8 Things That Only SysAdmins Understand

The highs and lows of managing and implementing technology are the stuff that makes sysadmins more like IT wizards.

The universe of the system administrator (or sysadmin for short) is constantly evolving and has changed significantly in the past three years as data centers have undergone software-defined transformations. But even as implementations and integrations have become easier and technology has created new capacities, some challenges in the life of a sysadmin never go away.

In honor of SysAdmin Day, established 16 years ago by Ted Kekatos as a nod to his fellow IT colleagues, we wanted to highlight some of the more curious but common experiences shared by sysadmins everywhere. Let’s call them #JustSysAdminThings.

1. The Strange and Curious ID-10-T Error

Picture this: It’s 8:15 a.m., you’re groggily settling in to work and sitting down with that first cup of sweet, sweet caffeine. As it hits your lips, the phone rings — it’s Rich in marketing. “Guess what?” he says. “I can’t connect to the Internet again. Nothing is working, and I have a client deliverable due at 8:16 a.m. HELP!”

Despite the articulate sticky notes you’ve left by his monitor on several occasions, he still forgets to re-enable wireless connectivity on his computer when he unplugs his Ethernet connection. Frustrating, right? But the seasoned sysadmin learns the best way to handle simple repeat offenders: Don’t take everything so seriously!

Perhaps, you calmly inform him, this repeat problem indicates a far, far more serious error — the daunting, often incurable ID-10-T error.

You may never cure people like Rich, but having a sense of humor about the ups and downs of being on the front lines of IT crises makes for a better day-to-day work life, especially when you’re faced with yet another password reboot.

2. FAQs? The Wheel of IT Can Handle That

Sysadmins rely on a broad scope of skills, knowledge and experience to diagnose serious IT issues, which is why they’re so incredibly valuable for both day-to-day and long-term business operations.

Sometimes, though (like with the ID-10-T error), you’ll see a problem so often that you have a predefined go-to list of tactics for it, usually involving this classic phrase: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Why not take it a step further and spin the IT wheel of fortune the next time you get one of those calls? When you see something so often that it becomes painfully routine, you’ve got to grasp that romantic notion of making the ordinary extraordinary — have fun with it!

All kidding aside, if your IT department has something similar to the IT wheel of fortune for FAQs, tweet us a pic @BizTechMagazine using #JustSysAdminThings!

3. Diplomatically Dealing with a Not-So-Great IT Vision

Streamlining operations, maximizing efficiency, adding collaborative technology and, somehow, spending less money achieving those goals are top of mind for ambitious executives.

Enter: Idea Man. He’s got style. He’s got swagger. He’s got a vision. Unfortunately, that vision may come with no long-term foresight. Sure, we could probably save a ton of money with one central printer for our 400-person office, but logistics and efficiency could suffer drastically. Not to mention the IT department would be saddled with playing gopher for people printing out their one-line emails.

There’s no solution here other than taking it with a grain of salt, deflecting and redirecting. Check out how the savvy sysadmin handles this challenge.

4. Establishing Legitimate Business Cases for Recycling Old Equipment

Many sysadmins appreciate moving away from everyday operations and maintenance and focusing on larger strategic implementations of cloud and virtualization infrastructures. Even so, there’s something to be said about the smell of fresh tech in the morning. But as legacy IT is retired, how should sysadmins handle disposal or recycling of that equipment?

Sysadmins are a sharp bunch who have some solid use cases for extending the life of old server racks.

OK, so maybe that’s a rough first draft. But the execution of all great ideas has to start somewhere, right?

5. How to Deal When Lunch Isn’t an Option

At any given point, most sysadmins don’t know what their next 30 minutes will be, much less their next day. Couple that with the fact that IT workers are clocking hours far above the standard 40-hour workweek, and the layperson starts to understand the frustrations with something as simple as eating a hot (we’ll take cold, too) meal.

Not only is there zero time for sysadmins to have a meal (quiet or otherwise) during the day, but also, when they finally get a breather, they’re usually following someone else’s awful lunchroom habits.

And even if they make that magical food window happen by hiding in the server room (which in 2016 may not exist on-premises at many organizations), there’s still no reprieve, as this unfortunate sysadmin found out.

Great. Did they bring some fish to warm up, too?

6. Finding Fun in the Minutiae

One of the bright spots in any sysadmin’s day is breaking up the drudgery of password resets and ID-10-T errors (not to mention some of the more serious threats facing IT departments) by engaging in some harmless fun with colleagues.

Assuming there’s no chance of a serious problem like data loss, moments like this can really ease the burden of a sysadmin’s day.

7. Cancel Your Plans: IT Is Calling

It’s a quarter past seven in the evening, the last fire of the day is smoldering peacefully, and you’re gathering your belongings for a nice commute home. An abrupt ring from the phone jolts you back to reality.

For sysadmins, there’s simply no other option than to gear up and solve those problems, no matter how mundane. It’s the name of the game in being an integral part of a company’s operations.

8. You’re Everyone’s (Including Your Family's) IT Wizard

When you finally arrive at the finish line and get home, remove the uniform and start to unwind, there are still IT problems to solve, and that’s the great thing about sysadmins: Whether the challenge is building out a new SQL database, integrating a new VOIP system, fixing their child’s Bluetooth controller or a neighbor’s router, these techies are there to save the day.

Go ahead and embrace it — you’re an IT superhero.

Jul 19 2016