System Administrators

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who runs the Internet? And who manages the infrastructure that empowers millions upon millions of websites? Who administers file sharing, database, mail, chatting and instant messaging servers? Well why it is of course the system administrator who does all of that, which is the most unknown and unappreciated job in information technology field by non-experts. In this essay I am going to talk about this profession which happens to be my primary job. You don’t need to be a computer geek to understand what’s being discussed here.

A system administrator, usually abbreviated as “sysadmin” or SA and sometimes called operator, has many tasks. Including not just installing computer operating systems and configure them, but also installing and configuring pretty much any software package or service. After that he must monitor, manage, maintain and repair the systems that he has control on them. Managing systems include creating and deleting user accounts, controlling files’ ownership and permissions, updating system packages and any installed software, looking after the overall security of the environment. Maintenance includes replacing dead computer hardware components, writing scripts to automate specific tasks.

Almost any company that possesses a computer server and/or a sizeable quantity of computer users needs to employ an administrator to manage their systems either on full time work basis or as a part time job depending on the size of the user base and complexity of their system(s). Especially if they have websites to run, client/server applications to build, in house digital communication such as VoIP, IM and email.

Sometimes employers confuse system administrators with other titles; force them by this to do things they aren’t supposed to do. This includes building and managing computer networks (which is usually done by network technicians and administrators), giving generic IT technical support to other employees, building and maintaining websites (which is usually done by webmasters), and even routine data entry tasks. Nowadays there is a new trend of mixing developer’s job (designing and programming computer software) with system administrator’s responsibilities to decrease wages’ expenses and increase production with smaller staff resulting in a term so called ‘devops’ which means developer operators.

If you want to be a system administrator then you should prepare yourself to learn using many kinds of operating systems, not hesitating to try new software, allows reading about new technologies and trends regarding your job, getting your knees deep in lots of new things and your hands dirty on many new concepts. You should also tolerate working for very long hours, unappreciative bosses who thinks your job isn’t productive, nagging and needy users with their endless whining and requests.

A useful tip is that you shouldn’t always say ‘Yes!’ to all requests that you always get from users, some of them might be unnecessary at all. Use your logic and experience to determine whether a request is really necessary and otherwise you have to explain why it isn’t. Sometimes company rules prevent users from doing certain things while they insist on asking, you have always to be careful. Good luck!

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