Included in this document :
What is System Administration? | The Profession of System Administration | Hiring a System Administrator

What is System Administration?

As distributed networks grow, the resources of the administration team become stretched and overloaded with the range of their duties. They spend the majority of their time fighting fires, and ever smaller amounts of time on improving user productivity. The time has come for a change.
System Administration can be defined as:
The management of computing resources not solely for oneself.
(This is the definition proposed by The System Administrator's Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU).)

System Administration is, in essence, the integration of diverse vendor products into a working business solution. Five corporations could all buy identical hardware and software, and yet each site will be entirely unique. System administration is the point where all of the disparate needs and characteristics of the hardware, software, network, users, corporate policies and business environment collide.

System administration is about intricacy - the complex interplay of large interrelated components. System administrators deal with volumes of highly technical information, hundreds of products, thousands of commands and the individual, changing needs of corporations, departments, users and customers.

The Illusion

When a company buys desktop computers or workstations, they generally buy them in small batches. Each machine is installed and configured, and works. Over time the network grows, the requirements of the users change, and entropy sets in. Before long, more time is spent maintaining the status quo than improving productivity.

System administration is the continuing fight against the god of entropy.
It is unfortunate that the term used is system administrator. This implies a relatively straight forward, well defined role, similar to other office administrators. Nothing could be more deceptive. The system administrator performs so many complex and diverse roles that they cannot be so readily characterised. The average system administrator's day consists of so many complementary and contradictory activities that they often find it difficult to describe to other people what it is that they do.

You cannot treat a system administrator as a programmer, an engineer, a research scientist or a clerk. They deal with not just technology, but with budgets, users, customers, management, ethics, legal issues, education and training, and a myriad of other people and roles. Most human resources departments are yet to understand this.

No Silver Bullet

System Administration is about change, about people and about intricacy. No off-the-shelf software package can solve this problem.

Software can seek to automate certain functions, and to codify some of that expertise, but it can never replace a system administrator. All the pretty, graphical control panel software in the world won't help you if you haven't worked out how to solve the problem.

Just as no simple software solution is available, so too this problem is impervious to brute force. Just throwing more resources at the problem will not solve it. What is needed is a systematic, holistic approach.

We must create an architecture, a model, a methodology for solving the problems of system administration. We must be able to measure how well we are achieving our goals, and create and measure the effectiveness of new strategies and tactics in our fight.

The Profession of System Administration

System Administration is a young profession. Almost every system administrator working today will admit to learning everything they know either through "common sense", by apprenticeship (working with other system administrators), or by self education such as attending conferences or reading manuals, books, magazines and Internet news groups.

Moreover, each system administrator builds up his own toolkit which he takes from job to job. There is some sharing of tools and expertise in the form of the Internet, but no framework in which to develop, distribute or deliver these into multiple organisations with consistency.

Enter The SysAdmin Group. SysAdmin provides a common toolkit and framework within which to develop, deploy, monitor and manage new tools ("The GHOST Framework"), standard documentation and documentation templates, and standard procedures, checklists and methodologies for performing and recording work.

The Infrastructure of a Profession

There are several things which determine a profession; formal training, staff development and appraisal programmes, standardisation of work practices, quality assurance methodologies, and project management skills. These are the infrastructure of a profession.

It is this infrastructure which SysAdmin brings to the system administration marketplace.

Hiring a System Administrator

The profession of systems administration is relatively new, and is still maturing in relation to how these services can be delivered to the wider community.

There are four methods by which you can presently obtain access to systems administration expertise:

  1. Hire a system administrator as an employee.
    The problem is that system administration is not a mature profession. The position is not recognised as a full-time role by most corporations and, hence, there is no way to assess staff performance, or to guide the development of staff.

  2. Hire a contract system administrator.
    This solution provides all the same headaches as for a full-time employee. How do you assess the performance of that person? How do you manage that person?

  3. Hire a contractor from a company that provides system administrators.
    This approach has the advantage that you are dealing with a company which has several system administration consultants with a wider knowledge base. But this still does not address the issues of standards of practice, staff assessment and guidance, and other management problems.

  4. Hire systems administration expertise from The SysAdmin Group.
    In the first three cases above, it is the sole responsibility of the customer to manage the productivity of the hiree. That means you must assess their performance, and guide and manage that performance at a detailed level. Your success or failure in this directly contributes to the value you obtain from these people and the cost of system administration staff productivity and turnover.
By contrast to the above, when you hire SysAdmin you are hiring Managed Expertise, not just expertise. Being a company that specialises in system administration, SysAdmin has the facilities, knowledge and procedures to ensure that all work performed conforms to industry best practice standards, and is reviewed for quality and appropriateness. This means you are far more likely to be satisfied with the results.

The SysAdmin Group provide an efficient, effective solution to your systems administration requirements.

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