System Admin Rules to Live by

Nancy Anderson
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As a system administrator, you have several hats to wear on a daily basis. You work with computers and servers all day while trying to keep managers happy and your staff working steadily without overwhelming them. Remember a few cardinal rules when you manage your company's computer networks and databases, as one small mistake can have huge consequences.

Make sure you can undo changes along the way. Leave a trail of your work as you proceed, backup copies of files before you alter them and test the system before moving on to the next task. That way, you can go back to changes and then try something different if you run into problems. Even though you are a system administrator, do not fret if you need help from peers or subordinates. Ask for assistance when necessary.

Identify root problems of the computer system so you know what to try to fix. Start with the largest problem and work down. Asking, "Why did the server crash?" leads to, "Why was there an error in a configuration file?" Dig as deeply as possible into a problem so you fix it right the first time.

As a system administrator, you hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Practice any disaster recovery plans your department has in place. As you become familiar with how you need to do things when big events happen, mitigate any problems with the correct procedures. Know what action to take if the server migration causes lost data or the new software does not jibe with your database the right way.

Test, test, and test again when you add new scripts. This prevents breakdowns, especially if someone else may have your job someday. Automate scripts and commands so you do not have to waste time writing the same code over and over again, particularly if you use these processes regularly as a system administrator.

Document your work so someone can duplicate it later. This may seem laborious, but when your successor takes over, you need to show that person exactly how to run things. Documentation also serves as a good training tool for subordinates, and it frees you up for that worry-free two-week vacation you've been dreaming about.

Ask yourself if someone can break or break into something. Safeguard permissions by letting a limited number of people see your most important scripts. Know how to handle a possible security breach by training employees on how to prevent a data breach from your systems. Update co-workers on phishing websites, spam email, computer viruses and Internet security. Notify employees of the company policies and procedures that deal with a data breach.

As a system administrator, your job never stops. Take a few spare moments to try to find problems within your company's systems and then work on solutions. Verify that certain codes work as they should, and double-check the fixes you make. Automate as much of the checking process as possible to save time later.

Freelance some of your time elsewhere to gain even more insights as a system administrator so you can take your newly gained knowledge back to your main job. All of these cardinal rules help ensure job security, peace of mind and your worth to the company for which you work.

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  • Stephanie C.
    Stephanie C.

    You're absolutely right!

  • David O.
    David O.

    Good stuff. Even seasoned pros can benefit from these rules/reminders.

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