q Have you tried turning it off and on again? Happy SysAdmin Day! - Business Reporter

Have you tried turning it off and on again? Happy SysAdmin Day!

System Administrators are the unsung heroes when it comes to keeping a company running. The backbone of the office with their perpetual IT know-how, and the keeper of all of the critical components in business IT infrastructure.

SysAdmins wear many hats and tend to be the ones to swoop in and save the day from computer crashes, server disasters and dreaded drive failures. Still, SysAdmins often don’t receive the recognition or appreciation that they deserve.

We spoke to six IT and tech experts to remind us all why we should all show gratitude towards our Systems Administrators today – and every day!

The evolving role of the SysAdmin

“The simple fact is that most users don’t think about IT until something goes wrong”, says Raif Mehmet, VP EMEA at Bitglass. “As more companies move their IT to the cloud, the role of the SysAdmin has become ever more complex as companies now need to manage comprehensive cloud security platforms too.

“A recent study found that 69 percent of respondents said that they are allowed to use personal devices to perform their work, while some even enable BYOD for contractors, partners, customers and suppliers. Enter stage left the SysAdmin, or wider IT / IT Security team, to fix things when they break (which they will) – whether that’s down to drive-by malware, or a coffee spill. It’s no mean feat to deliver the balance of productivity and security. Ultimately a key responsibility of SysAdmins is to keep the lights on, or in other words, uptime – and for that they deserve to be celebrated 365 days of the year, not just one day in July!”

There are high expectations for SysAdmins when everything goes wrong, but little credit or recognition says Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise. “SysAdmins are the forgotten heroes of IT. Think about it – if something doesn’t work, or if something goes wrong, it’s their ‘fault’ and they’re expected to fix it. But, if everything is working correctly and there are no issues, then they go unnoticed, even though they are the ones keeping all critical operations up and running.

“SysAdmins deserve more recognition, and there are ways this can be done subtly. For example, there are data management tools and platforms out there with dashboards that showcase the business value that SysAdmins deliver to management. It’s worth keeping this in mind and to take the time today to really appreciate just how successful your business is thanks to the forgotten heroes that are SysAdmins.”

 It seems to Brett Cheloff, VP of ConnectWise Automate that SysAdmins are the plate spinners of IT with a seemingly endless list of responsibilities. “System administrators spend a great deal of their time putting out fires. No matter the issue, tackling problems with a reactive approach is much less effective than working proactively. Solving internal or client-based infrastructure issues with a proactive approach allows SysAdmins to repair IT systems before serious problems develop.

“With responsibilities such as proactive network monitoring, conducting routine maintenance, and managing ticket flow and security, SysAdmins need expert efficiency to get the job done. But as routine pitfalls produce extra work, even the most experienced technicians struggle to keep up with the demands of a modern IT infrastructure.

“These processes can be made much easier by using the right software. SysAdmins should seek out programs that provide insight into workflows and efficiency as well as facilitate system response monitoring. Doing so will improve overall response time and allow SysAdmins to reallocate their time to other important tasks. With the right product and processes, they can be more proactive-oriented and better prepared to handle reactive situations.”

To the rescue in the shift to remote working

Stress has been particularly high for SysAdmins in recent months as they’ll have been the driving force behind sorting operations to support a remote workforce, ensuring security and business continuity. Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds, said: “This year, the U.K. public sector has been faced with more challenges than it’s tackled in decades. While doctors and nurses have been saving lives and the central government has determined how to keep the country running, the IT systems on which this sector relies have been mission-critical. From the systems behind the NHS 111 helpline to the data collection and analysis shared by Number 10, technology has underpinned it all. It has also helped ensure many non-frontline employees can work from home safely and securely.

“SysAdmins are the team members working behind the scenes to uphold IT quality and functionality in all organisations, and to keep systems from suffering downtime—and this can be the difference between life and death, particularly during a pandemic. As the country begins to recover, it’s crucial for IT leaders to recognise the hard work of their SysAdmins and their vital role over the last few months, and they should provide training and tools to help them do their jobs even better.”

“SysAdmin Day’s number one objective is to celebrate the colleagues who keep IT secure, prevent disasters and generally keep the IT lights on”, says Tim Bandos, Vice President of Cyber Security at Digital Guardian. “It’s an increasingly challenging role, made all the more difficult by the huge number of employees who are now working remotely. IT organisations have had to scramble to connect teams while their security counterparts have had to scramble to ensure it’s being done while minimising risk. This balance can be difficult. For example, do vulnerabilities exist in video chat platforms apps that can allow attackers to compromise credentials and even eavesdrop on conversations? Are employees leveraging sites that are typically blocked while at work, like Dropbox or Box.”

Mihir Shah, CEO, Nexsan, a StorCentric company, says: “At a time when we are leaning on technology more than ever, SysAdmins are continuing to display their fortitude and resilience. With the initial panic of deploying remote workforces at the start of the pandemic, SysAdmins faced new challenges while continuing to maintain productivity and ensure security. As ransomware becomes increasingly sophisticated during the pandemic, the best way to thank our SysAdmins for their dedication is by enhancing their capabilities with investments in the latest security, data protection and business continuity technologies.”

Particularly today, recognise your SysAdmin colleagues for all that they do for you and the business.

© Business Reporter 2021

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