SysAdmin- Get to know this role and why it is important to Incident Response Management

SysAdmin- System Administrator is one of the longest standing roles in technology. Learn how the evolution of the SysAdmin has matured through time

Scott Lasica
January 20, 2022

SysAdmin Importance in Future Technology Roles

SysAdmin- System Administrator is one of the longest standing roles in technology. Here we are going to learn how the evolution of the SysAdmin has matured through time.

The pace at which technology evolves means new and more specific roles are created to handle the ever growing complexity of systems. A System Administrator (SysAdmin) is one of the longest standing roles in technology. SysAdmins are basically responsible for configuring and managing a company’s infrastructure. They handle things like OS upgrades, installing and managing software and ensuring hardware is operating properly. 

The evolution of the SysAdmin role has evolved a bit into 2 more distinct roles: DevOps and SRE. The distinctions between the 2 vary, but very simply DevOps focuses on the build environment, machine provisioning and setup, upgrades, etc, while the SRE is more concerned with production stacks, performance, scalability and remediation when things go wrong. Most often SREs also write custom code to automate and achieve their goals while DevOps engineers do not. 

SysAdmin Roles & Responsibilities

SysAdmins have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities they have to account for, but the larger ones can be categorized into the following.

  1. Configure, manage and maintain infrastructure. This includes all the hardware, software, and operating systems needed for the users to do their jobs. Examples include increasing memory in a machine, installing/upgrading software, and other duties to keep all desktops and servers running.
  2. Data, security and backups. The SysAdmin must ensure that systems are backed up, and that all appropriate security measures are in place. If the SysAdmin is more of an SRE role, they will also ensure failover scenarios are in place to help reduce MTTR.
  3. User access, authentication and permissions. It’s no secret that only specified users should have access to certain systems and data. The SysAdmin will ensure that permissions are set up correctly.
  4. Troubleshooting and problem solving. When users have problems, it’s the SysAdmin’s job to figure out what’s going on. It could be a hardware issue, misconfigured software or an OS issue. Their job is to play detective and have the intuition and training to figure out how to solve the problem. 
  5. Monitor systems and alert when there are problems. This responsibility again falls more into the SRE distinction. Monitoring and alerting systems must be put in place to ensure that when things break (and things will always break) that the SysAdmin can immediately begin working on getting services back to 100%.

Basic Tasks Required of a SysAdmin

As a SysAdmin some of the basic tasks required of you include:

  • Learn the tools of the trade. Tools like Jenkins, Ansible, and Puppet are staples that any DevOps Engineer must know well. 
  • System basics. You will need to know how to configure things like email servers, DHCP, web servers and understand the basics of networking.
  • Strong problem solving skills. As stated above, often times it’s not obvious what the problem is, so having the ability to dig around and the knowledge and skill to think intelligently and logically are very important.

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