System administrator

The term system administrator (abbreviation: sysadmin) designates a job position of engineers involved in computer systems. They are the people responsible for running the system, or running some aspect of it.

The precise meaning varies. Organisations with very large or complex computer systems typically divide up computer staff according to specialism, in which case a system administrator is someone responsible for the maintenance of an existing computer system.

Duties of a system administrator

A system administrator's responsibilities typically include:

  • performing backups
  • applying any operating system updates, and configuration changes
  • installing and configuring any new hardware/software
  • adding/deleting/modifying user account information, resetting passwords, etc.
  • answering technical queries
  • responsibility for security
  • responsibility for documenting the configuration of the system
  • troubleshooting any reported problems

In larger organizations, some of the tasks listed above may be divided between different system administrators. For example, there may be a dedicated individual or group responsible for testing and applying system upgrades.

In smaller organisations, the system administrator can also perform any number of duties elsewhere associated with other fields:

System administrators also tend not to be system architects/system engineers/system designers, although these duties are sometimes given to them, too.

In smaller organisations, IT/computing specialties are less often discerned in detail, and the term "system administrator" is used in a rather generic way — they are the people who know how the computer system works and can respond when something fails.

Becoming a system administrator

As with many professions, there is no single path to becoming a system administrator. Many system administrators have a college degree in computer science while others have training in information system management. As of 2004, two U.S. universities, Tufts and Florida State University, have post-graduate programs in system administration.

Generally, a prospective administrator will be required to have some experience with whatever computer system he or she is expected to manage. In some cases, candidates are required to be certified on the system before being considered. For example, someone applying for a job administering Microsoft Windows systems may be expected to have the MCSE certification. Administrators of systems that use very specialized software may also be required to have experience with those packages.

Sometimes, almost exclusively in smaller sites, the role of system administrator may be given to a skilled user in addition to or in replacement of his or her other duties.

See also

fr:Administrateur_système ja:システムアドミニストレータ ru:Системный администратор zh:系统管理员


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