System administrators play a critical role in the increasingly digitised world of business that we live in today. Their responsibility to maintain the smooth running of the IT systems of a business makes them a highly valued component of any business model. The rise of remote working, globalisation, and the greater adoption of technology means that businesses are now more reliant than ever on their IT systems. The successful running of these systems enables the success of the business itself, so a staggering amount of trust is therefore invested in the system administrator role.
The responsibilities of system administrators
The responsibilities of system administrators are lengthy and varied. In part, they depend on the type of business the system administrator is working for. For a small organisation, the system administrator might be responsible for the maintenance of IT systems across all departments. For a larger organisation, their work might become more specialised, and part of their job might involve coordinating and collaborating with other system administrators working for the same firm.
Generally speaking, system administrators are responsible for installing, upgrading, and monitoring the hardware and software solutions of a company. Some might argue that this role is becoming less relevant as traditional IT systems are being replaced with cloud-based solutions. However, cloud-based services are not always the best possible option for a business. They can create more hassle, and demand more resources and specialist skills than alternative systems. Even in cases when cloud-based solutions are viable, there is still a need for someone to maintain network connections and security to protect business operations. Further, the responsibility of system administrators to maintain a company’s hardware and software solutions includes the role of working out how to integrate different components of a business’s technology, so that all systems work together in harmony and with ease.
Finally, system administrators are responsible for staying up-to-date with the latest technological trends to provide their business with cutting-edge upgraded technological solutions, which enhances the efficiency of business operations. In summary, system administrators will always be required to install, upgrade and monitor the IT systems of a company, even when this is achieved remotely.
System Administrators are also responsible for protecting the security and confidentiality of the data which IT systems store and handle in a business. This is a critical function in the modern age, where cyberattacks are on the rise around the world as more businesses rely on and develop more expansive digital systems. In the UK alone, 130 000 businesses were targeted by a cyberattack in 2018. In the US, 4000 ransomware attacks have occurred on a daily basis since 2016. Cyberattacks are devastating for small and large companies, resulting in severe financial, legal, and economic consequences that either leave long-lasting effects or threaten the very existence of businesses themselves.
Richard Clarke, who previously held the position of National Security Coordinator in the US, emphasised the importance of protecting the security of all business relations when he said: “If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked”. Hence, the role of system administrators in maintaining the security of IT systems is crucial.
Finally, system administrators are responsible for providing technical assistance, and troubleshooting technological issues. By providing technical support when issues arise, system administrators help to minimise the downtime an organisation has to face when inevitable malfunctions occur.
This helps to reduce the wasted time, money, and energy of a business and its employees. Also, technical assistance helps to enhance communication between the business and their clients, as well as communication between employees. System Administrators, therefore, helps to transform business needs into technological realities. Finally, the technical support that system administrators provide helps a business to ensure that every component of their IT system is performing at its best and that employees are utilising the maximum potential of the systems they have access to.
Requirements to be a System Administrator
There is no ultimate route to becoming a System Administrator, and there are many paths available for prospective employees to take. There are however different types of desirable experience, qualities, and qualifications, which can effectively prepare candidates for the role and help their CV to stand out against others. A degree in a technical subject like Computer Science will provide individuals with a good foundation of technical knowledge which they can then build upon. An understanding of system security, the different operating systems available, data backup/recovery as well as scripts in Python and other languages, are all important to develop to succeed as a System Administrator. Further, certifications in specific server programs and work experience or internships in relevant fields will also help a candidate’s chances of securing a system administrator role.
In addition to technical know-how and relevant work experience, prospective system administrators should have good communication skills; this will be important for helping employees and clients with troubleshooting technical issues. A good problem-solving attitude, and a thorough understanding of a company’s overall objectives, will also impress interviewers.
In summary, system administrators are highly valued roles in all business models. They provide important functions of ensuring the smooth running of IT systems of a business and are relied on to provide technical support and ensure the privacy of business data and communications. While there is no traditional path to become a System Administrator, a technical degree, relevant work experience, and a problem-solving attitude will help to secure a role.