Network System Administrators
Network System Administrators have a primary responsibility for backup and maintenance of an organization’s servers. The Network System Administrator is also the primary support person for an organization’s Network. As a member of an organization’s Information technology department, this position collaborates with other members of the organization to provide an information technology environment that is consistent with the goals of the organization and meets the needs of the management and staffs. This paper seeks to provide a brief overview of who a Network System Administrator is.
In doing this, we will define networks, network system administrators, their functions, the nature of work of a network system administrator. Then we will discuss the required skills for network system administrators, abilities, training, job outlook etc. We will conclude by looking at what a network system administrator is not and their relevance in the current network dependant businesses.
There will be at least twenty types of sources used during the course of this discussion. Most of these sources will be essays and articles written by Information Technology specialists and researchers.
Networks are the arteries of modern business and are vital for sharing information and communication both inside and outside the organization. Computers have become an integral part of everyday life; it is used for a variety of reasons at home, in the workplace, and at schools. However, almost every computer user encounters a problem occasionally; this problem could be the disaster of a crashing hard drive or the annoyance of a forgotten password. The explosive use of computers has created a high demand for specialists to provide advice to users, as well as for day-to-day administration, maintenance, and support of computer systems and networks.
What is a Network?
In other to appreciate network system administrators, there is a need to examine networking and various types of networking. In the world of computers, networking is the practice of linking two or more computing devices together for the purpose of sharing resources; simply put a network is a collection of two or more devices which are interconnected using common protocols to exchange data. Networks are built with a mix of computer hardware and computer software. Networks can be categorized in several different ways.
One approach defines the type of network according to the geographic area it spans. Local area network(LANs), for example, typically reach across a single home, whereas wide area networks(WANs) as the name implies, reach across cities, states, or even across the world. The Internet is the world’s largest public WAN.
Who is a Network system Administrator?
A network system administrator is a person employed to maintain, and operate a computer network system. He or she may be a member of an information technology department.
Network System administrators: What they do
Network System administrators design, install, and support an organization’s local-area network (LAN), wide-area network (WAN), network segment, Internet, or intranet system.
The task of a Network System Administrator is to provide a day-to-day onsite administrative support for software users in a variety of work environments, including professional offices, small businesses, government, and large corporations. They maintain network hardware and software, analyze problems, and monitor the network to ensure its availability to system users. They also gather data to identify customer needs and then use the information to identify, interpret, and evaluate system and network requirements. Administrators may also plan, coordinate, and implement network security measures.
Network System Administrators also perform network management functions which include providing support services and ensuring that the network is used efficiently, they also ensure that prescribed service-quality objectives are met. The duties of a system administrator are wide-ranging, and vary widely from one organization to another.
They are usually charged with installing, supporting, and maintaining servers or other computer systems, and planning for and responding to service outages and other problems.
Other duties may include scripting or light programming, project management for systems-related projects, supervising or training computer operators, and being the consultant for computer problems beyond the knowledge of technical support staff.
Generally speaking, the tasks of a network system administrator can be summarized as follows:
i. To test data processing system to ensure functioning of data processing activities and security measures.
ii. To monitor the use of data files and regulate access to safeguard information in computer files.
iii. To develop plans to safeguard computer files against accidental or unauthorized modification, destruction, or disclosure and to meet emergency data processing needs.
iv. To maintain knowledge of new technologies including Storage Area Networking and Application Service Provider.
v. To modify computer security files to incorporate new software, correct errors, or change individual access status.
vi. To write reports documenting computer security and emergency measures policies, procedures, and test results.
vii. To confer with personnel by discussing issues such as computer data access needs, security violations, and programming changes.
viii. To coordinate implementation of computer system plan with establishment personnel and outside vendors.
A Network System Administrator must demonstrate a blend of technical skills and responsibility.
They must understand the behavior of software in order to deploy it and to troubleshoot problems, and generally know several programming languages used for scripting or automation of routine tasks. Particularly when dealing with Internet-facing or business-critical systems, they must have a strong grasp of computer security.
This includes not merely deploying software patches, but also preventing break-ins and other security problems with preventative measures.
In some organizations, computer security administration is a separate role responsible for overall security and the upkeep of firewalls and intrusion detection systems, but network system administrators are generally responsible for the security of the systems in their keep.
Network system administrators must have deductive reasoning ability; this is the ability to apply general rules to specific problems to come up with logical answers. It involves deciding if an answer makes sense, they must also have the ability to understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing and communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand is also a plus.
Generally, the required abilities of network system administrators can be summarized as follows:
An ability to operate personal computers and demonstrate proficiency with Internet resources and networked environments.
An ability to learn new technologies and assimilate new information quickly.
Demonstrated knowledge of UNIX and Windows system administration and programming using Perl or equivalent scripting language.
Strong service orientation.
Strong interpersonal and communication skills and ability to establish and maintain cooperative and harmonious working relationships with a variety of the organization constituencies.
Willingness to work on evenings and weekends.
Vision for and dedication to the role of a computer network within the organization.
A proven ability to make technical issues understandable and an ability to match technical opportunities to organizational goals.
It should be noted that there is no single path to becoming a network system administrator unlike many other professionals, a lot of network system administrators have a degree in generic fields such as computer science, computer engineering, information system management, or even a trade school program. Other schools have offshoots of their Computer Science program specifically for systems administration.
Some schools have started offering undergraduate degrees in Systems Administration. However, many other schools offer related graduate degrees in fields such as network systems and computer security.
In addition, because of the practical nature of systems administration and the easy availability of open-source server software, many systems administrators enter the field self-taught.
Possession of industry certifications such as the Microsoft MCSA, MCSE, Red Hat RHCE or Novell CAN, CNE is a plus. Sometimes, almost exclusively in smaller sites, the role of network system administrator may be given to a skilled user in addition to or in replacement of his or her duties. For instance, it is not unusual for mathematics or computing teacher to serve as system administrators of a secondary school.
Other Qualifications and Advancement
Entry-level network systems administrators are involved in routine maintenance and monitoring of computer systems, typically working behind the scenes in an organization. After gaining experience and expertise, they often are able to advance into more senior-level positions, in which they take on more responsibilities. For example, senior network systems administrators may present recommendations to management on matters related to a company’s network.
They also may translate the needs of an organization into a set of technical requirements based on the available technology. As with support specialists, administrators may become software engineers, actually involved in the designing of the system or network and not just its day-to-day administration.
Network systems administrators normally work in well-lighted, comfortable offices or computer laboratories. They usually work about 40 hours a week, but that may include being “on call” via pager or telephone for rotating evening or weekend work if the employer requires computer support over extended hours.
Overtime may be necessary when unexpected technical problems arise. Like other workers who type on a keyboard for long periods, systems administrators are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
A good network system administrator should usually take the following precautions:
1. Never do something he/she can not undo.
2. Always check the backups, never assume they are working. Make sure he/she can restore from them, too.
3. Write down what he/she did, even if he/she knows it.
4. If he/she does it more than once, a script should be written.
5. He/she should get to know the users before there is a problem, then when there is, they will know who he/she is, and maybe have a little understanding.
6. He/ she should remember that a service being performed for the users, he/she does not own the system.
7. Backups must be checked.
8. He/she should never stop learning; there is always something that should be known to make the job easier and the system more stable and secure.
9. The backups should be checked again.
Based on the Texas 2000 Occupational Employment Statistics for a Network and Computer Systems Administrator, the Annual Wage was $51,530 and the Median Wage was $23.08 per hour. (Source: Texas Workforce Commission/Labor Market Information Department)
Job prospects should be best for college graduates who are up to date with the latest skills and technologies, particularly if they have supplemented their formal education with some relevant work experience. Employers will continue to seek computer specialists who possess a strong background in fundamental computer skills combined with good interpersonal and communication skills. Due to the demand for computer support specialists and systems administrators over the next decade, those who have strong computer skills, but do not have a bachelor’s degree, should continue to qualify for some entry-level positions. However, certifications and practical experience are essential for persons without degrees.
It should be noted that network system administrators are not software engineers or developers and so cannot be saddled with the responsibility of designing or writing new applications software.
Network system administrators need to be patient, creative, methodical and well organized. They should also have an eye for detail and problem-solving ability, and they should be able to meet deadlines and manage people.
Furthermore, the knowledge of electric circuit boards, processors, chips, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming is essential for a person to qualify as a Network system administrator.
Since businesses continue to depend heavily on networks, cyber security becomes an issue, thus the services of network system administrators is continually needed.
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