System Administrator Day: the time to show your appreciation is now

System Administrator (SysAdmin) Appreciation Day happens towards the end of July every single year.

This day takes place to show gratitude for the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes in organisations to prevent technical disasters, keep data secure and ensure the general smooth running of IT operations. SysAdmins are always on-call – from preventing spam and viruses to installing servers. So, to show their appreciation for these business-critical employees, six IT leaders have come together to share their thoughts on the importance of the profession, the biggest challenges IT professionals face and tips on how business leaders can make the most of IT during this age of digital transformation.

SysAdmins in the clouds

When asked about what effect the rise in cloud infrastructure is having on SysAdmins, Steve Armstrong, Regional Director, UK & Ireland, Bitglass says:

“Cloud adoption continues to rise as more organisations move away from premises-based tools to secure, flexible, easy-to-use cloud solutions. This shift is also impacting the role of the SysAdmin considerably.”

He continues: “Today’s SysAdmins are often focused on configuring, monitoring, and managing organisations’ cloud infrastructure far more often than patching and administering on-premises applications. As the role of a SysAdmin continues to evolve, the best in the field are like human Swiss Army Knives, equipped with every skill needed to keep systems up and running while ensuring that all services are secure and properly configured.”

Gregg Mearing, Head of Managed Services, Node4, also indicated a shift in the role of SysAdmins due to cloud adoption and migration.

“SysAdmins fulfil a vital role that is growing in importance. For many organisations, the impact of cloud and the increasing investment in managed services means IT teams in general need to work more effectively with external providers on a regular basis. For these organisations, SysAdmins are really important experts in the delivery of an effective cloud-based IT strategy. From the Managed Service Provider point of view, SysAdmins often become part of a wider co-operative team – their intimate knowledge of their company and its IT infrastructure remains as important as ever.”

Using automation to aid SysAdmins

Neil Barton, CTO, WhereScape believes SysAdmins have a variety of different responsibilities, but ensuring a business’ IT data infrastructure is maintained and ready to deliver insights and faster time to value is one of the most important. He continues:

“The role of the SysAdmin is proving even more crucial, as business needs drive ever increasingly more frequent changes to data infrastructure, particularly in the deployment process and for keeping systems online and operating. Because of this, as a business, you don’t want your SysAdmin bogged down trying to prevent roadblocks. Automation solutions can help your SysAdmins by reducing the time, cost and risk of deploying changes to data infrastructure by eliminating manual tasks. SysAdmins can then ensure the data infrastructure is delivering results.”

Juggling cost

Cost is just one of the many aspects SysAdmins and IT professionals are required to take into account as part of their maintenance role, as Hubert Da Costa, Senior Vice President and GM, EMEA & APAC, Cybera points out. He explains:

“As the people charged with maintaining network security and uptime, SysAdmins also have to balance increasing demand for bandwidth with (often) very lean budgets. If you think about costs associated with managing legacy WAN technology, for example, it’s enough to make your eyes water! And then if you layer on the rapid adoption of cloud IT and the significant number of applications being deployed within a business, you’ll appreciate that today’s SysAdmin has a really tough job on his – or her – hands. The good news is that technology is available to help alleviate a big chunk of the pain associated with both the performance and budget aspects of their job. A great example is modern, software-based networking which can reduce the deployment and operational complexity associated with traditional solutions. That said, although technology can go a long way to helping SysAdmins do their job, there’s one thing it can’t always solve – the unpredictability of users! But that’s another story…”

SysAdmins’ place in the public sector

SysAdmins play a pivotal role in public sector organisations, sustaining the background activities that keep the UK’s public services up and running. Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds believes:

“Whether it’s life-saving technology in hospitals, confidential data held by the government, or official-sensitive information for the department of defence, SysAdmins are constantly working to ensure IT quality and functionality in these organisations are upheld. Undertaken against an evolving IT landscape, it’s important for IT leaders to prioritise training and tools to increase efficiency and enable SysAdmin teams to focus on delivering the vital systems they organise, install, and support. Because we know: it isn’t always the network.”

What the future holds for SysAdmins

Jon Lucas, Co-Director, Hyve Managed Hosting thinks it is time we appreciate SysAdmins not only now, but into the future.

“When it comes to hosting, SysAdmins are not only central to our business, but our customers’ businesses too. So, the question isn’t what do they do for our business – but rather, what don’t they do. SysAdmins handle all aspects of IT, keeping systems up and running and mitigating risks of downtime, meaning people in this role are required to have a very broad range of skills and knowledge.

“Obtaining and nurturing talent of this kind is something we take very seriously, as suitable candidates for the job are often hard to find. Because of this, we should definitely be taking time on SysAdmin Day to appreciate all of the work they do, as well as considering how we can continue to nurture future generations to ensure that the job is always lucrative and rewarding.”

Truly, SysAdmins are such a vital part of any business and its IT department, we should acknowledge all their hard work every day of the year, not just SysAdmin Appreciation Day. It’s time we showed our gratitude for those upholding IT operations.