Technology is a crucial and valuable part of society. Not only has it become a permanent fixture in our personal lives (think how often you leave your smartphone in a different room, if ever), but it is also a vital element of many industries, as organisations across every sector rely on technology and IT systems to function efficiently.
Keeping all of this technology running smoothly 24/7 are system administrators, without whom so many businesses would struggle to survive. Every year on 29th July, organisations come together to acknowledge SysAdmin Day, and show their appreciation for these unsung heroes. FE News spoke to ten technology experts to find out why these employees are so important, and how we can better show our gratitude to them.
System administration 101
Donnie MacColl, Senior Director of Technical Support at HelpSystems describes SysAdmins as “the mystical, invisible magicians that are always there to keep your IT systems running without a hiccup. Too often, we take their work for granted, presuming they will always be there whenever we need them and rarely paying attention unless things go wrong.
“Even though we rarely take the time to appreciate the hard work of SysAdmins, without them, a host of vital, day-to-day tasks would simply not happen, including: printing any and all documents… recovering or resetting forgotten passwords… starting a new job with a laptop, username and password ready to go… And the list goes on!”
“These professionals maintain, upgrade, and troubleshoot office systems, internal networks, firewalls, and routers, to guarantee reliability and quality for end-users,” adds Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK. “Without their hard work, businesses would quite literally fall to their knees. 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.”
Gregg Mearing, CTO at Node4 explains that “SysAdmins are invaluable to any company, but even more so for Managed Service Providers whose technologies are relied upon by many companies all at once. They often have extensive knowledge about a wide range of technologies as well as incredible problem-solving skills. It is these attributes, along with hard work and often long hours, that mean an MSP’s services continue to work with consistent reliability and no downtime, which are essential for providing the best service to customers.”
From retail to transport and everything in between
Every industry now relies on SysAdmins as technology systems are vital components of most organisations today. In the retail industry – which has seen online shopping soar due to the pandemic – David Miller, SVP Technology at Fluent Commerce reveals how “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. They are the foundation for ensuring that performance and availability are increasing globally.”
Similarly, Rob Gilbert, Managing Director for Commercial and Logistics Business at Totalmobile emphasises how “like so many others, the transport and logistics industry has had to navigate the challenges of the global pandemic, often with skeleton crews, as teams coped with many employees being unable to work due to isolation or furlough. With 75% of people shopping more online by February 2021 than they did pre-pandemic, the amount of deliveries to be managed grew vastly during this short period of time. SysAdmins have been crucial in supporting these businesses by ensuring that scheduling and reporting systems stay online and enable the efficient delivery of everything from groceries to clothes.”
“This is even more so the case in a world of expanding cyber threats,” reinforces Mike Gosling, IT Service Platforms Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems. “Our contractual services are based on high availability and high capacity, however these can only be consistently achieved with the good work that SysAdmins do. They are directly winning the customer. Without them, we would more than likely fail our contractual obligations, whilst opening ourselves up for cyber attacks that could have serious repercussions for both our customers and ourselves.”
Show appreciation with practical steps
As Paul Farrington, Chief Product Officer at Glasswall concedes, SysAdmins “can so often go unnoticed because when everything is running smoothly, the wider business does not always realise the amount of work that goes into maintaining the status quo. Providing additional training and upgrading the tools they use on a daily basis are just two ways that businesses can show their appreciation for their SysAdmins. These actions will not only help the admins to be more productive and not get held up by tedious manual tasks – it will also help them learn more skills and provide increased opportunities for their career development.”
Steve Cochran, CTO at ConnectWise agrees: “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 SysAdmins to address other, more pressing issues so they are able to be more proactive and handle reactive situations with ease.”
Given the rising dangers of today’s cyberthreat landscape, Christopher Rogers, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, recommends that businesses “provide [their SysAdmins] with all the necessary tools and disaster recovery solutions that allow them to tackle and overcome disasters quickly and with ease. Organisations looking to support their SysAdmins should ensure that they are spending and investing enough on resilient infrastructure – across backup, disaster recovery and cloud mobility. The process of protecting your data by creating an extra copy is one thing, but organisations need a disaster recovery plan that focuses on limiting downtime and restoring operations in minutes or seconds, not days or weeks.”
“Even simple practical steps like proper cybersecurity training for all employees and providing the correct, up-to-date tools can make the world of difference,” details Richard Orange, Vice President EMEA at Exabeam. “Going forward, automation will be crucial – helping SysAdmins prioritise and automate their tasks wherever possible will be the key to their continued success.”
He concludes: “We know that without them, any business would cease to operate effectively. We need to be doing everything we can to support them in their role.”