SysAdmin Day has arrived, giving us a chance to show appreciation for our system administrators.

black woman working on computer in the hallway, diversity, SysAdmin Dayblack woman working on computer in the hallway, diversity, SysAdmin Day

They are the ones who undertake the work on the front line of the IT world, handling everything from system failures to updating hardware and a variety of other tasks in between. Unfortunately, because much of the work they do takes place behind the scenes, they are often under-appreciated despite being so integral to day-to-day runnings. We spoke to ten technology experts to give us a better insight into the vital work SysAdmins carry out and how we can appreciate them going forward.

The lack of acknowledgement of SysAdmins seems to stem from a lack of understanding their work.

Mike Gosling, IT Service Platforms Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems expands, “whilst SysAdmins are respected within the IT profession, many people do not understand the scope and complexity of their role. High quality IT services are often taken for granted, with the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ proving indicative. Indeed, organisations have a tendency to recognise customer facing staff more than roles like the SysAdmin, which keep systems running behind the scenes”.

In order to rectify this under-appreciation, it is first important to realise what the role of a SysAdmin involves. Paul Farrington, Chief Product Officer at Glasswall explains: “SysAdmins are vital employees – from ensuring that system patches are rolled out on time, to monitoring the performance of all IT systems to ensure they’re working effectively, SysAdmins keep their organisations delivering services to customers”.

Advanced skillsets demanded of SysAdmins

The position also requires a great deal of multitasking as Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK highlights. “SysAdmins not only have to contend with day-to-day tasks, they also have to be crisis managers in the event of a natural disaster or cyber attack. In addition to this, they also have to keep up with the latest IT trends, home working and introduction of BYOD – no mean feat by anyone’s standards. When it comes to multitasking and wearing many hats, SysAdmins reign supreme”.

David Miller, SVP Technology, at Fluent Commerce also touches on the many roles SysAdmins cover: “they have evolved into DevOps, cloud, and site reliability engineers (SREs) in the age of the cloud. These individuals are the backbone of organisations by ensuring shipping software is cost-effective, reliable, secure and performant. By converting committed code into value that is delivered to clients, they empower users to have all they need to accomplish their jobs securely.”

He adds “they are the foundation for ensuring that performance and availability are increasing globally. On SysAdmin Day, we are proud to honour their dedication and hard work.”

With technology advancing, this only means the requirements expected of SysAdmins are increasing. Richard Orange, Vice President EMEA at Exabeam furthers, “their job is getting harder every year. Challenges now facing SysAdmins include supporting a geographically diverse workforce, while contending with an ever-expanding attack surface and diminishing distinguishable corporate perimeter.

“And, as organisations become increasingly cloud-focused, SysAdmins are doing a huge amount of the heavy lifting when it comes to migration. Accelerated cloud adoption is also removing some of the previous security controls inherent in provisioning on-premise infrastructure, causing further complexities for our SysAdmins”.

Working from home impact

The pandemic thrust everyone into the unknown territory of working from home, meaning different things for different professions and industries, and SysAdmins were no exception. Steve Young, UKI Sales Engineering Director at Commvault, explains, “as working from home has doubled in the UK in the past two years, more employees are remotely accessing company networks than ever before. At the same time, the threat landscape has grown dramatically, with 39% of UK businesses suffering a cyberattack in 2021. Not only are there now more potential entry points for bad actors to access systems, but files are increasingly being stored locally, creating a greater risk of data loss as a result of shadow IT and files not being backed up. For this reason, the job of a SysAdmin has never been more necessary”.

Despite these added challenges, SysAdmins continue to persevere. Rob Gilbert, Managing Director for Commercial and Logistics Business at Totalmobile discusses how this is evident within the transport sector. “Despite this increase in workload and simultaneous decrease in team members, SysAdmins have worked around the clock during the past few years and helped to successfully keep the country moving – literally. It’s important therefore to take the time to appreciate them for keeping drivers on the road. Just one of the ways businesses can do this is through training and development: creating a clear path for career progression through regular training sessions and opportunities to take on greater responsibilities, supported by fit-for-purpose and innovative technologies that enable them to deliver maximum value”.

Valuing your SysAdmins

No one can argue that the role of SysAdmins is easy, by any means, therefore we must remember to value them and the work they do. Gregg Mearing, CTO at Node4 notes, “SysAdmins quietly bear the full-force of any and all IT business challenges thrown their way. And while they bear the huge responsibility of making sure every piece of equipment and technology runs correctly and efficiently, a SysAdmin’s job is often overlooked. We should appreciate these crucial workers everyday – if you rarely notice the work of a SysAdmin, it proves how good of a job they do! Take time this SysAdmin Day to celebrate the unsung heroes of your business”.

There is a role we can all play in appreciating SysAdmins. Steve Cochran, CTO, ConnectWise advises, “the best thing an organisation can do to support its SysAdmins is to find the right programs to provide insight into workflows and efficiency while facilitating system response monitoring. This frees up SysAdmin to address other, more pressing issues so they are able to be more proactive and handle reactive situations with ease”.

Hugh ScantleburyHugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla concludes, “they play a central role in maintaining applications, coordinating cloud services and environments, managing data storage and business continuity strategies, and supporting the broader IT infrastructure. They’re the people who keep our networks up and running, rain or shine. We simply would not be able to work without them”.