|Management of a business|
Two system administrators performing a system test
|Names||System administrator, systems administrator, sysadmin, IT professional|
|Competencies||System administration, network management, analytical skills, thinking|
|Varies from apprenticeship to Masters degree in business|
A system administrator, or sysadmin, is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers, such as servers. The system administrator seeks to ensure that the uptime, performance, resources, and security of the computers they manage meet the needs of the users, without exceeding a set budget when doing so.
To meet these needs, a system administrator may acquire, install, or upgrade computer components and software; provide routine automation; maintain security policies; troubleshoot; train or supervise staff; or offer technical support for projects.
Many organizations staff offer jobs related to system administration. In a larger company, these may all be separate positions within a computer support or Information Services (IS) department. In a smaller group they may be shared by a few sysadmins, or even a single person.
Most employersrequire a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as computer science, information technology, electronics engineering, or computer engineering. Some schools also offer undergraduate degrees and graduate programs in system administration.
In addition, because of the practical nature of system administration and the easy availability of open-source server software, many system administrators enter the field self-taught.
Generally, a prospective employee will be required to have some experience with the computer system they are expected to manage. In some cases, candidates are expected to possess industry certifications such as the Microsoft MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, Red Hat RHCE, Novell CNA, CNE, Cisco CCNA or CompTIA's A+ or Network+, Sun Certified SCNA, Linux Professional Institute, Linux Foundation Certified Engineer or Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator,among others.
Sometimes, almost exclusively in smaller sites, the role of system administrator may be given to a skilled user in addition to or in replacement of his or her duties.
The subject matter of system administration includes computer systems and the ways people use them in an organization. This entails a knowledge of operating systems and applications, as well as hardware and software troubleshooting, but also knowledge of the purposes for which people in the organization use the computers.
Perhaps the most important skill for a system administrator is problem solving—frequently under various sorts of constraints and stress. The sysadmin is on call when a computer system goes down or malfunctions, and must be able to quickly and correctly diagnose what is wrong and how best to fix it. They may also need to have teamwork and communication skills; as well as being able to install and configure hardware and software.
Sysadmins must understand the behavior of software in order to deploy it and to troubleshoot problems, and generally know several programming languages used for scripting or automation of routine tasks. A typical sysadmin's role is not to design or write new application software but when they are responsible for automating system or application configuration with various configuration management tools, the lines somewhat blur. Depending on the sysadmin's role and skillset they may be expected to understand equivalent key/core concepts a software engineer understands. That said, system administrators are not software engineers or developers, in the job title sense.
Particularly when dealing with Internet-facing or business-critical systems, a sysadmin must have a strong grasp of computer security. This includes not merely deploying software patches, but also preventing break-ins and other security problems with preventive measures. In some organizations, computer security administration is a separate role responsible for overall security and the upkeep of firewalls and intrusion detection systems, but all sysadmins are generally responsible for the security of computer systems.
A system administrator's responsibilities might include:
In larger organizations, some of the tasks above may be divided among different system administrators or members of different organizational groups. For example, a dedicated individual(s) may apply all system upgrades, a Quality Assurance (QA) team may perform testing and validation, and one or more technical writers may be responsible for all technical documentation written for a company. System administrators, in larger organizations, tend not to be systems architects, systems engineers, or systems designers.
In smaller organizations, the system administrator might also act as technical support, Database Administrator, Network Administrator, Storage (SAN) Administrator or application analyst.
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A help desk is a resource intended to provide the customer or end user with information and support related to a company's or institution's products and services. The purpose of a help desk is usually to troubleshoot problems or provide guidance about products such as computers, electronic equipment, food, apparel, or software. Corporations usually provide help desk support to their customers through various channels such as toll-free numbers, websites, instant messaging, or email. There are also in-house help desks designed to provide assistance to employees.
A Linux distribution is an operating system made from a software collection that is based upon the Linux kernel and, often, a package management system. Linux users usually obtain their operating system by downloading one of the Linux distributions, which are available for a wide variety of systems ranging from embedded devices and personal computers to powerful supercomputers.
A package manager or package-management system is a collection of software tools that automates the process of installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing computer programs for a computer's operating system in a consistent manner.
Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data.
A live CD is a complete bootable computer installation including operating system which runs directly from a CD-ROM or similar storage device into a computer's memory, rather than loading from a hard disk drive. A Live CD allows users to run an operating system for any purpose without installing it or making any changes to the computer's configuration. Live CDs can run on a computer without secondary storage, such as a hard disk drive, or with a corrupted hard disk drive or file system, allowing data recovery.
CUPS is a modular printing system for Unix-like computer operating systems which allows a computer to act as a print server. A computer running CUPS is a host that can accept print jobs from client computers, process them, and send them to the appropriate printer.
Webmin is a web-based system configuration tool for Unix-like systems, although recent versions can also be installed and run on Windows. With it, it is possible to configure operating system internals, such as users, disk quotas, services or configuration files, as well as modify and control open-source apps, such as the Apache HTTP Server, PHP or MySQL.
Group Policy is a feature of the Microsoft Windows NT family of operating systems that controls the working environment of user accounts and computer accounts. Group Policy provides centralized management and configuration of operating systems, applications, and users' settings in an Active Directory environment. A set of Group Policy configurations is called a Group Policy Object (GPO). A version of Group Policy called Local Group Policy allows Group Policy Object management without Active Directory on standalone computers.
A network administrator is the person designated in an organization whose responsibility includes maintaining computer infrastructures with emphasis on networking. Responsibilities may vary between organizations, but on-site servers, software-network interactions as well as network integrity/resilience are the key areas of focus.
Software deployment is all of the activities that make a software system available for use.
Safe mode is a diagnostic mode of a computer operating system (OS). It can also refer to a mode of operation by application software. In Windows, safe mode only allows essential system programs and services to start up at boot. Safe mode is intended to help fix most, if not all problems within an operating system. It is also widely used for removing rogue security software.
A dedicated hosting service, dedicated server, or managed hosting service is a type of Internet hosting in which the client leases an entire server not shared with anyone else. This is more flexible than shared hosting, as organizations have full control over the server(s), including choice of operating system, hardware, etc. There is also another level of dedicated or managed hosting commonly referred to as complex managed hosting. Complex Managed Hosting applies to both physical dedicated servers, Hybrid server and virtual servers, with many companies choosing a hybrid hosting solution. There are many similarities between standard and complex managed hosting but the key difference is the level of administrative and engineering support that the customer pays for – owing to both the increased size and complexity of the infrastructure deployment. The provider steps in to take over most of the management, including security, memory, storage and IT support. The service is primarily proactive in nature. Server administration can usually be provided by the hosting company as an add-on service. In some cases a dedicated server can offer less overhead and a larger return on investment. Dedicated servers are hosted in data centers, often providing redundant power sources and HVAC systems. In contrast to colocation, the server hardware is owned by the provider and in some cases they will provide support for operating systems or applications.
NetworkManager is a daemon that sits on top of libudev and other Linux kernel interfaces and provides a high-level interface for the configuration of the network interfaces.
Tom Limoncelli is an American system administrator, author, and speaker. A system administrator and network engineer since 1987, he speaks at conferences around the world on topics ranging from firewall security to time management. He is the author of Time Management for System Administrators from O'Reilly; along with Christine Hogan, co-author of the book The Practice of System and Network Administration from Addison-Wesley, which won the 2005 SAGE Outstanding Achievement Award, and in 2007 with Peter H. Salus he has published a compilation of the best April Fools jokes created by the IETF entitled The Complete April Fools' Day RFCs.
Linux Professional Institute (LPI) offers three different certification tracks. The core certification program, Linux Professional, contains three different levels addressing distinct aspects of Linux system administration. The organization also offers an introductory Essentials program for beginners in Linux and open source, as well as an Open Technology track for professionals working with additional technologies such as DevOps and BSD.
A number of computer operating systems employ security features to help prevent malicious software from gaining sufficient privileges to compromise the computer system. Operating systems lacking such features, such as DOS, Windows implementations prior to Windows NT, CP/M-80, and all Mac operating systems prior to Mac OS X, had only one category of user who was allowed to do anything. With separate execution contexts it is possible for multiple users to store private files, for multiple users to use a computer at the same time, to protect the system against malicious users, and to protect the system against malicious programs. The first multi-user secure system was Multics, which began development in the 1960s; it wasn't until UNIX, BSD, Linux, and NT in the late 80s and early 90s that multi-tasking security contexts were brought to x86 consumer machines.
A computer appliance is a computer with software or firmware that is specifically designed to provide a specific computing resource. Such devices became known as appliances because of the similarity in role or management to a home appliance, which are generally closed and sealed, and are not serviceable by the user or owner. The hardware and software are delivered as an integrated product and may even be pre-configured before delivery to a customer, to provide a turn-key solution for a particular application. Unlike general purpose computers, appliances are generally not designed to allow the customers to change the software and the underlying operating system, or to flexibly reconfigure the hardware.
The Junos operating system (Junos OS) used in Juniper Networks high-performance network devices creates a responsive and trusted environment for accelerating the deployment of services and applications over a single network.
Information Technology Specialist or Information Systems Operator-Analyst is a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in the United States Army. Information Technology Specialists have the responsibility of maintaining, processing and troubleshooting military computer systems and operations.
Micro Focus ZENworks, a suite of software products developed and maintained by Micro Focus International for computer systems management, aims to manage the entire life cycle of servers, of desktop PCs, of laptops, and of handheld devices such as Android and iOS Mobile Phones and Tablets. As of 2011 Novell planned to include full disk encryption functionality within ZENworks. ZENworks supports multiple server platforms and multiple directory services.