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SysAdmin Day 2020: paying tribute to those enabling business continuity

July 31st is being promoted as System Administrator Appreciation Day 2020, a day to highlight ‘the heroic men and women who, come rain or shine, prevent disasters, keep IT secure and put out tech fires left and right’.

It goes without saying that the past few months have been trying for everyone in all aspects of life, with pressures coming from all sides. The story is no different for SysAdmins, who have continued to work tirelessly in the background ensuring that companies and their most valuable assets – their people – can continue to work effectively and safely. 

For SysAdmin Day, Continuity Central has talked with six technology experts to get their opinion on how we can all better appreciate those putting in the work to keep our businesses running through thick and thin. 

Maximising uptime

Raif Mehmet, VP EMEA at Bitglass, explains the history of SysAdmin Day in terms of the role itself: 

“The rationale behind SysAdmin Day is as true today as it was when Ted Kekatos set it up 21 years ago. The simple fact is that most users don’t think about IT until something goes wrong. As more companies move their IT to the cloud, the role of the SysAdmin has become ever more complex as companies now need to manage comprehensive cloud security platforms too. And as more of us are now working remotely using personal devices, the probability that something will go wrong is multiplied by several factors.

“A recent study found that 69 percent of respondents said that they are allowed to use personal devices to perform their work, while some even enable BYOD for contractors, partners, customers and suppliers. Enter stage left the SysAdmin, or wider IT / IT security team, to fix things when they break (which they will) – whether that’s down to drive-by malware, or a coffee spill. It’s no mean feat to deliver the balance of productivity and security. Ultimately a key responsibility of SysAdmins is to keep the lights on, or in other words, uptime – and for that they deserve to be celebrated 365 days of the year, not just one day in July!”

Remaining resilient 

“It’s great to have a day recognising all the hard work of SysAdmins, especially after the last few months during the COVID-19 crisis,” says Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO at Scale Computing. “Consistent, reliable and responsive, SysAdmins have been the backbone of our industry during these challenging times. Without them, we would all be more susceptible to all the usual issues – server failures, downtime and problems with upgrades and capacity – but even in the midst of the crisis, SysAdmins have maintained their teams’ momentum to overcome IT challenges, with a plan of attack for the next time.

“They’ve played a vital role in maintaining business resilience, ensuring companies worldwide could quickly and effectively mobilise their workforce to work remotely by keeping platforms like virtual desktop infrastructure running, making it possible to extend the remote capabilities of the workforce in a predictable and easy to manage way, without compromising enterprise security.”

Connecting the dots

Tim Bandos, Vice President of Cyber Security at Digital Guardian, highlights the importance of SysAdmins in enabling effective communication between teams:

“SysAdmin Day’s number one objective is to celebrate the colleagues who keep IT secure, prevent disasters and generally keep the IT lights on. It’s an increasingly challenging role, made all the more difficult by the huge number of employees who are now working remotely. IT organizations have had to scramble to connect teams while their security counterparts have had to scramble to ensure it’s being done while minimising risk. This balance can be difficult. For example, do vulnerabilities exist in video chat platforms apps that can allow attackers to compromise credentials and even eavesdrop on conversations? Are employees leveraging sites that are typically blocked while at work, like Dropbox or Box. It’s essential to educate employees on the risks associated with how data is transferred and offer them the tools they need before they go out on their own looking.”

Working proactively

Brett Cheloff, VP of ConnectWise Automate at ConnectWise, emphasises the value of addressing issues proactively, rather than reactively:

“System administrators spend a great deal of their time putting out fires. No matter the issue, tackling problems with a reactive approach is much less effective than working proactively. Solving internal or client-based infrastructure issues with a proactive approach allows SysAdmins to repair IT systems before serious problems develop.

“With responsibilities such as proactive network monitoring, conducting routine maintenance, and managing ticket flow and security, SysAdmins need expert efficiency to get the job done. But as routine pitfalls produce extra work, even the most experienced technicians struggle to keep up with the demands of a modern IT infrastructure.

“These processes can be made much easier by using the right software. SysAdmins should seek out programs that provide insight into workflows and efficiency as well as facilitate system response monitoring. Doing so will improve overall response time and allow SysAdmins to reallocate their time to other important tasks. With the right product and processes, they can be more proactive-oriented and better prepared to handle reactive situations.”

Providing the right tools

Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise, delves into the more subtle ways companies can give thanks to their SysAdmins:

“SysAdmins are the forgotten heroes of IT. Think about it – if something doesn't work, or if something goes wrong, it’s their ‘fault’ and they’re expected to fix it. But, if everything is working correctly and there are no issues, then they go unnoticed, even though they are the ones keeping all critical operations up and running.

“The work SysAdmins do is imperative to business operations. If you lose access to your data, you can’t do anything. Keeping data available and secure is a big job, but it’s thankless – something needs to change.

“SysAdmins deserve more recognition, and there are ways this can be done subtly. For example, there are data management tools and platforms out there with dashboards that showcase the business value that SysAdmins deliver to management. It’s worth keeping this in mind and to take the time today to really appreciate just how successful your business is thanks to the forgotten heroes that are SysAdmins.”

This is a sentiment that Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, wholeheartedly agrees with:

“SysAdmins are the unsung heroes in any organization. This has been especially true during the pandemic, where they have faced the additional challenges of managing IT infrastructure and databases remotely. But the SysAdmin role was no easy feat pre-COVID. SysAdmins face rising pressures and are expected to have a detailed knowledge of various technical programming languages. They need to be available at a moment's notice, ready to support numerous new technologies as organizations power ahead with digital transformation.”

She concludes: "We should mark SysAdmin day this year by not only showing our appreciation for the role SysAdmins have played during the recent shift to remote working, but by increasing the ongoing support and training we offer people in this essential role. Organizations need to provide the opportunities for their SysAdmins to upskill and learn new certifications so they can continue to provide valuable support, even during periods of great change."

For more information on SysAdmin Day 2020 go to https://sysadminday.com/



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