Datacenters & Servers

A Typical Day In The Life Of A System Admin

System Admin

Unsung superheroes from the world of IT are finally getting some much needed recognition for their hard work in keeping businesses running around the clock. Today (July 29th) marks the 17th annual global System Administrator Appreciation Day, which means it’s time to put preconceptions to one side and show some love for these vital technicians who are tasked with keeping the Always-On Enterprise running 24.7.365.

The System Admin role is an already tough job that keeps getting tougher. Employees are working remotely more than ever before on an ever increasing range of mobile devices, while corporate networks now contain more endpoints, receive more traffic, and have more potential points-of-failure to deal with. 

To put the magnitude of this task into perspective, a single downtime incident can cost an enterprise almost $80,000 per hour, according to a report. So the System Admin’s role in keeping all systems go at all times is absolutely mission critical.

We therefore need to consider what would happen to businesses if there were no System Admins and how, without their laser-focused drive to deliver 24.7.356 availability, modern businesses would falter. The job extends well beyond your clichéd image of a regular IT Manager, and is far more advanced than simply fixing printers and laptops, telling you what the Wi-Fi password is and replacing key cards. 

The role of the System Admin is one of the most important, but perhaps one of the most undervalued. So what might a typical day in the life of a System Admin look like?

06:15 – You receive text upon text – all urgent of course – waking you up. The message says it’s the office, and it’s critical. You roll out of bed.

08:00 – You arrive at the office and start to read the 50 or so emails that hit your inbox last night. These include 6 new requests, 34 demands for updates on ongoing projects, and an email from your boss saying that budget won’t stretch to hire another technician.

08:30 – One of the junior members of staff is frantic (as the early text messages suggested), they rush over claiming nobody in the entire office can print and that there’s an important pitch proposal that must be submitted in hardcopy by the 9 am deadline, and if not submitted it could lose the company millions in new business.

08:45 – You realise the printer is turned off, you turn it back on. Hundreds of pages start spitting out because of multiple failed attempts to print by various staff.

09:01 – Just about everyone has tried to grab you on your way to your desk, including a senior member of staff who thinks they’ve deleted a project document, that if not located, could land them (and you) in hot water.

09:10 – The document had been deleted but you found a copy. Another crisis averted.

09:15 – You log in and run a scan on the networks, which had been struggling since all the sales team had been given new tablet devices and they’re eating up capacity. You make some tweaks and ensure that mission-critical folders and files are backed up, just in case.

09:30 – First coffee. And breathe…

10:00 – Someone else enjoyed their first coffee – or half of it at least – as the other half ended up on their laptop. You set up a new one for them.

11:00 – Time to get back to everyone on the urgent requests that came through on email overnight. You assure them that their requests and projects will be supported by the deadline they requested.

12:30 – Someone is downloading a mammoth file and it’s killing the network. You locate the culprit (it’s the same junior member of staff you tell every week to avoid downloading large files at peak times). 

14:00 – Multiple pings via your Instant Messenger on your desktop. ‘The server is playing up’ – this could be any number of things, you run a check to locate if and where the compromise happened. The CFO seems to have opened an email containing the Melissa Virus hidden in an Excel file macro. That’s the next few hours or so swallowed up trying to contain it.

16:30 – You have a late lunch delivered to the office.

17:00 – With two new hires to prepare for the following day, you’ve got this process down to a fine art; orchestrating network and database privileges and setting up login information. All this while your inbox is still filling up.

18:10 – You’re still not finished eating lunch, but your boss overrides your phone’s Do Not Disturb to urgently request your attention for a senior member of staff’s problem. You know it’s user-related, because you fix every week but the associate won’t listen to your advice.

19:00 – Not a ‘work’ problem, but an exec has somehow deleted family pictures. You find them, and you’re a hero.

20:00 – You’re about to leave, but the Head of Sales claims that salesforce is playing up for the sales team out on the road. You make some tweaks, and rectify it. The new tablets needed a software update.

20:45 – You work out the plan for tomorrow, hope you can stick to it with all the incoming requests, and head home.

The System Admin job impacts upon every single person within the organisation, yet their actions go completely under the radar for 364 days per year. So today is the day to shower your System Admins with gifts, cards, cake or simply words of gratitude to acknowledge the great work that they do to keep your business running at all times, and fixing those IT disasters that pop up on a daily basis.

(The author is Regional Director, MEA and SAARC, Veeam Software)

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