System administrator

System administrator

Duties of a system administrator

The duties of a system administrator are wide-ranging, and vary widely from one organization to another. Sysadmins are usually charged with installing, supporting, and maintaining servers or other computer systems, and planning for and responding to service outages and other problems. Other duties may include scripting or light programming, project management for systems-related projects.

The system administrator is responsible for following things:

  1. User administration (setup and maintaining account)
  2. Maintaining system
  3. Verify that peripherals are working properly
  4. Quickly arrange repair for hardware in occasion of hardware failure
  5. Monitor system performance
  6. Create file systems
  7. Install software
  8. Create a backup and recover policy
  9. Monitor network communication
  10. Update system as soon as new version of OS and application software comes out
  11. Implement the policies for the use of the computer system and network
  12. Setup security policies for users. A sysadmin must have a strong grasp of computer security (e.g. firewalls and intrusion detection systems)
  13. Documentation in form of internal wiki
  14. Password and identity management

Cloud computing and sysadmin

Cloud computing is nothing but a large number of computers connected through the Internet/Wan. Cloud computing is now part of technology and sysadmin must lean:

  1. Automation software such as puppet, chef, etc.
  2. Cloud infrastructure such as AWS, Openstack etc.
  3. Network services in cloud such as Content delivery networks (Akamai, CloudFront etc) and DNS servers.
  4. Source control
  5. Designing best practices for backups, and whole infrastructure.

What is so special about the system administrator account?

The root account has full (unrestricted) access, so he/she can do anything with system. For example, root can remove critical system files. In addition, there is no way you can recover file except using tape backup or disk based backup systems.

Many tasks for system administration can be automated using Perl/Python or shell scripts. For example:

  • Create new users
  • Resetting user passwords
  • Lock/unlock user accounts
  • Monitor server security
  • Monitor special services etc

Most important skill to a system administrator

Problem solving, period. This can some time lead into all sorts of constraints and stress. When workstation or server goes down, you are called to solve the problem. You should able to quickly and correctly diagnose the problem. You must figure out what is wrong and how best it can be fixed in small amount of time.

System administrators are not…

  • Cookie cutting software engineers.
  • Developers.
  • It is not usually within your duties to design new applications software.
  • But, you must understand the behavior of software in order to deploy it and to troubleshoot problems, and generally should be good at several programming languages used for scripting or automation of routine tasks such as shell, awk, perl, python etc.

One of the primary difficulties with teaching system administration as a formal university discipline is that the industry and technology changes much faster than the typical textbook and coursework certification process. By the time a new textbook has spent years working through approvals and committees, the specific technology for which it is written may have changed significantly or become obsolete.

In addition, because of the practical nature of system administration and the easy availability of open-source server software, many system administrators enter the field self-taught. Some learning institutions are reluctant to teach, what is in effect, hacking to undergraduate level students[citation needed].

Generally, a prospective will be required to have some experience with the computer system they are expected to manage. In some cases, candidates are expected to possess industry certifications such as the Microsoft MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, Red Hat RHCE, Novell CNA, CNE, Cisco CCNA or CompTIA‘s A+ or Network+, Sun Certified SCNA, Linux Professional Institute, Linux Foundation Certified Engineer or Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator[9] among others.

Sometimes, almost exclusively in smaller sites, the role of system administrator may be given to a skilled user in addition to or in replacement of his or her duties.

Skills

The subject matter of system administration includes computer systems and the ways people use them in an organization. This entails a knowledge of operating systems and applications, as well as hardware and software troubleshooting, but also knowledge of the purposes for which people in the organization use the computers.

Perhaps the most important skill for a system administrator is problem solving—frequently under various sorts of constraints and stress. The sysadmin is on call when a computer system goes down or malfunctions, and must be able to quickly and correctly diagnose what is wrong and how best to fix it. They may also need to have teamwork and communication skills; as well as being able to install and configure hardware and software.

System administrators are not software engineers or developers. It is not usually within their duties to design or write new application software. However, sysadmins must understand the behavior of software in order to deploy it and to troubleshoot problems, and generally know several programming languages used for scripting or automation of routine tasks.

Particularly when dealing with Internet-facing or business-critical systems, a sysadmin must have a strong grasp of computer security. This includes not merely deploying software patches, but also preventing break-ins and other security problems with preventive measures. In some organizations, computer security administration is a separate role responsible for overall security and the upkeep of firewalls and intrusion detection systems, but all sysadmins are generally responsible for the security of computer systems.

Duties

A system administrator’s responsibilities might include:

  • Analyzing system logs and identifying potential issues with computer systems.
  • Applying operating system updates, patches, and configuration changes.
  • Installing and configuring new hardware and software.
  • Adding, removing, or updating user account information, resetting passwords,etc.
  • Answering technical queries and assisting users.
  • Responsibility for security.
  • Responsibility for documenting the configuration of the system.
  • Troubleshooting any reported problems.
  • System performance tuning.
  • Ensuring that the network infrastructure is up and running.
  • Configuring, adding, and deleting file systems.

In larger organizations, some of the tasks above may be divided among different system administrators or members of different organizational groups. For example, a dedicated individual(s) may apply all system upgrades, a Quality Assurance (QA) team may perform testing and validation, and one or more technical writers may be responsible for all technical documentation written for a company. System administrators, in larger organizations, tend not to be systems architects, systems engineers, or systems designers.

In smaller organizations, the system administrator might also act as technical support, Database Administrator, Network Administrator, Storage (SAN) Administrator or application analyst.

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