June 28, 2019by businessheadquarters

Systems Administration Best Practices – Technical Ability

Effective system administration demands more than just technical ability.  Here are a few of the skills you need to develop if you’re going to be a super-system administrator!

1. Records and monitoring

The system stands or falls on your efficiency so you must have an efficient and effective monitoring system in place.  There are plenty of good software systems around that can help you with this although it might need a little investment in a hardware and software upgrade to put you where you need to be.  The information you can derive from these systems will allow you to spot unusual activity or patterns that could indicate trouble spots.

2. Project management

Good project management skills are useful for efficient systems administration.  Drawing up a project plan with agreed deliverable’s and timescales is very good for helping to keep you focused on a particular piece of work.  This strategy is also handy when you’re developing a new system as users can’t complain about the results if they’ve signed off the documentation before you began the project!

3. Day to day work systems

The good old-fashioned ‘to do’ list is something you can’t do without.  A daily list of tasks will help you to focus and is particularly useful if you’ve several projects on the go at once.  When it comes around to performance review time, you’ll be able to tell your boss what you achieved, when and for whom.

4. Communications skills

Whether you work alone for the majority of the time or not, it’s still important to have good written and verbal communication skills.  From time to time you might find yourself part of a wider project team and you’ll need to get your point across clearly to both your colleagues and management.  This could be by email, speaking up at meetings or via presentations, and it’s worth taking the time to hone these skills.
You could also find that you need to persuade the finance department to allow you some budget for a new server or an important piece of software, and good communication skills are essential here too.

5. “What if?”

Regardless of how good or how lucky you are, something will inevitably go wrong one day.  There could be a system crash or a hacking incident, or your backups could be corrupted; what action will you take if that should happen?You might not have all the answers to the numerous “what if?” scenarios that could occur, and you won’t really know how you’ll cope should the worst happen but you can do certainly do some preparation for that day.  Set yourself up with some troubleshooting training scenarios to test out your proposed solutions and recruit others to help you.  If you can get your head around these questions now, you’ll be so much better prepared and confident to resolve problems should they arise.

Tips for Success as a System Admin

Equip yourself with the necessary toolkit in the form of hardware, software and knowledge and you’ll be the systems administrator everyone wants to hire!

Successful system administration needs more than just the requisite technical skills. Here’s a list of five skills and abilities you need to develop if you’re going to become the sharpest systems administrator bar none!

1. Monitor, measure and record

You’re responsible for the system and its failings so you must have in place a means of monitoring, measuring and recording all relevant data in this regard. You may have to go to your finance department to request new software or a hardware upgrade and it’s vital that you have the information to hand that’s going to convince the hand holding the cheque that the business really needs it.

Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell; Disk storage Memory usage Disk I/O Network throughput Network throughput per virtual host/site Transfer Load average Transfer per virtual host Average response time of a PHP SSH logins by user and IP address per day/month Average response time of test URI (in milliseconds) Once you’re in possession of this information you can look for patterns and spot anything unusual. This comes in handy when you’re troubleshooting problems and you don’t know where to start looking.

2. Develop project management habits

Even if it’s just for small projects or those that you are running for yourself, write up a brief plan and scope of work. Get stakeholders to sign-off on their expectations, record your daily activities and actions and draw up a project plan. At the end of the piece of work, write up an end of project report. All this may seem a bit over the top but it will help to keep you organised and focused. It’s also useful when you are tasked with building a new system; there can be no complaints that you’ve got it wrong if the users have signed off the requirements document first.

3. Develop a system for day-to-day work

This might sound a bit overly bureaucratic but it’s easy to while away your days doing whatever lands on your desk without a proper “To Do List”; when staff appraisal time comes around, you really do need to know what you’ve achieved and for whom.If you’re working on several projects at once, it’s helpful to have a proper record of what you aim to achieve each day too. This helps to keep you focused and on target.

4. Develop communications skills (sales, presentation, etc)

Working alone in a server room keeping things running sweetly is great but what happens when you have a team working with you? You need to be able to communicate your expectations clearly, propose and advocate your ideas to your peers and your management.
Then there may be times when you need to persuade someone that the web server really does need upgrading and that your new server proposal will fix all their problems. Or what about convincing the developer that his code is what’s causing memory issues in a totally non-accusatory manner?

5. Start preparing for “what if” scenarios

No matter how dedicated you are, how good you are or how lucky you are; one day something will go pear-shaped. Perhaps your servers will crash, or be hacked or your backups will be corrupted; what are you going to do when that happens?Obviously, you try to ensure that nothing terminal will happen to your systems but what if it did? How about if the server drops off the network due to a power spike and now it says, “kernel not found”. What about when your user asks for a backup to be restored and that backup is found to be corrupted?

You might not get all the answers until you actually have to deal with the problem first hand, but it’s much better to start some self-training scenarios now to test your solutions out. In the case of our example, set up a test box and remove the kernel then see if you can get it operational again. Get someone to install a rootkit on it, or at least do something that you have to troubleshoot and fix. If you ask these questions now, you’ll be much more confident and in a better position to sort them out should the need arise.