SysAdmins In The Limelight

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In every theatre performance, we cheer and clap for the leads on stage, but how often do we give credit to those working behind the scenes? Without them though, the show couldn’t go on, and the same is true for any organisation when it comes to SysAdmins.

SysAdmin Day provides us with an opportunity to shine the limelight on those working in the background on all aspects of an organisation’s IT. Below, industry CTOs provide their thoughts on why we should cheer for the important work SysAdmins do for businesses on a daily basis, and not only heckle them when they mess up their lines of coding.

Behind the scenes, but vital 

“There are many roles in the workplace that can often fall under the radar, and a role that is specifically prone to this is System Administrators,” explains Alan Conboy – office of the CTO at Scale Computing. “SysAdmins, though, are the foot soldiers of the IT team, standing right on the front line and in doing so, protect the organisation from downtime, server failures, upgrade issues and capacity problems to name but a few. As such, not only does it mean that the organisation can continue without being interrupted by an IT meltdown, it also means that other employees don’t need to worry about the IT infrastructure at all.

“However, when things are going well, we don’t always remember to thank the SysAdmins for the work they do and instead, more often than not, we only recognise when a problem arises. So today, organisations should take the time to appreciate the workplace IT foot soldiers, SysAdmins, and thank them for all the time they spend ensuring we don’t get taken down by IT challenges as and when they arrive.”

 Paul Parker, Chief Technologist – Federal and National Government, SolarWinds agrees, suggesting that “SysAdmins can be some of the most under-appreciated employees in any organisation, and yet they are, arguably, some of the most vital. For the public sector, their role is particularly important, as the services they maintain—such as in hospitals—are needed for the well-being of the general public. Working tirelessly to ensure that IT systems run smoothly and consistently, SysAdmins manage and monitor the systems, watching for any issues and working to make sure they can be resolved before they have an impact.

Parker continues that, “in the NHS in particular, these administrators are crucial for the health service to function efficiently—when lives are on the line, downtime isn’t an option. SysAdmins maintain existing infrastructure, implement new technology, and coordinate these sometimes-contrasting systems. This enables medical staff to concentrate on the patients and the care that they need, without worrying that their technology might not be up to the job. To help SysAdmins deliver these services, IT decision makers should ensure that they are provided with the tools and resources that will streamline the background processes that the NHS relies on.”

Going for the encore

 Neil Barton, CTO, WhereScape believes that, “ensuring your IT data infrastructure is maintained and ready to deliver insights and faster time to value is one of the best things a SysAdmin can do for a business. As business needs drive ever increasingly more frequent changes to data infrastructure, the role of the SysAdmin is proving even more crucial, both in the deployment process, and for keeping systems online and operating correctly. With that in mind, as a business, you don’t want them to be bogged down trying to prevent roadblocks.”

Barton suggests that using automation solutions could be a suitable way of enhancing a SysAdmin’s role as they “can help reduce the time, cost and risk of deploying changes to data infrastructure, by getting rid of the near-herculean manual tasks. This will free up SysAdmins to ensure the data infrastructure is delivering results, rather than being trapped in the manual nitty-gritty of deployment tasks.”

“Sysadmins, defined by their distinct ability to configure, troubleshoot and optimise IT infrastructures, can play an important role in an area of IT that is often overlooked – legacy technology,” explains Mat Clothier, CEO, CTO and Founder, Cloudhouse. “As the problem of outdated IT becomes more and more prevalent in the run up to the upcoming end of life (EOL) of widely-used platforms, sysadmins are perfectly positioned to support a business in its transition away from unsupported systems and towards newer, on-premise or cloud alternatives. This transition, in its most simple and cost-effective form, is made through the use of innovative container technology that provides portability for applications where it might not otherwise be possible. The mobility of applications in an ever-changing IT landscape should be a focal point for any organisation looking to thrive, and the role of the sysadmin is to help route out and push through this evolution of infrastructure in the ways that make most time and monetary sense.

Gary Watson, CTO and Founder, Nexsan adds, “in the same way electricity powers a grid without being seen, SysAdmins underpin the smooth running of an organisation’s IT environment – they’re the ‘invisible’ but crucial backbone of IT.

Watson goes on to say that, “it’s no easy job managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure of an organisation and when everything is running without a hitch you usually won’t hear from them. However, when the pressure turns up and users encounter IT challenges, SysAdmins are the first point of contact and ready to help. With IT challenges taken care of, SysAdmins enable employees to focus on their own role without needing to worry should any technological glitches occur. So, although flying under the radar is all part of being a SysAdmin, it’s still important to acknowledge the work they do and show appreciation for all the SysAdmins out there; they are the reason why IT keeps on ticking.”

It’s important that, on any day of the year, CTOs don’t overlook the critical role that SysAdmins play for all organisations. All businesses do, and will continue to need the skills and knowledge that they offer, and it is especially important that we continue to nurture future generations with the right expertise to meet the job criteria. Unless we have SysAdmins working behind the scenes, the rest of the business will be trying to perform on an unlit stage.