How to Work with a Sysadmin

Earlier in this blog, we elaborated on the actual responsibilities of your typical sysadmin and emphasized why you should never try to fill that space yourself, especially on top of everything else you’re already trying to accomplish just to keep your business going.

At this point, you should definitely be convinced that it’s in your best interest to hire an administrator for your company’s systems. If you’re not yet, hold that thought and read this.

Perfect! Now that you’re convinced, here’s what you need to consider as you work with your shiny new sysadmin. These insights apply whether you’ve resolved to bring a sysadmin on staff or to contract with one through a managed service product. Taking them into account will help you get the most out of your working relationship to produce results in a profitable and efficient manner.

Interview with a Sysadmin

Walking a mile in anyone’s shoes is going to give you a long steady look into what makes that person tick, what motivates and inspires them, and how to interact with that person in a positive, advantageous way. We asked a sysadmin 6 pointed questions that we hope will give you valuable perspective into the mind of the individual who will leverage his or her expertise to help your business succeed in a technical world.

Question 1: What are the most valuable physical assets that allow you to do your job as a system administrator?
It is absolutely essential for me to have access to a Bourne-again shell (BASH) and at least two monitors to work with.

A Unix shell and command processor, BASH was written for the GNU operating system and as a default shell on Linux and Mac OS X. It is used widely among system administrators.

Providing a setup with two monitor screens for your sysadmin is standard. A Microsoft study found that productivity among users increased between 9 and 50 percent by adding a second monitor, depending on the task.

Question 2: When it comes to completing projects efficiently or to your day-to-day productivity, what is your single greatest detractor?
Time. Most projects take longer than planned.

A significant drain on a sysadmin’s time is the absence of a cohesive DevOps strategy, or the collaborative union between development and operation teams.

Question 3: What qualities in your supervisors/clients do you appreciate the most?
Good communication is absolutely critical. If I know exactly what my supervisors and clients want accomplished, I can better deliver everything that they want. It’s impossible to meet blurred or unspecific expectations.

Question 4: What hang-ups do you run into the most during the course of your job?
Many times certain tasks can’t be completed until a maintenance period is scheduled. Lack of coordination in this area creates unnecessary delays.

Every system requires maintenance periods to update and reboot servers. Sysadmins use this time to upgrade hardware or software on the system. Typically the maintenance period schedule is not determined by sysadmin teams, so coordination is essential.

Question 5: In-house or outsource? Which do you prefer? What are the pros and cons of each?
I prefer to work in-house, because of the face-to-face interaction. More can be communicated effectively in person.

Though this is a matter of personal preference for both the supervisor and sysadmin, it’s important to carefully consider the advantages of both sides of the question. For the majority of companies, hiring in-house sysadmins is simply not feasible. The next best thing is procuring a managed service solution that offers seamless access to outsourced sysadmins with the goal of making the experience as close to that of an in-house arrangement as possible.

Question 6: What are the most common misconceptions about your job?
System administration can sometimes be confused with network engineering, but these two jobs require two different skill sets.

Network engineering is highly specific, dealing largely with the physical aspects of networking, including configurations and network equipment such as switches, hubs, and routers. Occasionally they deal with VPNs and firewalls as well. Sysadmins manage and maintain system-level configurations and equipment.

Is there anything not included on this list that you’d like to ask a system administrator? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get right back to you!