Female working in a Technical Support Team Gives Instructions with the Help of the Headsets. In the Background People Working and Monitors Show Various Information, SysAdmin Day

System administrators are the unsung heroes of a business. They ensure daily IT operations run smoothly and any technical problems are fixed efficiently.

However, working in the background, they are often overlooked and under-appreciated.

The 30th July is SysAdmin Day – a day to talk about the vital work that system administrators carry out and appreciate how they keep our businesses running. In 2021, after a turbulent year of remote working and a return to the office for some, it is more important than ever to appreciate the people who have allowed for the seamless transition into flexible working.

With this in mind, WeAreTechWomen spoke to multiple IT industry experts to get their opinion on the importance of sysadmins and how we can show our appreciation for all they do.

The backbone of a business

Daniel Lizama, Leaseweb GlobalSysadmins mostly work in the background, on hand to resolve any issues that may arise and ensuring that the day-to-day running of the business goes smoothly. Daniel Lizama, Team Manager, System Administration at Leaseweb, recognises that, “day after day, these professionals manage to produce solutions to problems. At Leaseweb Global, for two weeks each month, every sysadmin is available on 24-hour call. No matter the day or time, when an issue arises at Leaseweb Global, a skilled sysadmin is quickly available to deal with it.”

However, sysadmins don’t just wait around for problems to arise for them to fix.

“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,” explains Thomas Cartlidge, Head of Threat Intelligence at Six Degrees.

Surya Varanasi, StorCentric“It was impressive to see the number of sysadmins that have elevated their backup strategy from basic to unbreakable,” adds Surya Varanasi, Chief Technology Officer at StorCentric. “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.

“With these capabilities in-hand, these savvy sysadmins alleviated their worry about their ability to recover — and redirected their time and attention to activities that more directly impacted their organisation’s bottom-line objectives. And that is indeed something to appreciate!”

Dave Miller, Fluent CommerceAt Fluent Commerce, sysadmins have not only been tackling their own to-do lists, but have transformed into DevOps, Cloud and Site Reliability Engineers. “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,” tells David Miller, Senior Vice President, Director of Technology.

Carrying on through COVID

Adding to this, a sysadmin’s job has never been more difficult than in the last year. As different waves of COVID thrust the UK in and out of national lockdowns, employees were forced into remote working and left dependent on technology to allow them access to the required systems. It was sysadmins who ensured that this was possible.

Gregg Mearing, Node4“Executing their role with skill, confidence, and with an on-going problem-solving ability, the sysadmins are the ones that have been quietly bearing the full-force of the IT business challenges the past year has presented,” explains Gregg Mearing as Chief Technology Officer at Node4. “National lockdowns and their variations throughout 2020 and at the beginning of this year meant that most businesses were thrust into embracing remote working. This placed unique and unprecedented challenges on IT operations. Because of this, it is arguably more important than ever to recognise the vital role that these employees play.”

Chris Hornung, Totalmobile“Lockdowns and skeleton workforces have placed a renewed importance on suitable, reliable technology that allows people to carry out their work,” furthers Chris Hornung, Chief Operating Officer 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.”

“The entire world shifted on its axis in the past year and a half, yet our sysadmins still managed to produce the quality needed for customers. Despite constantly shifting conditions, Leaseweb Global’s sysadmin team managed to deliver splendidly,” Lizama states.

Dwain Stuart, Content GuruIn the contact centre industry, “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. The challenge moving forwards will be bringing agents back to a hybrid environment, with some remaining at home while others return to physical sites,” explains Dwain Stuart, Production Engineer at Content Guru.

Ways to show your appreciation 

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftThis SysAdmin Day, showing appreciation for sysadmins should go further than saying a quick ‘thank you.’

“By increasing the amount of support and training they offer, employers can demonstrate that sysadmins’ support is valuable – and worth investing in. Providing opportunities for upskilling and learning new certifications will also help keep sysadmins more engaged and equipped to meet the demands of the modern workplace,” explains Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft.

Tim Bandos, Digital Guardian“Understanding the valuable input of your sysadmins and IT teams is something business leaders should tune into more. A common mistake by the executives is not involving their in-house team of experts in these discussions,” agrees Tim Bandos, Chief Information Security Officer & Vice President of Managed Security Services, Digital Guardian.

“They know the business, and when it comes to change, implementing new processes, or migration planning, they deserve to be a part of the conversation. This SysAdmin Day, acknowledge your sysadmin team, acknowledge what they have to say about the inner workings of your operations, and make sure they are feeling supported in what they do – the same way they continuously support your organisation.”

By applying new solutions to aid sysadmins in their job, organisations can demonstrate their appreciation for their work, as well as benefiting the business as a whole.

Alex Chircop, StorageOS“Transitioning to a cloud-native solution can make the life of a sysadmin much more comfortable,” agrees Alex Chircop, Founder and CEO at StorageOS. “Kubernetes offers fast failover, scalability, a platform-agnostic approach, and resource efficiency to sysadmins and provides them fewer issues to deal with. With Kubernetes rising, sysadmins can make sure a business’s infrastructure is managing heavy workloads at a faster pace than before.”

“SysAdmin Day exists as a reminder to appreciate one of the hardest working professionals behind a workstation,” he concludes. “They are the backbone of any company. At StorageOS, we try to ensure that sysadmins go from being known as unsung heroes in the tech industry to being thanked daily.”