Across every industry, there are employees that usually go unnoticed, despite the vital role that they play to keep their businesses running smoothly. System Administrators, or SysAdmins as they are often known, consistently monitor and manage IT infrastructures, ensuring that technical issues are identified and resolved as swiftly as possible to avoid risking downtime that could quickly start impacting customers and losing the business money.
To celebrate the recent System Administrator Appreciation Day, 13 IT experts explain the best things SysAdmins can do for your business.
Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing, said: “There are many roles in the workplace that can often fall under the radar and a role that is specifically prone to this is System Administrators. SysAdmins, though, are the foot soldiers of the IT team, standing right on the front line and in doing so protect the organisation from downtime, server failures, upgrade issues and capacity problems to name but a few. In doing so, not only does it mean that the organisation can continue without being interrupted by an IT meltdown, it also means that other employees don’t need to worry about the IT infrastructure at all.
“However, when things are going well, we don’t always remember to thank the SysAdmins for the work they do and instead more often than not we only recognise when a problem arises. Organisations should take the time to appreciate the workplace IT foot soldiers, SysAdmins and thank them for all the time they spend ensuring we don’t get taken down by IT challenges as and when they arrive.”
Neil Barton, CTO, WhereScape, said: “Ensuring your IT data infrastructure is maintained and ready to deliver insights and faster time to value is one of the best things a SysAdmin can do for a business. As business needs drive ever-increasingly more frequent changes to data infrastructure, the role of the SysAdmin is proving even more crucial, both in the deployment process and for keeping systems online and operating correctly. With that in mind, as a business, you don’t want them to be bogged down trying to prevent roadblocks.
“Using automation solutions can help reduce the time, cost and risk of deploying changes to data infrastructure, by getting rid of the near-herculean manual tasks. This will free up SysAdmins to ensure the data infrastructure is delivering results, rather than being trapped in the manual nitty-gritty of deployment tasks.”
Gary Watson, CTO and Founder, Nexsan, said: “In the same way electricity powers a grid without being seen, SysAdmins underpin the smooth running of an organisation’s IT environment – they’re the ‘invisible’ but crucial backbone of IT.
“It’s no easy job managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure of an organisation and when everything is running without a hitch, you usually won’t hear from them. However, when the pressure turns up and users encounter IT challenges, SysAdmins are the first point of contact and ready to help. With IT challenges taken care of, SysAdmins enable employees to focus on their own role without needing to worry should any technological glitches occur. So, although flying under the radar is all part of being a SysAdmin, it’s still important to acknowledge the work they do and show appreciation for all the SysAdmins out there; they are the reason why IT keeps on ticking.”
Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Technology Evangelist, Zerto, said: “The SysAdmin is directly responsible for the uptime, performance and security of the systems they manage that the business depends on. It’s no mean feat, but the best thing a SysAdmin can do for your business is keep you online – and prevent outages. In some ways, they are the gatekeepers of IT resilience, so it’s important to recognise the role they play.
“It’s a tough job and most Systems Administrators are all too familiar with the middle-of-the-night call to come in and fix things when the systems mysteriously go down. Organisations looking to support their SysAdmins should ensure that they are spending enough on resilient infrastructure – across backup, disaster recovery and cloud mobility. This will allow your SysAdmins to focus on building and managing systems for always-on and agile services, rather than constantly fighting to get the systems back online.”
Steve Armstrong, Regional Director UK, Ireland and South Africa, Bitglass, said: “Cloud adoption is on the rise across the globe as more organisations transition from premises-based tools to secure, flexible, easy-to-use cloud solutions. Because of this widespread migration, the role of the system administrator has changed considerably. Today’s SysAdmins are often focused on configuring, monitoring, and managing organisations’ cloud infrastructure far more often than patching and administrating on-premises applications. As the role of a SysAdmin is evolving, the best in the field are like human Swiss Army Knives, equipped with every skill needed to keep systems up and running while ensuring that all services are secure and properly configured.”
Paul Parker, Chief Technologist of Federal and National Government, SolarWinds, said: “SysAdmins can be some of the most under-appreciated employees in any organisation and yet they are, arguably, some of the most vital. For the public sector, their role is particularly important, as the services they maintain — such as in hospitals — are needed for the wellbeing of the general public. Working tirelessly to ensure that IT systems run smoothly and consistently, SysAdmins manage and monitor the systems, watching for any issues and working to make sure they can be resolved before they have an impact.
“In the NHS in particular, these administrators are crucial for the health service to function efficiently — when lives are on the line, downtime isn’t an option. SysAdmins maintain existing infrastructure, implement new technology and coordinate these sometimes-contrasting systems. This enables medical staff to concentrate on the patients and the care they need, without worrying that their technology might not be up to the job. To help SysAdmins deliver these services, IT decision makers should ensure they are provided with the tools and resources that will streamline the background processes the NHS relies on.”
Mat Clothier, CEO, CTO and Founder, Cloudhouse, said: “SysAdmins, defined by their distinct ability to configure, troubleshoot and optimise IT infrastructures, can play an important role in an area of IT that is often overlooked – legacy technology. As the problem of outdated IT becomes more and more prevalent in the run up to the upcoming end of life (EOL) of widely-used platforms, SysAdmins are perfectly positioned to support a business in its transition away from unsupported systems and towards newer, on-premise or cloud alternatives. This transition, in its most simple and cost-effective form, is made through the use of innovative container technology that provides portability for applications where it might not otherwise be possible. The mobility of applications in an ever-changing IT landscape should be a focal point for any organisation looking to thrive and the role of the SysAdmin is to help route out and push through this evolution of infrastructure in the ways that make most time and monetary sense.”
Gregg Mearing, Head of Managed Services, Node4, said: “SysAdmins fulfil a vital role that is growing in importance. For many organisations, the impact of cloud and the increasing investment in managed services means IT teams in general need to work more effectively with external providers on a regular basis. For these organisations, SysAdmins are really important experts in the delivery of an effective cloud-based IT strategy. From the Managed Service Provider point of view, SysAdmins often become part of a wider co-operative team – their intimate knowledge of their company and its IT infrastructure remains as important as ever.”
Jon Lucas, Director, Hyve Managed Hosting, said: “When it comes to hosting, SysAdmins are central to both our own business and that of our customers. With this in mind, the question shouldn’t be what do they do for our business – it should be what don’t they do. SysAdmins handle all aspects of IT, keeping systems up and running and minimising downtime, meaning people in this role are required to have a very broad range of skills and knowledge. Obtaining and nurturing talent of this kind is something we take very seriously, as suitable candidates for the job are often hard to find. Consequently, not only should we be taking time to appreciate all of the work they do, we should also be considering how we can continue to nurture future generations to ensure that the job is always a lucrative and rewarding one.”
Ron Herrmann, Director of Sales Engineering, E8 Storage, said: “System administrators (SysAdmins) play a fundamental role in supporting and maintaining critical IT business operations and performance. The SysAdmin is behind the scenes working on tasks of all sizes – from IT upgrades to more demanding projects, such as accelerating performance, data consolidation and improving data analytics. This work can often go over looked, but upkeeping the system and network is perhaps one of the most central roles in the IT department. In addition, performance and latency can have a profound impact on an organisation’s bottom line and with SysAdmins keeping the IT infrastructure running smoothly, organisations can deliver on performance when it matters, to drive the bottom line of the business.”
Nigel Tozer, GDPR Specialist, Commvault, said: “You may be aware that data is, essentially, the lifeblood of a business. But have you ever stopped to think about who is actually tasked with looking after the infrastructure that makes utilising all of this data possible?
“Every day, the SysAdmins of your business work hard to make sure, amongst many other things, that the hardware and software that enables businesses to manage and use their data is up and running, working smoothly and performing correctly. The unsung heroes of the data-driven world we live in, SysAdmins are the backbone of the IT department and without them, your business could truly suffer. It’s time to take all of their hard work into consideration and to really appreciate everything your SysAdmins do for you and your business.”
Neil Stobart, VP Global Systems Engineering, Cloudian, said: “We all know that getting recognised for our good work is a great motivator to do well, but what isn’t a great motivator is only ever being noticed for the 1% of the time when something goes wrong. System Administrators are always working in the background, ensuring that the IT Infrastructure consistently remains up and running so others can continue with their work and get praised for it. But who is giving them praise for their good work? SysAdmins not only ensure that the business they work for doesn’t get hit with downtime, they also have to understand all of the new technology that the organisation chooses to adopt, so that they can provide instant support to their colleagues. They are the first line of defence in troubleshooting, with the all-round technology skills to deal with everything from servers and storage, to network and applications. So next time you get noticed for your great work, remember all of those who made it possible.”
Alberta Bosco, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Puppet, said: “The SysAdmin role has evolved greatly in no small part due to changing team structures in a DevOps environment – and the best thing a SysAdmin can do for your business now is deliver on the DevOps vision.
“SysAdmins in today’s agile businesses are closer to a developer-style of role. In a DevOps environment, they write infrastructure as code and can deploy it using continuous delivery solutions to be agile as developers. SysAdmins are often the ones driving the DevOps change within an organisation. They have always been the core of the IT team and they are now becoming the most revolutionary function, setting a high bar for themselves when it comes to meeting business expectations. SysAdmins are a good example of continuous learning, are multidisciplinary and have a results-focused attitude that brings success to the organisation as a whole.”
Businesses should ensure that they appreciate these crucial members of their IT teams all year round.