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Appreciating a new era of SysAdmins this SysAdmin Day

(Image credit: Image Credit: Bbernard / Shutterstock)

System Administrator Appreciation Day (27th July) may be one of those strange calendar days that pops up out of the blue (think Bring your Dog to Work Day, Towel Day or National Cupcake Day), but it’s also an important reminder for businesses to recognise the work SysAdmins do. The role of the SysAdmin is easily overlooked, but impossible to live without. With this in mind, we spoke to several industry experts to get their views on why SysAdmins remain so important, and how the role is changing for modern businesses.

What a SysAdmin can do for your business

The role of SysAdmins is all encompassing, as Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Technology Evangelist, Zerto explains: "The SysAdmin is directly responsible for the uptime, performance, and security of the systems they manage that the business depends on. It’s no mean feat, but the best thing a SysAdmin can do for your business is keep you online – and prevent outages. In some ways, they are the gatekeepers of IT resilience, so it’s important to recognise the role they play.”

Ron Herrmann, Director of Sales Engineering, E8 Storage agrees, adding: “The SysAdmin is behind the scenes working on tasks of all sizes – from IT upgrades to more demanding projects, such as accelerating performance, data consolidation and improving data analytics. This work can often go overlooked, but upkeeping the system and network is perhaps one of the most central roles in the IT department. In addition, performance and latency can have a profound impact on an organisation’s bottom line, and with SysAdmins keeping the IT infrastructure running smoothly, organisations can deliver on performance when it matters, to drive the bottom line of the business.”

And achieving this is no easy task, as Zerto’s van Doorn continues: "It’s a tough job, and most systems administrators are all too familiar with the middle-of-the-night call to come in and fix things when the systems mysteriously go down. Organisations looking to support their SysAdmins should ensure that they are spending investing enough on resilient infrastructure – across backup, disaster recovery and cloud mobility. This will allow your SysAdmins to focus on building and managing systems for always-on and agile services, rather than constantly fighting to get the systems back online."

As Gregg Mearing, Head of Managed Services at Node4 also points out, “SysAdmins fulfil a vital role that is growing in importance. For many organisations, the impact of cloud and the increasing investment in managed services means IT teams in general need to work more effectively with external providers on a regular basis. For these organisations, SysAdmins are really important experts in the delivery of an effective cloud-based IT strategy. From the Managed Service Provider point of view, SysAdmins often become part of a wider co-operative team – their intimate knowledge of their company and its IT infrastructure remains as important as ever.”

How is the role of the SysAdmin changing?

As part of a business’s appreciation of its SysAdmins, it’s important to note that the role has shifted significantly in recent years. Alberta Bosco, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Puppet, commented: “The SysAdmin role has evolved greatly, in no small part due to changing team structures in a DevOps environment - and the best thing a SysAdmin can do for your business now is deliver on the DevOps vision.”

“SysAdmins in today’s agile businesses are closer to a developer-style of role,” continued Bosco. “In a DevOps environment, they write infrastructure as code and can deploy it using continuous delivery solutions to be agile as developers. SysAdmins often are the ones driving the DevOps change within an organisation. They have always been the core of the IT team and they are now becoming the most revolutionary function, setting a high bar for themselves when it comes to meeting business expectations. SysAdmins are a good example of continuous learning, are multidisciplinary and have a results-focused attitude that brings success to the organisation as a whole.”

Part of a SysAdmin’s multidisciplinary role involves adapting to a changing business landscape. With business needs and strategies evolving, architecting for data management is also becoming part of the role. Nigel Tozer, GDPR Specialist, Commvault explained:"You may be aware that data is, essentially, the lifeblood of a business. But have you ever stopped to think about who is actually tasked with looking after the infrastructure that makes utilising all of this data possible?”

“Every day, the SysAdmins of your business work hard to make sure, amongst many other things, that the hardware and software that enables businesses to manage and use their data is up and running, working smoothly and performing correctly. The unsung heroes of the data driven world we live in, SysAdmins are the backbone of the IT department, and without them, your business could truly suffer. It’s time to take all of their hard work into consideration and to really appreciate everything your SysAdmins do for you and your business.”

The business case for SysAdmin appreciation

With all this hard work in mind, it’s clear that appreciating your SysAdmins is more than just a one-day-a-year affair. Neil Stobart, VP Global Systems Engineering, Cloudian concluded that there was significant value in ensuring that the hard work of SysAdmins was recognised in organisations more frequently: "We all know that getting recognised for our good work is a great motivator to do well, but what isn’t a great motivator is only ever being noticed for the one per cent of the time when something goes wrong. System Administrators are always working in the background, ensuring that the IT Infrastructure consistently remains up and running so others can continue with their work and get praised for it. But who is giving them praise for their good work?”

“SysAdmins not only ensure that the business they work for doesn’t get hit with downtime, they also have to understand all of the new technology that the organisation chooses to adopt, so that they can provide instant support to their colleagues. They are the first line of defence in troubleshooting, with the all-round technology skills to deal with everything from servers and storage, to network and applications. So next time you get noticed for your great work, remember all of those who made it possible."

It’s integral that modern businesses recognise the many varied contributions that a SysAdmin can make. Even more so, as the role changes and develops, businesses should look to support their SysAdmins, not just with appreciation, but with the tools and technologies needed to succeed with their jobs – preventing downtime, and delivering the infrastructure to support the business’s changing agenda.

IT Industry Experts
Image Credit: Bbernard / Shutterstock

Nigel Tozer is GDPR Specialist at Commvault. He has over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry and the past 21 years entirely focused on enterprise data & information systems.