The philosophy behind SysAdmin Day is as true today as it was when Ted Kekatos set it up 22 years ago: we must better appreciate our system administrators
From installing and configuring software, hardware and networks, to ensuring IT infrastructure is secure and efficient, system administrators work around the clock to keep businesses running smoothly. Always on call, they fix all things technology, springing into action when there is a problem to ensure business gets back to normal as soon as possible. This is no easy task, and comes with a monumental pressure to ‘get it right’.
Sysadmins counter inevitable challenges head on, ensuring that downtime is avoided, and that issues are dealt with as efficiently as possible. However, Gregg Mearing, CTO at Node4, explains that this can make it easy to overlook the importance of our sysadmins. “After all, if everything is running smoothly and working efficiently, they are very much operating in the background.”
What’s more, a sysadmin’s job has never been harder than it has over the past year. “National lockdowns and their variations throughout 2020 and at the beginning of this year meant that most businesses were thrust into embracing remote working,” Mearing adds. “This placed unique and unprecedented challenges on IT operations.”
“We’ve seen the phrase “not all heroes wear capes” pasted all over social media during the last 18 months – and for good reason,” furthers Dwain Stuart, Production Engineer at Content Guru. “Take the contact centre industry, which has played a vital role in helping people shop, access critical information and book healthcare appointments over the last year. sysadmins have worked behind the scenes to ensure that physical equipment, from servers to laptops, is suited to this new working environment, and have supported agents by migrating equipment from physical contact centres to home offices.”
Public sector saviours
While many private businesses have successfully switched to remote working over the past 18 months, much of the public sector hasn’t had this option. Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, highlights that employees from doctors and nurses to teachers and police officers have all continued to work on the frontline.
“Making this possible behind the scenes has required an immense amount of IT support from system administrators, or sysadmins. Balancing the needs of employees who have been based at home with those who continued to work in offices, schools, hospitals and on the road has been no mean feat, and it’s the IT managed by sysadmins that has enabled this to happen.
“It’s been crucial for teams to collaborate from multiple locations, as well as access data necessary for their job from anywhere in the country—even if it was previously only accessible from inside the workplace. Sysadmins have had to handle this change in work practices quickly and efficiently, keeping systems running and preventing downtime so organisations could continue to provide important—and in some cases, life-saving—services to the general public.”
“For those working in the public sector in particular, lockdowns and skeleton workforces have placed a renewed importance on suitable, reliable technology that allows people to carry out their work,” agrees Chris Hornung, COO of Totalmobile. “Without sysadmins, remote workers would be more susceptible to detrimental problems, such as server failures, overloaded systems, and downtime, preventing them from maintaining high customer service levels. By keeping platforms such as scheduling software and mobile workforce management running, sysadmins have allowed mobile workers to carry out their day to day operations largely uninterrupted by the effects of COVID.”
Keeping cyber secure
System administrators can be overlooked by some, but their role is more important now than ever in today’s hostile digital landscape. “On their exponentially growing to-do list, another key challenge was remaining vigilant and prepared to defend against the growing number of cybercriminals and attacks from ransomware and other malware,” Surya Varanasi, CTO at StorCentric notes.
“It was impressive to see the number of sysadmins that elevated their backup strategy from basic to unbreakable. In other words, they knew that for today’s ransomware they needed to protect backed up data by making it immutable and by eliminating any way that data could be deleted or corrupted.”
We live in a world where users demand secure access on the go to any app and any web destination, on any network and from any device. Anurag Kahol, CTO at Bitglass, explains that this makes the role of the security sysadmin increasingly complex as they are under constant pressure to automatically adapt to ever evolving security requirements.
“The rise of remote working at scale has certainly thrown up a new set of challenges when it comes to understanding and managing network and cloud security architectures.
He continues: “When it comes to maintaining security, deploying a strategy that enables security sysadmins to understand where data is, where it is across the security stack, and what users are doing are all critical to ensuring threats can be responded to in a timely and consistent manner.”
“Your system administrator will play a key role in enhancing your organisation’s cyber security posture, as they manage and maintain best practice configurations of the systems that hackers are targeting, 24×7,” agreesThomas Cartlidge, Head of Threat Intelligence at Six Degrees. “This SysAdmin Day, let’s ensure we give our system administrators the tools, support and training they need to reduce the risk of cyber-attack.”
A helping hand
Sysadmins are expected to wear multiple hats and be the first point of contact when things go wrong. “In the Cloud era, sysadmins have transformed into DevOps, Cloud and Site Reliability Engineers,” highlights David Miller, SVP, technology, Fluent Commerce. “These unsung heroes make sure shipping software is cost effective, reliable, secure and performant. They make sure users have what they need to get the job done whilst making sure it’s secure—turning commited code into value shipped to customers. The buck stops with them to ensure performance and availability on a global scale is constantly improving.”
“Whether you realise it or not, sysadmins are the core of every organisation,” agrees Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam. “They are the ones that support the company’s IT operations and network, keeping the lights on. Without them, it would be disarray. We mustn’t overlook their efforts and should be empowering them with the tools and resources they need and deserve.”
To conclude, here are three ways that organisations can better support and appreciate sysadmins: the men and women who deserve to be celebrated 365 days of the year, not just one day in July.
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com