Want to know even more? Check out our extensive course review here.

⚛️ SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interview

The SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interviews video course is the newest addition to Clément Mihailescu’s platform AlgoExpert.

Having previously worked at Facebook and Google, Clément knows what happens at FAANG interviews.

And he wants to help you prepare for them.

Video courses are beneficial because they reduce cognitive overload and maximize retention. And with hours of in-depth video explanations, SystemsExpert is great for visual learners.

What should I expect to learn?

SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interviews contains 25 learning sections. They include:

1.Introduction2. What are design fundamentals?3. Client-Server Model
4. Network Protocols5. Storage6. Latency and Throughput
7. Availability8. Caching9. Proxies
10. Load Balancers11. Hashing12. Relational Databases
13. Key-Value Stores14. Replication and Sharding15. Leader Election
16. Peer-to-Peer Networks17. Polling and Streaming18. Configuration
19. Rate Limiting20. Logging and Monitoring21. Publish/Subscribe Pattern
22. MapReduce23. Specialized
24. Security and
25. API

This system design course also has 13 questions with in-depth mock interview solutions. And it will help you prepare for realistic interview scenarios.

In addition, you’ll work on live code examples using a 4-pane workspace which includes the prompt, a scratchpad, video solution and solution walkthrough.

How are the lessons laid out?

Well, let’s take a look at the Proxies section to find out.

Before watching the video, familiarize yourself with the 3 brief text sections:

Proxiesin depth definition and examples
Prerequisitesbe familiar with clients and servers
Key Terms for this lessonforward proxy, reverse proxy, Nginx

From there, watch the 17-minute video. In this case, it’s filled with on-screen progressive diagrams of forward and reverse proxies.

And how clients and servers interact with each.

Note: Always take notes! There’s a lot of valuable information in here you’ll want to jot down.

The Proxies video covers:

  • real-world examples of proxies with progressive diagrams
  • primary proxies (forward and reverse) and properly identifying them
  • functions of proxies
  • server/client relationships with forward and reverse proxies
  • source IP addresses
  • restricted server access using forward proxies
  • reverse proxies with complex systems
  • reverse proxy configurations: load balancing, logging, caching, filter requests
  • simple server performing requests
  • Nginx web server as a reverse proxy
  • header settings
  • forwarding requests
  • declaring backend servers

And much more.

SystemsExpert is regularly updated.

New in October 2020!
SystemsExpert now has a 50-question quiz and a systems design certificate.

💰 Cost:

You can buy the course for about $79 annually.

Or get full access to AlgoExpert and SystemsExpert for about $139 annually.

Want to know more about AlgoExpert? Check out our full review here.

You can get SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interviews course here. Be sure to use our coupon code realtoughcandy for 10% off!


Grokking the System Design Interview and SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interview have helped countless people get hired.

And they can help you, too.

So, which system design course do we like better?

It all depends on your learning style.

If you’re a visual learner, SystemsExpert: Ace the Systems Design Interview is the course is for you.

But if you like to follow along with ample reading, Grokking the System Design Interview is the way to go.

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