It’s the holiest of Fridays - the one, the only: SysAdmin Appreciation Day!
In celebration of the role that makes the world go round, we sat down with a few Automoxers who are living (or previously lived) the SysAdmin life to ask them some questions about the job.
What is (or was) your favorite part of the job as a SysAdmin?
Mat L: My favorite thing is automating things to the point where we see noticeable improvement. I love making workflows and processes easier. Also, seeing the joy when I can help someone do their job more efficiently gives me a great deal of satisfaction.
David V: The constant opportunity to learn and perform "magic" on systems and computers!
Kyle G: For me, implementation of a new tool or feature that helped our users and customers succeed was always my favorite. Developing something yourself and having it work well is an incredible feeling.
Brandon C: Being able to build, image, rack and wire server racks was enjoyable even though I didn't get to do it often!
David K: Solving problems, and making things work. Pretty much the same thing that drives me in my current role as a developer...building something that helps other people get their jobs done, and doing it well.
What’s the best ticket you ever received, or a memorable story from your SysAdmin days?
Kyle G: One time someone brought me their personal computer to look at since they were having a problem with it. I informed them that since it was a personal device, I wasn’t able to look at it. The user told me they do all their work on the machine so it was technically company property. You can imagine what InfoSec thought of that!
Brandon C: There are two here for me. The first was with a user who reported that their printer was printing backwards. Nothing was incorrectly configured and it wasn't failing. When we investigated we found the user had put the letterhead paper in upside down and was printing letters for customers on the back of it.
My second favorite story is from a customer calling in to our network operations center (NOC) to report that our phone system was down. I remember my boss asking, "Sir, how are you calling us right now?" The customer said, "I'm using my cell phone because your phones aren’t working." There was dead silence for a moment and then the customer said, "Oh, ok, I will go take care of this. I am sorry for the trouble," and hung up.
David K: I think the most memorable story I have is when I learned to respect the power of the symlink. I was doing some remote maintenance on a machine that was in a data center some ways away, so there was no easy physical access and no one on-site without significant expense because we were a small shop. All this was before the cloud infrastructure really existed at all. I had copied some files into my home directory through sudo that I wanted to inspect and check, so I did a quick `sudo chown -r myuser:mygroup *`, completely forgetting that I had a symlink to /etc in there as well. I got very lucky that the network was stable and I stayed connected and could look at another machine’s /etc structure to change the ownership of the files all back to what it was supposed to be!
What do you see as the biggest hurdle(s) to IT operations today?
Mat L: Remote work and locking down/putting enough guardrails around user access without blocking them from doing work. Remote device management and inventory specifically. There are enough tools to do most everything under the sun, but it's how you implement them that matters.
David V: Business buy-in on solutions. ITOps is often treated like a utility, but as a "utility" the business comes to a halt without it. So ITOps is challenged to find solutions for as little cost as possible, and are frequently pressed to "DIY" to save money.
Kyle G: Staffing and funding. Many companies don’t value cybersecurity until it’s too late, and it ends up costing them more in the long run than just fixing the issue now.
Brandon C: Keeping up with tech scaling. Currently, I am hearing this pain point with customers a lot on the support side. The primary use case for most of our customers is to reduce the number of true hands-on processes that they have. Man hours are becoming hard to come by, and infrastructure becomes prohibitive to maintain with traditional methods. Sometimes throwing more people at a problem only delays this issue and it can get quite costly.
David K: A more distributed workforce, and remote/hybrid work as a much larger part of most operations. This brings with it the security concerns of people’s home networks.
...Five years from now?
David V: The challenge of achieving business buy-in is only overcome when vendors (like Automox) provide an MVP that meets the demands of smaller organizations who need the ability to engineer their own "DIY" solutions off of the tool.
Kyle G: Staffing and funding! What we see in the news with the amount of hacks and breaches isn’t by accident. While not every organization is lax on security policies, it doesn’t help if they’re not patching devices.
David K: More state-sponsored level hacking and incursions along the lines of SolarWinds, and those techniques trickling down to smaller operations...plus ransomware becoming more ubiquitous and not having as much control over the edge of the network.
Brandon C: Tech scaling, only it will be more of an issue than it is today because there is a possibility that the tools will become even more diverse and it will be even harder to maintain qualified professionals (higher turnover moving to greener pastures). Moving to a remote workforce/distributed workforce will help with this. I hope the big tech companies maintain this mindset because it has made it much easier to find highly qualified engineers.
What’s your favorite Automox feature and why?
Mat L: The "set it up and leave it." The product doesn't really require any babysitting or debugging like most other products out there. There is very little configuration to get going right out of the box. Unlike other solutions where you have to import updates manually, Automox has a nice feature that will go out and find new patches for you.
David V: The ability to build and run Worklets enables many opportunities for customers to leverage the platform.
Kyle G: Deferral of patches on macOS devices. MacOS patching has always been a pain point for SysAdmins. Most of the big MDM solutions don’t have a great way to manage patches on Macs without custom script writing. Automox has developed the best solution to this using the Notification Center, making notifications and deferments of patching much cleaner and easier.
David K: Cross platform management all-in-one tool and one UI.
Brandon C: No question, Flexible Device Targeting. Being able to build patch policies, required software deployments, and Worklets based on system attributes, including ones you can set inside of Automox (tags) is huge. It reduces the failure points, maintenance, and manual work admins use. It’s big!
If you could leave a message for all the other SysAdmins in the world today, what would it be?
Mat L: Automate all the things. Even if it takes several hours to automate one task, the time invested will save you loads in the long run. Any manual task can be automated with a little elbow grease.
David V: Imposter syndrome affects us all! Find and be the IT person that gives and shares knowledge so we can all improve.
Kyle G: Value your own time! IT is a tough job, it’s important to take breaks and re-align yourself.
David K: Don’t try to be irreplaceable because of certain details that only you know. Work to be irreplaceable because nobody else takes care of networks AND people the way that you do.
Brandon C: Take a step back and breathe...don't sweat everything! Sure, there are going to be bad days. I remember one interaction I had with a vendor where there was a hardware issue in our iSeries that caused the production system to come down during an active trade day very close to Facebook’s IPO. Traders were losing it. On days like those, do the best you can because you can’t solve everything...and try to understand your user's frustration. Help get them through those tough times because most of the vitriol they are laying on you is out of their own frustration and has nothing to do with you.
Thank you, SysAdmins!
A big thank you to our SysAdmins at Automox and to those of you putting in the hard work day in and day out. We speak for everyone when we say we couldn’t do it without you.
And if you’re an IT professional looking for a new role, check out our current openings. We're building a diverse team of curious and creative talent nationwide!
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