There are many jobs out there that just don’t get the glory and recognition they deserve (we see you paramedics, food service workers, teachers, etc.).
We’d also add system administrator to that list. Why? First, you have to know what they do to understand why they’re so important.
What do system administrators do?
If you ask Indeed.com, they’ll tell you, “A system administrator is responsible for the configuration, upkeep and reliable operation of a company’s network and computer systems.”
Configuration, upkeep, and reliable operation may sound like a lot because it is. A company’s network and computer systems can span twenty computers to thousands. More computers and devices means more users. System administrators fight a constant battle between uptime, security, and keeping systems compliant and up-to-date with the most recent technology.
The unsung part comes from system admins often having to respond to late night (or early morning) disaster calls, navigating the fine line between doing things quickly and keeping systems secure, and maintaining a system that if down, could cost a company millions.
System administrators also deal with the end users. While some may be more tech savvy than others, there is the inevitable request coming from someone who can’t print or spilled earl grey on their laptop. Imagine trying to keep a complex infrastructure running smoothly while making sure Bob in accounting doesn’t have a sticky keyboard.
System administrators are often responsible for the first and last lines of defense. They also must be excellent problem solvers and have the ability to multitask.
What are important certifications for system administrators?
Depending on the type of organization, different types of certifications or training will be required. Some very common certifications most system admins hold are:
CompTIA is a widely respected and well-known organization in the global IT ecosystem. The above certifications are considered ‘core’ training for IT. A+ is usually required in most IT professions and is a good place to start.
No system administrators = spontaneous combustion
Dramatic? Yes. But think about it – when COVID-19 rocked our world (in a very bad way) much of the workforce retreated to home-based work. This sudden and huge shift meant a lot of extra work and troubleshooting for virtually everyone working in a system administration capacity.
Remote architectures are inherently different and more prone to security issues. Making sure the workforce has all the tools and software necessary to properly communicate was also critical.
When system administrators do their jobs correctly, no one notices because everything keeps running as is. It’s not like a developer who builds a website or a writer who publishes an article. The tangible result of their work is business as usual. Their work is invisible to many but so incredibly important.
The future of system administration
Maybe you remember a time before cell phones, or at least smartphones. We’ve seen drastic changes in our daily technology over the years, but do we stop to think what that means for system administrators?
The daily handling of hardware and physical server stacking is mostly a thing of the past. Increase in virtualization has meant flexibility and far less downtime. Duncan Epping, chief technologist of storage and availability at VMware says this:
“I think vMotion is one of those features that changed everything. No more planned downtime for hardware maintenance — just move your workload from host A to host B and do what you need to do. You can even do this in fully automated fashion using maintenance mode. I wish I had that when I was managing hundreds of physical hosts in my early days.”
Before smartphones, most of us weren’t using our personal devices for work-related purposes. Today, that’s completely different. Many of us have multiple devices linked to our work accounts. The increase in device-related access adds layers of complexity and security considerations for system administrators.
As our businesses shift into more complex technology, so too do the skills required by those who run our systems. Remember to thank those who keep our systems running.