System Administrator Job Description
System administrators perform a variety of tasks based around keeping systems properly up and running. Systems usually means computers, specifically computer servers. But depending on the company a system administrator (or sys admin for short) may also be responsible for networking infrastructure and other information technologies. A system administrator guarantees that the computers a company is using work flawlessly, ensuring that the rest of the company is able to use technology without having to worry about it. Different sized companies will have different technological needs, and a system administrator's job duties may vary, but most have certain things in common.
A basic sys admin job requirement is making certain that a company's computer servers run without and hiccups. This means that services such as email is always available. If the email server is down, it is the system administrator who needs to get it back up and running as quickly as possible. A system administrator might also be responsible for the server which hosts the company's website, payroll or any other database information.
The security of a company's technology is also a sys admins responsibility. Preventing malicious hackers from getting entry into computer systems is a daily routine of a system administrator. Because new computer exploits come out on a daily basis, a good sys admin will keep up with the latest security news and provide the latest security updates and patches to all their systems.
A system administrator deals with software but also hardware. Hard Drive replacements, RAM upgrades, even changing the ink in a printer might all be part of a sys admin's job. Depending on the size of the company, the system administrator might be in charge of all the hardware, things such as printers, scanners, card readers, switches, even the fax machine.
In case something does go wrong, it is up to the system admin to get things back to normal as smoothly and quickly as possible. This is done either by creating a redundant backup infrastructure ahead of time or at least having up to date backups to restore lost data. Restoring lost data and getting the company back up and running is where the value of a good system administrator really comes into focus. Companies can see first hand how valuable a sys admin is when things go wrong.
Being a sys admin is sometimes a thankless job. If a sys admin is good at what he or she does, then no one will notice them. When all the underlying technology which a company relies on is functioning properly it is because of the system administrator doing a great job. On the other hand when something does go wrong (even if it is completely unavoidable) it is the sys admin to the rescue.
The day to day of a system administrator is interesting. There are some tasks which are routine, such as running backups or patching operating systems with the latest updates. A good sys admin can write scripts to automate these tasks. However, often a new problem will show its face and the sys admin must find a clever solution. Sys admin positions are often times a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the responsibilities of the job. Because modern day computers are so complicated being a good problem solver is key.
Different companies have different infrastructure. Some use Windows some use Linux. Actually, the system administrator might be the one to make those kinds of decisions. In larger companies a system administrator's job description is more limited. The company simply has the resources to hire more specialists. A smaller company may have a single IT person responsible for just about everything.
The best way to become a system administrator is to practice administering servers. If this is something which interests you, think about getting your foot in the door by getting a tech support job. Tech support deals with a variety of IT issues in a similar manner to system administrators. If you can prove your problem solving skills. While working tech support there is a good chance you will be able to advance to system administrator. Another intelligent step would be to start administering systems on your own. If you have an extra computer, install a server operating system on it and practice managing a webserver or email server for example. If you do not have a spare computer to practice on, think about investing in a virtual private server (VPS). These are virtual servers hosted in the cloud where you can practice system administration. In fact many companies actually use cloud based servers, such as VPSs for their infrastructure. Working on one of these would be exactly the same as what a professional sys admin does.