SysAdmins: The Unsung Heroes of the IT World

With technology such an integral part of our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to forget how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. 29th July is SysAdmin Day, designed to remind everyone of the hard work that SysAdmins do behind the scenes.

Working tirelessly to keep the lights on, “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,” explains Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK. “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.”

With that in mind, Cyber Protection Magazine spoke to ten technology experts to hear why SysAdmins are so important, and how we can all better show our appreciation.

The backbone of any business

SysAdmins are traditionally associated with technology providers, hard at work in the background to ensure the technology is working. Gregg Mearing, CTO at Node4, highlights their value in the sector by noting their importance to MSPs: “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.”

However, it’s not only IT companies who rely on SysAdmins. For example, David Miller, SVP Technology at Fluent Commerce, explains how the work of SysAdmins allows retail deliveries to run smoothly: “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, the work of SysAdmins also supports the accounting and financial sectors. “Although our software is designed to be pretty much self-service, accounting teams would not be able to use it with such ease without the crucial work of SysAdmins,” explains Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla. “They play a central role in maintaining applications, coordinating cloud services and environments, managing data storage and business continuity strategies, and supporting the broader IT infrastructure. They’re the people who keep our networks up and running, rain or shine. We simply would not be able to work without them.”

Staying cyber secure

As well as supporting day-to-day operations, SysAdmins are also a crucial part of any organisation’s cyber security strategy. Over the past few years, “the threat landscape has grown dramatically, with 39% of UK businesses suffering a cyberattack in 2021,” explains Steve Young, UKI Sales Engineering Director at Commvault. “Not only are there now more potential entry points for bad actors to access systems, but files are increasingly being stored locally, creating a greater risk of data loss as a result of shadow IT and files not being backed up. For this reason, the job of a SysAdmin has never been more necessary.”

He adds: “SysAdmins work around the clock to keep our systems online and our businesses running. In order to prevent the worst should cybercriminals gain access to systems or files, these unsung heroes ensure that regular backups are taken, and made available and ready to recover data quickly in the event of a disaster. This is crucial in reducing downtime and ensuring business operations return to normal as soon as possible.”

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Mike Gosling, IT Service Platforms Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems, also points out the importance of SysAdmins for preventing cyber attacks. “Without SysAdmins, the services we provide would be seriously compromised. They are responsible for the health, configuration, patching and updating of the systems (databases, servers, network etc.) that underpin the business services that we supply to customers both internal and external.

“This is even more so the case in a world of expanding cyber threats. 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.”

A debt of gratitude

Too often, this vital work that SysAdmins do fades into the background. It’s easy to take it for granted when things are going well, but organisations must make an active effort to show support and appreciation every day, whatever the circumstances.

In order to do so, businesses should ensure that their SysAdmins are provided with the correct tools to support their roles. “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,” argues Steve Cochran, CTO at ConnectWise.

Richard Orange, Vice President EMEA at Exabeam, agrees that “we need to be doing everything we can to support them in their role. Even simple practical steps like proper cybersecurity training for all employees and providing the correct, up-to-date tools that can make the world of difference. Going forward, automation will be crucial – helping SysAdmin’s priorities and automate their tasks wherever possible will be the key to their continued success.”

“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,” adds Paul Farrington, Chief Product Officer at Glasswall.“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.”

Rob Gilbert, Managing Director for Commercial and Logistics Business at Totalmobile, also emphasises the importance of offering learning and development. He believes it is important to “take the time to appreciate them for keeping drivers on the road. Just one of the ways businesses can do this is through training and development: creating a clear path for career progression through regular training sessions and opportunities to take on greater responsibilities, supported by fit-for-purpose and innovative technologies that enable them to deliver maximum value.”

Young concludes: “Quite simply, we wouldn’t get by without SysAdmins. So I think we can all agree, the very least they deserve is a day to be appreciated and reassured that their work does not go unnoticed.”

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