System administrators are one of the stronger backbones of your company. But what exactly is the role of a system administrator? Broadly speaking, they are responsible for overseeing and maintaining a company’s IT infrastructure, e.g.: network, servers, security, hardware.

But do you know how much work system administrators do behind the scenes? If it were not for them, your PC would not run properly, and no one would maintain the company’s networks. Oh, and intruders could just waltz in and steal your data because there would be no one there to set up your company’s firewall…

Below, we will take a look at 3 things you might not know about system administrators.

1. How Does the Day of a System Administrator Look Like?

What does a typical day look like in the life of a system administrator? This might vary by industry and company, but typically, they:

  • Perform data backups and maintain the company’s networks and firewall.
  • Keep the operating system up to date throughout the company.
  • Configure and maintain software used in the company (email, antivirus…).
  • Monitor the performance of the IT infrastructure.
  • Provide technical support for the company’s employees and troubleshoot their issues (“Create a ticket”, preferably).
  • Maintain and check the employees’ hardware, such as their laptops, when needed (i.e., when catastrophe hits…).
  • Document the system’s configuration and educate employees on best practices.

While a lot of these tasks seem repetitive, and some may run automatically, it is essential for your system administrators to stay in control of every single process on a daily basis. That’s a lot of checks to make and of course only if nothing urgent is coming up or nobody needs a little help – which leads us to the next point.

2. Which Skills are a Must for a System Administrator?

Having an analytical mindset is priceless. System administrators need to evaluate and predict how networks and systems (will) work and anticipate new requirements accordingly. The ability to solve problems is another one. System administrators must be able to think fast and react quickly when something jeopardizes the IT infrastructure. Project management and budgeting also play an important role: they have to make the best of the budget they have at their disposal when procuring hardware.

What about soft skills? Communication is important. This does not mean system administrators need to be chatty, but they do need to be able to get their point across when explaining things to their coworkers. This leads us to the next trait: patience. Experts need to be patient when explaining things to their less tech-savvy coworkers. Last but not least: stress resistance. When something bad happens in terms of infrastructure, system administrators need to keep their nerve, evaluate their options, and react swiftly.

In most companies, this also means they need to be available during night hours or weekends, because errors and attacks do not care if it’s day or night.

3. “Just” IT Support?

While most small or medium-sized companies only need a few administrators who act as a jack of all trades, larger companies and infrastructures breed larger necessities. In larger IT landscapes, the system administrator role can even be split into several categories:

  • Database administrator (DBA): a DBA is responsible for the installation and configuration of databases, as well as database design, security, backups, and data recovery.
  • Network administrator: a network administrator’s responsibility is to maintain the network infrastructure. Their focus is usually local area networks (LAN). Installing on-site servers and monitoring software-network is also one of their tasks.
  • Security administrator: a security administrator makes sure nothing goes awry in the company’s security infrastructure, i.e., computer and network security. They keep an eye on firewalls and draw up plans on security measures. In case something goes south, they are there to assist too.
  • Web administrator: the person who maintains the website. They ensure web servers run without any hiccups, design the website, examine traffic, and might have a knowledge of ecommerce software. This role is also known as webmaster.
  • Computer operator: they oversee the smooth operation of the hardware, maintaining devices and making sure they run smoothly.
  • Site Reliability Engineer (SRE): this position is more common at larger web companies. An SRE’s roles are many; they are there for system availability, performance, emergency response and capacity planning.

This goes to show how complex this role can be – most system administrators are indeed a one-person army.

Bonus: Self-taught? And other tidbits…

Some employers require from system administrators at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to IT, such as computer science or electronics engineering. However, many system administrators join companies with self-taught skills. According to a survey by Stack Overflow, over 50% of system administrators are self-taught, i.e., they never took a computer science university course.

Another survey reveals some more interesting information:

Question“Yes” Percentage
Are you happy with your job?70%
Do you think it is a meaningful job?46%
How important is it to work in a team in this job?46%
Do you have telephone conversations every day?85%
Do you have group discussions every day?77%

The most interesting insight is perhaps the 54% of the surveyed system administrators who think their job is not meaningful (which could not be further from the truth!).

For this reason, this year, we had something sweet in store for our dear system administrators. And it didn’t matter if they were at the office or working remotely from home – our gratefulness to them knows no distance.

Happy Sysadmin everyone, especially to our Alex, Chris, and the rest of the team! 😊