Survival of System Administrators

survival of system administrators

Let’s try motivating System admins :)

I know Survival is a big Word but if you wish to keep growing in the industry then you have to keep learning. Changes are must in our life, staying in the same company for years and years not only frustrates you but the employer too. I have seen many technical guys wasting time in working on the same platform for years, they feel secure, stable and they live in the comfort zone. If the employer and you are happy with each other, you are at the age of retirement then it is okay :)

Guys, try understanding the difference between Experience and Exposure to your Experience. You have 10 years of experience in one platform which is outdated in outside world or works with specific environment then its of no use working on it. You are graduate or post graduate and doing a job since years will not going to help you if your experience has no Exposure. Your employer will never ask you to learn new technologies or do certifications, as far as you are doing assigned work he/she doesn’t bother. Why would employer do that ? If you have less expectations from yourself. Employees wasting time in gossiping at workplace about company policies, work culture, environment, seniors-team leaders-manager issues, increments, appreciations, others financial; professional; designation growth….. NOTHING IS GOING TO HELP, Grow up guys !! Are you spending some money on further technical or process Certifications? or nothing remains after having weekend parties, trips. See, stop blaming employers, it is you who has to decide what is good or bad for you, if you have technical expertise with you then no one will be able to stop your growth.

We all know the economic downturn happening this year, so everybody has some assumptions about their job security and everyone starts re-examining their skills. There are lots and lots of valuable jobs performed in IT field, but some skills are valued even more highly than other skills. With all the ups and downs we are experiencing in IT, many new skills are in high demand. I am not someone who knows everything about IT, but being a System Administrator since last 8 years, thought to write something about it. Every system admin experiences the frustration in so many ways, which directly effect on his/her life. Now a days, all users are acquainted with computers / systems / workstations / servers / applications / platforms / software’s / security and they know exactly who to blame, “System Administrators” when something goes wrong and they need to contact support people. Everybody has their own ways to overcome from frustration, work experience definitely helps to resolve, harvest and overcome from it.

Biggest reason for work insecurity is, acceptance of Changes. You have to be ready all the time for technology changes, need to keep learning new skills, get habitual to do multitasking, accept the reality, don’t live in assumptions, stop blaming others. A systems administrator is responsible for the operation, maintenance, implementation, interaction with direct clients, security of computers / systems / workstations / servers / applications / platforms / software’s and must possess a wide variety of skills. An extensive knowledge of computer operating systems and applications as well as hardware and software is required for this profession. This professional must have the skills needed to troubleshoot and repair problems, as well as implement all necessary security measures. In addition to these technical skills, a systems administrator must be able to work well under pressure and communicate effectively with other professionals. These individuals are required to hold an array of professional certifications and participate in continuing education programs to keep up with changing technology.

I have prepared a list of skills which will definitely help you to survive in future, if you are stucked somewhere then it will help you to move forward. Please consider this thread as a discussion, please share your thoughts, feel free to reply and add more skills, I may wrong somewhere so guide me wherever u think it is necessary.

Following is the Survival Skills List for any System Administrator :

1) Operating Systems:
Every single System, Workstation, Server or Computer is managed by the Operating Systems like Microsoft Windows, Linux, MAC OS, or any third party Embedded OS and its variants. System admin should be aware of all its installations, managements, upgrade, downgrade, patching, troubleshooting, backups, filesystems, security hardening, basic scripting, automation, authentication / authorization / privileges, and every single feature and its do’s and don’ts. There is no quick way to learn all these things at once, you have to be active in technical Blogs, forums, discussions, keep records of your technical solutions, also you should do necessary trainings, reading books and start practicing and implementing labs for every technical feature. Practical skills are very important because you see the output of your work immediately, you can justify your work, and normally we don’t forget practical things easily :) .You will find this category in every administration job requirements. It is mandatory to know operating systems, so don’t just start learning but try to become skilled admin in Operating Systems. This is the base of every computer operator, if you know this then only you can survive and learn following skills.

2)  Computer Network: 
Don’t forget that you are a System Administrator, not a Network Administrator. So you should know basic architecture of network, how it works, how packet / frame traffic flows. If you have good understanding of network you can troubleshoot support issues in a better way, knowledge of DNS is also important. Network guys take care of Network components, LAN/WAN implementations, design, deployment, implementation of routing protocols. If you can read and analyze a Network Diagram / Design it helps you to think on Security and troubleshooting part. For e.g., if a customer is facing issue accessing internet or communicating with different systems in the network then you should know if it is configured under DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), you should able to recognize such issues. While implementing Cloud, Clusters, disaster recovery, business continuity environments, as a System admin you should know VLAN, VXLAN, virtual network, IP allotments / assignments, IP addressing (IPV4, IPV6) etc.

3) Virtualization
I have mentioned everything about virtualization on my another thread : What is Virtualization? Every System administrator should know this concept, as it is implemented in almost every datacenter to save their resources. Virtualization is the base of Cloud implementation. Virtualization makes it easy to configure High Availability, Clustering, live virtual server migrations and other features. Many companies are implementing their Mail, Database and other Critical applications on Virtual Machines.

4) Storage:
When I say Storage, that doesn’t mean just Disk Drives or Disk space allocations or Storage equipments. We should know Network Attached Storage, Storage Area Network, what are the Storage Blocks, how I/O Speed affects storage performance, RAID types and configurations, Storage Security, Storage Clusters, Storage Virtualization, RAW Disks, Thin & Thik Disks, Storage Types and their feature differences, FCOE, Fibre Channel, LUN, LUN Masking, Powerpath, Storage Snapshots, Zoning, Clone and most important Backups etc.
Every System Admin should be aware of all storage concepts. The reason is, cloud implementation requires Storage knowledge, if you know storage types and its features then you can suggest the storage to the client and implement the optimized Cluster or Cloud, you can provide them Storage backup Solutions. You can properly manage Storage environments, can troubleshoot performance issues, Forecast storage growth.

5) Backup and Recovery Techniques:
Now a days we have different levels of backups and recovery techniques, “OS level backups, Hypervisor Level backups, Application Level Backup, Storage Backups, Replications, Mirroring, Cloning, Snapshots etc”. Data protection, backup configuration and recovery are System Administrators responsibilities. Big companies prefer having different backup teams but System admin has to be aware about these backup and recovery techniques, at the end you will be responsible for data loss. While troubleshooting, testing, patching, upgrading, security scanning, installing third party applications, tools, utilities it is always recommended to keep the backup of client data.

90% companies are using any of the following backup applications / techniques VMware Data Protection, VMware Consolidated Backup, VMware Data Recovery, Veeam Backup and Replication, Symantec NetBackup, Windows Default Backup, Rsync Tools, WinSCP, IBM Storage Tivoli Manager, Quest vRanger etc. Other than these techniques Storage providers also provide Storage backup solutions like Storage Mirroring, Replication, Snapshot, Clone, Live Data copy-Restore features.

6) Cloud:
I have already posted detailed information about Cloud : What is Cloud Computing?
Now a days, most of the datacenters are in transition phase (migrating complete setup to Cloud). Nobody can afford the downtime so they prefer building Cloud Infrastructure or purchasing private / Public / Hybrid / Community Cloud from Cloud Service Providers. If you know Cloud basics (at least) then it will help you to move forward, this also helps you to get a good position / or hold in your company. All above technical Skills (OS, Network, Virtualization, Storage) are very important for Cloud. If you are good in those skills then you can participate in performing Cloud Design, Implementation, Operations, troubleshooting. You should not only know Concepts but Cloud technologies too e.g VMWARE, MICROSOFT, CITRIX, AMAZON are the biggest Cloud technology and Providers now a days.Cloud Administrators are not only getting good Salaries but good reputation in their respective companies.

7) Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity:
As the name suggests these categories are very important for any System Administrator. Tough you have configured Clustering, backup or Redundancy for your Servers, Storage, Network and every hardware requirement or software, Database, applications etc, what if the Natural Disaster happens at that place (Datacenter) ? like Water Flood, Earthquake, Volcano etc. Nobody can save the hardware, data or complete infrastructure. To whom you will blame at that time ? Nature disasters are not in anybody’s hand. To overcome such Disasters, we can setup the backup environment at the Remote Location (in different countries or at suitable distance). If the System Administrator is very well aware of OS, Network, Virtualization, Storage and Cloud then he can definitely help in configuring redundancy for all of them at the Remote Location.

If you implement Disaster Recovery environment in Cloud then you gets features like, “Fast Recovery of your data and Infrastructure, Automated Failover, Decreased infrastructure, Flexibility, Pay per Use, Mobility etc”. You should know recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs), every business needs having different RPOs and RTOs.

8) Certifications:
Having certification is necessary now a days. first of all, employers who are looking for suitable candidates for their company checks ur profile on various websites likes naukri, monstar, Linkedin etc, they check how qualified and experienced u r, So certifications definitely help u to get short listed. Every job description includes Qualification section, where you will find…….. high degree qualifications or equivalent technical certifications or technical qualifications, so whats that means ? They simply need a candidate who has technical certifications in respected area. Also if you are certified in any specific technical areas then it means u have technical knowledge, so this helps companies to segregate people as per their expertise. In India none of the degree or post-degree gives u expertise in any subject but a certification can definitely gives you that. Certifications helps u to choose a field as per your interests and also certifications has hierarchies upto expert level for example CCNA, CCNP, CCIE. So every level of certifications proves ur level in technical skills which definitely helps companies to find a right guy.

There are exceptional people in every field of endeavor who may not seek formal training or education, but nonetheless learn what they need to learn about their chosen field. They’re rare.

For the vast majority of us education, training, and learning are tasks that require focus and and a fair investment in the use of certain resources (time, talent, $). Once you’re in a field of your choosing, it still requires a lot of effort to remain current and valuable, and to become better at what you do and worth keeping to your employer, that’s the experience aspect at play. It’s very important to be flexible in seeking and accepting work assignments that may be out of your comfort zone that may lead to bigger and better positions, but it’s also very important to recognize and appreciate employer expectations and even demands. Sometimes, especially but not always only) with a large (well-paying) employer, the ONLY differential is what’s on paper and the recognized quality of that paper. The company I work for is very small, but their demand for excellence puts the company in a very good position and with an excellent reputation in the world of IT. And that is where the value of IT certifications lie.

To say that technology is easy is somewhat pretentious. It’s true that some people do learn more easily and quickly than others, and sometimes narrow subjects can be easily grasped, but to lump ALL of technology into the label of “easy”, goes beyond reason.

9) Process Knowledge:
Every company has some set of practices or defined Process structure to provide good service to its clients. If companies will not follow the process it will be hard to find out the problems their clients are facing repeatedly also they can monitor employee work quality through the process. Process helps to define Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, Continual Service Improvement. System Administrator should be aware of the process, it is recommended to go through ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) process structure at least once. It will definitely help to improve customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery, improve your productivity, and at the end if the Client is happy then the employer has to keep you happy 😛

10) Multi-tasking skills:
Here, you need experience, only an experienced guy can do multiple tasks at the same time without doing any mistakes. We have to be ready all the time to face the downtime for your servers, applications, products. Being system admin you have to troubleshoot the issue and at the same time you have to communicate with the Client, reason for the downtime can be anything but you should able to keep the client calm and updated all the time. Clients are also human beings and they do understand sudden disasters, if you will keep the transparency with clients they will understand the situation and will give you some time to troubleshoot. If possible try creating automation scripts for your technical work, which will save your time doing the same task repeatedly.

11) Communication Skills:
A good SA must be able to articulate technical strategies to senior executives so they fund directions. If your boss never seems to approve your purchases, I challenge you to think about how you present and what you present. A good SA should be able to assist end users without making them feel like idiots. A good SA should be able to share important information about their technology environment with their vendor partners, end users and management, each in the needed language of the partner. These skills are best when covering both oral and written (system documentation, flow charts, user guides).

12) Maturity:
A good SA must be confident in his mission to deliver secure, reliable services to end users. When a user experiences an issue, he focuses on how he could improve his systems to reduce the number of end users issues versus complain for hours how an end user did something wrong. We spend 8 hours a day on technology and understand all the back end components. An end user has expertise elsewhere and only uses technology part time. A good SA isn’t so fixated on always being right and more focused on making things work. When users or managers make ill informed statements on technology, instead of blasting them or making fun of how little they know, I seek to educate them more. Taking the high road makes an SAs life easier and opens the possibility of becoming part of the executive team (or a CIO level SA).That’s it for now :)

I hope this blog will help you to stay motivated.
System Administrator has different levels like Level 1, 2, 3, 4 and then you reach upto Architect level, if you wish to reach upto that level then definitely you have to stretch yourself :) and learn all above skills.

Thanks for reading……….. please give me your expert opinion.

  • Saravanesh says:

    Nice, excellent

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