Appreciating the role of the system administrator

Appreciating the role of the system administrator

To mark System Administrator Appreciation Day, Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder of DH2i; Surya Varanasi, CTO of StorCentric; and Brian Dunagan, Vice President of Engineering, Retrospect, offer us their thoughts on the importance of the critical but frequently undervalued role of the system administrator.

Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i

There are numerous reasons to appreciate your System Administrator (SysAdmin). For instance, one of the most challenging aspects about working with technology is oftentimes not so much the technology itself, but rather the relationship between the technology and the people who use it. It is our SysAdmins who are invariably responsible for making sure that employees can use technology in an efficient, productive and safe manner.

Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i

This could certainly be seen during the start of the pandemic, when people were first sent home virtually overnight to work. Many organizations were forced to depend upon their virtual private networks (VPNs) for network access and security and then learned the hard way that VPNs were not up to the task.

Savvy SysAdmins however recognized that VPNs simply were not designed or intended for the way we work today. They saw that external and internal bad actors could and were exploiting inherent vulnerabilities in VPNs.

Instead, forward-looking SysAdmins saw there was an answer to the VPN dilemma. It was and still is an innovative and highly reliable approach to networking connectivity – the Software Defined Perimeter (SDP).

This approach enables organizations to build a secure software-defined perimeter and use Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) tunnels to seamlessly connect all applications, servers, IoT devices and users behind any symmetric network address translation (NAT) to any full cone NAT: without having to reconfigure networks or set up complicated and problematic VPNs.

With SDP, SysAdmins can ensure safe, fast and easy network and data access. This is of course just one example of countless reasons to appreciate your System Administrator.

Bottomline, our SysAdmins play a vital role in ensuring our workforce can leverage technology to help our organizations succeed at the agile and accelerated pace business now demands. So, why don’t you show your SysAdmin deserved acknowledgement on System Administrator Appreciation Day, and even better yet – all year long!

Surya Varanasi, CTO, StorCentric

I have long maintained that demonstrating employee appreciation is not only the right thing to do, but a fundamental cornerstone in creating and maintaining competitive advantage. This has never been truer than it is today, in the face of trends like the ‘great resignation’ and as competition for talent continues to escalate across virtually every job market.

Surya Varanasi, CTO, StorCentric

Prevailing research backs this up – according to the Pew Research Center, among the top three reasons that US workers left a job in 2021 was ‘felt disrespected at work’.

System Administrator Appreciation Day provides an ideal opportunity to recognize one of your organization’s greatest assets – its SysAdmins, who are also likely responsible in large part for your organization’s other greatest asset – your data.

This responsibility is no easy task, especially given the current global cybercrime climate. Approximately 37% of global organizations said they were the victim of some form of ransomware attack in 2021, according to IDC’s 2021 Ransomware Study. Likewise, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported 2,084 ransomware complaints from January to July 31, 2021. This is a 62% year-over-year increase.  

However, smart SysAdmins already know that by deploying an advanced Unbreakable Backup solution they can protect their organization’s data via an immutable, object-locked format which then takes it a step further by storing the admin keys in another location entirely for added protection.

Other key capabilities SysAdmins use to their advantage are policy-driven data integrity checks that can scrub the data for faults, and auto-heals without any user intervention. In addition, with dual controllers and RAID-based protection SysAdmins can enjoy high availability protection that can provide data access in the event of component failure.

Recovery of data is also faster because RAID-protected disk arrays are able to read faster than they can write. With an Unbreakable Backup solution that encompasses these capabilities, SysAdmins can ease their worry about their ability to recover – and redirect their time and attention to activities that more directly impact bottom-line objectives. And consequently, reinforce their immeasurable value to their organization.

Brian Dunagan, Vice President of Engineering, Retrospect, a StorCentric Company

System Administrator Appreciation Day reminds us how important it is to show appreciation for one of our organizations’ most strategic and valuable assets – the SysAdmin. This is especially true today, given the increasing challenges most SysAdmins need to address on a daily basis.

Brian Dunagan, Vice President of Engineering, Retrospect, a StorCentric Company

One such issue most SysAdmins are having to deal with is cyberattacks. Ransomware and other malware continues to hamper businesses and government agencies around the world, locking them out of their operational workflows and then demanding exorbitant payments (after which unfortunately, data is oftentimes never unblocked and/or returned).

With the advent of RaaS (Ransomware-as-a-Service), these attacks are becoming even more commonplace, targeting an ever-expanding segment of organizations. It is often the SysAdmin that must enlist the tools necessary to mount a defense, as well as detect early signs of intrusion. And, they need to be able to recover quickly and affordably, should they experience a successful attack.

Of course, the truth is that today, it is not really a question of if an organization will be successfully breached, but more realistically simply a question of when, making this SysAdmin responsibility all the more crucial. When the SysAdmin is at their best, all of this service is taking place rather transparently, which is why System Administrator Appreciation Day is so important.

Creating a culture of appreciation can take time. So, while System Administrator Appreciation Day officially comes once a year, why not start today, commit to the process and recognize and reward your SysAdmins (as well as the rest of your invaluable workforce) on a regular basis!

Rick Vanover, Senior Director of Product Strategy, Veeam

SysAdmin Day has evolved alongside our technology journeys. Users will be users, and they need various levels of help to get things done. In recent years, the SysAdmin role has incorporated new offerings like the cloud, Software-as-a-Service and new application types such as Kubernetes.

But at the same time, there are emerging threats, such as ransomware. The SysAdmin is a critical part of all of this, from application architects and developers to cybersecurity teams to manage critical response.

SysAdmins are crucial players in the upkeep, configuration and operation of these systems, aligning user needs with company performance, budget, resources and security.

Amid rapid and continuous change, proliferating cyberattacks and rampant innovation, what will the future of the SysAdmin role look like? Some believe modern technology, like the cloud, means SysAdmins are a part of the legacy system – irrelevant, obsolete and a potential liability to system performance.

I personally think the future is bright. Many SysAdmins are evolving to pivot from hardware to services delivery and software, increasing opportunities for collaboration and merging with advanced tech tools for a different, elevated way of getting things done (think a shift from on-premises to cloud for service delivery).

SysAdmins have an opportunity to lead the way of Digital Transformation by helping organizations save time and money, be more efficient, and most of all, be resilient against the many threats against technology today.

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