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What is a System Administrator?

In a constantly evolving tech world, it’s often difficult to keep track of all the different roles and positions that are out there. A SysAdmin is one of the longest-standing and high-demand roles within the technology field. And while they don’t always get all the glory, the role of the SysAdmin is a critical piece to the technology organization and essential to the success of a business.

The SysAdmin, or Systems Administrator, is the person responsible for configuring and managing a company’s entire infrastructure, including all of the hardware, software, and operating systems that are necessary to support the running of the business.

With the evolution of DevOps, the traditional SysAdmin has become more of a hybrid role, often wearing multiple hats and helping out with a variety of tasks and actions that may require some development and programming.. The SysAdmin must have a solid knowledge of both the hardware and software in order to effectively configure a resilient and secure architecture to protect the company and ensure a seamless customer experience.

What are the SysAdmin’s Roles and Responsibilities?

The SysAdmin is often referred to as a generalist in terms of roles and responsibilities, but they can be boiled down to five core responsibilities:

  1. Configure and manage company infrastructure. This includes all the hardware, software, and operating systems needed to support your users and applications. It’s the SysAdmin’s duty to ensure that all servers are running smoothly at all times and to perform the necessary software installs and updates.
  2. Manage user access and permissions to all systems and data. As SysAdmin, you’ll be managing all of the different user permissions and admins. You’ll be in charge of managing user logins, SSO (single sign-on) policies, and ensuring all company security requirements are being met.
  3. Perform daily security backups and restores. The security of the company’s infrastructure and data is one of the biggest responsibilities of a SysAdmin. They need to perform daily security backups in case anything were to go wrong with a server or application, and it’s your job to get things back up and running to avoid any negative customer experiences or bottom-line losses.
  4. Manage all monitoring and alerting throughout company applications and infrastructure. The SysAdmin will need to carefully monitor important network metrics (CPU, usage, DNS, latency, etc.) in order to quickly detect incidents as they occur.
  5. Problem solving and troubleshooting. This is one of the main aspects of the SysAdmin’s role. A large chunk of the job will be to solve issues as they occur and come up with solutions that maintain security across the company. SysAdmins will find themselves doing a lot of on-the-job learning as they are faced with new problems.

How Could You Become a SysAdmin?

A SysAdmin is a great starting point for getting into IT operations. Given the problem solving and troubleshooting nature of the role, it’s a great way to learn new skills and technologies. In a DevOps setting, SysAdmins work closely with development and often assist with different tasks outside of their core responsibilities.

When pursuing a SysAdmin role, there are several things to consider:

  • You should know how to set up and maintain a web server. A big portion of your job as SysAdmin is configuring and maintaining different servers. Get very comfortable with server setup and management as it will be your responsibility to keep them secure and running smoothly.
  • Familiarize yourself with DHCP. The DHCP (or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is where IP addresses are assigned to different devices on a given network. You will be in charge of DHCP configuration and maintenance as a SysAdmin, so you’ll need to understand different configurations and how networks communicate.
  • Learn the major DevOps tools, such as Puppet, Jenkins, and Ansible. These tools will become your close friends as a SysAdmin and will help make your job much easier once you are comfortable using them.
  • Perfect your problem-solving and troubleshooting skills. As a SysAdmin, you’ll often find yourself needing to fix different issues that arise within the company’s infrastructure. A lot of times, there may not be a specific solution or runbook for addressing these problems. Your job will be to find a solution and prevent it from becoming a recurring issue. You will learn a lot on the job as things break (and they will break), which is great for learning new skills.

Is a SysAdmin the Right Fit for You?

A SysAdmin is an essential and high-demand role in the tech industry. If you’re looking to get your foot in the door of IT operations, the SysAdmin is a great starting point with fantastic pay. As a SysAdmin, you’ll find yourself learning new skills and technologies on the job daily as you will constantly be problem-solving and troubleshooting different issues that arise. You’ll work closely with all other departments in a DevOps environment, and will gain experience and knowledge in areas that may be new to you.