What is system administrator?

what is system administrator

system administrator or sysadmin is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers, such as servers. The system administrator seeks to ensure that the uptimeperformanceresources, and security of the computers they manage meet the needs of the users. End users frequently interact with sysadmins through support ticketing systems and sysadmins respond with appropriate changes and solutions while maintaining organizational policies for issue resolution.

Role and Responsibilities of System Administrator :

  • User administration. The primary responsibility of a sysadmin is to support reliable and effective use of complex IT systems by end users, whether internal employees or external customers. Activities range from managing identities and access to providing dedicated technical support to individual users. Sysadmins may be the focal contact point within IT departments for users to resolve any technology related issue.

  • System maintenance. Sysadmins are responsible for dependable access and availability to IT systems. Sysadmins are therefore required to troubleshoot and fix issues that compromise system performance or access to an IT service. This responsibility also involves regular system improvements, such as upgrades based on evolving end-user and business requirements.

  • Documentation. Sysadmins are required to maintain records of IT assets usage. End-user requests, business requirements, and IT issues are documented to plan for future IT investments and upgrades. Documentation also serves as a key requirement for regulatory compliance.

  • System health monitoring. Most IT issues go unnoticed until the impact reaches end users. Sysadmins therefore monitor system health and identify anomalous network behavior, which may include security-sensitive activities such as unauthorized network access and data transfer. Advanced technology solutions may be used to accomplish these tasks, supporting the wider IT Security and Operations departments.

  • Backup and disaster recovery. Sysadmins implement data backup and disaster recovery strategies for different IT systems and SDLC environments. They also facilitate end-users in accessing data that may have been deleted or unavailable. Activities may involve implementation of automated software solutions or replacement of hardware and software components.

  • Application compatibility. Sysadmins support IT teams to ensure that software systems and feature releases are compatible with the IT infrastructure. Activities such as testing server load performance and installing or upgrading hardware components may be performed by a sysadmin.

  • Web service administration and configurations. Sysadmins regularly perform web service administration and configuration management activities, including ensuring that configuration changes are documented and follow organizational policies associated with access and cybersecurity. Configuration changes may be applied using automation and configuration management tools.

  • Network administration. Sysadmins ensure that network interactions follow organizational policies and protocols In order to maintain network integrity. A background in network engineering may be required to perform mission-critical network administration activities.

  • Security administration. Security responsibilities are centered on infrastructure and network security, with activities including network monitoring and analysis, identity and access management, security of hardware components and management of software licensing, updates and patching. Sysadmins adopting these responsibilities tend to work closely with security specialists and engineers within the organization as well as external consultants.

  • Database administration. Sysadmins may be responsible for maintaining the integrity, performance, and efficiency of database systems. Database management activities may include migration, design, configuration, installation and security of the organization’s data assets. Sysadmins may act as liaison with users to address database related issues, including backup and restoration activities.

  • Installation and patching. Sysadmins are responsible for managing, troubleshooting, licensing, and updating hardware and software assets. They ensure that appropriate measures are proactively followed in response to unforeseen issues such as IT downtime or zero-day exploits. The activities are documented and follow a strategic approach as devised by the organization.

  • User training. While sysadmins directly communicate with end users to solve technical issues, they may also conduct training programs to bring users up to pace with new software installations or IT system changes. These training programs may not pertain to specialized engineering tools, but the Web portal and procedures required to access the corporate network and IT services. Sysadmins are not only expected to be knowledgeable in their professional domains, but also boast effective communication skills.

Skills required for system administrators:

Skills required for system administrators


Virtualization has grown immensely and has been adopted by organizations of all sizes looking to shrink their existing infrastructure’s footprint, increase operational efficiency, and shore up security. This has led to a number of advancements for multiple facets of IT, from networking to hardware management to containerizing applications and services that power organizations and their employees.

Virtualization technologies, such as those from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, or KVM for Linux, offer a number of options that encompass virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), Type-I hypervisors for hosting multiple nodes from bare metal servers, and network functions virtualization (NFV) for advanced network management over virtualized instances. Additionally, applications like Docker and Kubernetes allow containerized apps to be quickly deployed, managed, and orchestrated.

Certifications to pursue: VMware Certified Professional (VCP), VMware Certified Advanced Professional–Network Virtualization (VCAP-NV), Citrix Certified Professional–Virtualization (CCP-V), Citrix XenServer Certified (CC-XenServer), Docker Certified Associate (DCA), and Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA).


The open-source operating system is used for countless applications in organizations and commercial solutions worldwide—from hosting web sites and databases to powering network services, like DNS and LDAP—due to Linux’s strong security, small footprint, and powerful, enterprise-class services. Since so many industries come to rely on Linux to power their services, including financial, banking, and e-commerce, there is a strong need for admins who can efficiently manage these systems. 

Conversely, there is something of a dearth of Linux administrators, which only increases the demand for users with advanced Linux skills and knowledge. This makes a great choice for sysadmins looking to pivot careers, and potentially earn higher salaries by growing their knowledge base and extending their skill sets to include a few flavors of Linux. After all, once the core foundation of understanding is established, the differences between distributions will be easier to comprehend, requiring less of a learning curve.

Certifications to pursue: CompTIA Linux+, Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), GIAC Certified Unix Security Administrator (GCUX), Linux Professional Institute Certification-2/3 (LPIC-2/3).

Programming and development

Software development has risen in popularity in recent years for several reasons, chief among them being the ability for anyone with a computer to access software development tools and instructional materials to begin learning a programming language and use it to develop their first application, web site, or solution. With the consistent growth of apps in the mobile device space, it is not unheard of for teams of developers to cobble together the next revolutionary app.

Programming skills are and will always be needed by organizations to manage the workload required to ensure that websites remain secure and full-featured. Additionally, there is always a need for customized, proprietary software solutions for businesses of all sizes, including those familiar with systems administration, to implement automation and artificial intelligence (AI)-based coding.

Certifications to pursue: Certified Professional in Python Programming I Certification (PCPPI-32-Ixx), Amazon Web Services Certified Developer–Associate (AWS Certified Developer–Associate), Certified Chef Developer (CCD), Puppet Certified Professional, Ruby Association Certified Ruby Programmer Silver/Gold version 2.1, and Amazon Web Services Certified DevOps–Professional (AWS Certified DevOps–Professional).


Cloud computing is to information technology as the final frontier is to Star Trek. The cloud is where organizations are migrating their apps, infrastructure, and services to maximize uptime, accessibility, and scalability. Though the cloud does not come without its inherent risks, for most, the trade-off between potential risks vs. benefits to the enterprise make the latter the clear choice.

That said, cloud engineers and architects are highly sought-after and make for a nearly seamless transition for SAs with experience and knowledge in supporting traditionally locally hosted services, such as Active Directory, email, or storage solutions. Increasingly, other facets of IT are finding a home in the cloud, such as virtualization of devices and applications through the use of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or other popular choices.

Certifications to pursue: Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect, Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect–Professional (AWS Certified Solutions Architect–Professional), Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert), and CompTIA Cloud+.


Though it’s last on this list it is likely the one with the greatest potential for growth because it can be applied to all tenets of information technology. With its own varying levels of complexity and difficulty, the security track touches every aspect of IT, making changing job roles easy, regardless of the initial starting role. Simply put, every device, application, service, function, and role in IT requires security—now more than ever.

Security personnel are needed everywhere to keep systems safe. This means there is a great deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing roles in the security field that highlight your strengths and desire for career growth, including defensive and offensive security positions. Offensive cybersecurity professionals work to find weaknesses in software, exploit vulnerabilities, and even attack networks to assess security posture and readiness to defend against attacks.

Certification paths to consider: CompTIA Security+ (Sec+), CompTIA CyberSecurity Analyst (CySa+), CompTIA Certified Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

System Administrator Salary: How Much Can You Earn?

According to salary figures from Indeed.com for June 2020, the average system administrator salary in the U.S. is estimated to be $84,363 per year. The range is quite broad, with figures starting around $43,000 and reaching as high as $145,000.

Two main factors affect how much a sysadmin makes: years of experience and geographic location.

  • 3 years of experience — $57,974
  • 4–9 years of experience — $69,097
  • 10–14 years of experience — $79,400
  • 15+ years of experience — $89,306

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.