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How Many Admins Per User/Computer Have You Seen?

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the its-all-about-the-ratios dept.

IT 414

miffo.swe writes "I'm trying to find the normal ratio of technicians/support tech per user or computer in your average IT-shop. When searching around, I can't find that many examples or any statistics. We manage around 900 computers (mostly Windows XP) and 25+ servers (mostly Linux). There are around 2600 users of varying knowledge, mostly pretty low. I can't find any statistics on this, so real-world examples are very welcome since we do this with one sysadmin (me) and two sneaker techs. Are we seriously understaffed, or is this normal?"

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Over 9000 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594294)

Over 9000

Re:Over 9000 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594522)

I'm 12 and what is this?

Re:Over 9000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594694)

Over 9000

What?! But that's impossible!

Re:Over 9000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594848)

I think the correct response would be "What, nine thousand?!" too which I'd say "Anonymous Coward, calm down!" - But oh well, mixing DBZ with Star Wars is OK too, whatever you want... ;-)

Proper Planning (1)

roblarky (1103715) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594306)

If you properly plan your implementations, there shouldn't be a need for many admins..

Re:Proper Planning (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594426)

Admins? Admins?

Why, in my day we didn't have Admins.

We had to unbox the machines ourselves, plug EVERYTHING in. We even had to figure out interrupts by ourselves. And don't get me started about trying to snake the coax around the building.

Kids these days. Spoiled rotten. Don't even have to get up to turn the record over.


Re:Proper Planning (2, Insightful)

teslafreak (684543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594456)

If you have employees, there is a need. The best implementation is still not fool-proof.

Re:Proper Planning (1)

roblarky (1103715) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594626)

many != any

My point was that this question really can't be answered as it's entirely dependent on the implementation. A poorly planned setup will result in needing many more people to continually plug the holes.

If a dept feels they're understaffed, they must first evaluate the workload and determine if the implementation is unnecessarily causing extra work . Then correct the root issues (possibly hiring contractors for the interim) and reevaluate. Rinse and repeat until there's nothing left to improve upon, then you'll know if you're truly understaffed; either hire on the good contractors if you actually need more staff, or let them all go when the contracts are up.

Re:Proper Planning (3, Insightful)

mirkob (660121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595164)

If a dept feels they're understaffed, they must first evaluate the workload and determine if the implementation is unnecessarily causing extra work . Then correct the root issues (possibly hiring contractors for the interim) and reevaluate.

unfortunately the core problem is the fucking stupid users, no way to smat them up, nor to sack them...

the second problem is the presence of more than 100 different programs, about 2 to 15 are to install in every single station in seemly random assortment that vary wildly depending on the single user...
no way to solve that either.

the third is a continuous spawning of new programs or functionality to implement the week before, so that you hastily put something up, than have to spend 5 time that time to correct, expand, modify, document ecc...
all between a problem and an emergency

without those 3 problem there would be less than 1/5 of the problem... end personal needed.

now there is 4.5 tecnician, and 2.5 administrative to manage about 50-60 servers (half linux half win) and about 500 users on windows pc

Re:Proper Planning (1)

newdsfornerds (899401) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594558)

Right. Computers, especially Windows computers, are completely self sufficient.

Re:Proper Planning (0, Flamebait)

LOLLinux (1682094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594896)

Did you even bother to read his post?

If you properly plan your implementations, there shouldn't be a need for many admins..

Seriously, you shouldn't have even been able to leave 2nd grade with such piss poor reading comprehension skills.

Re:Proper Planning (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594704)

It also depends on what your implementation needs to do:

If you have a bunch of call-center drones, with rigidly standardized desktops, pretty much the only admin time should be on the servers, the occasional hardware failure, and pressing "reimage" if something goes hairy on the client end. If you are logging a lot of client-side admin time, you have a problem.

On the other side, if you have a load of free-spirited and independent academics, who have-their-own-computers-thank-you-very-much-and-no-thanks-for-meddling, then your admin time will be on the servers, and on whatever IDS you are using to segregate those users who have a relaxed attitude toward antivirus technique.

If you fall somewhere in the middle, though, with lots of employees who are unprivileged peons working on institutional computers; but who (in order to do their jobs) frequently need user-specific software, customizations, and various access tweaks, you'll be doing a fair bit more client-side admin.

Re:Proper Planning (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595188)

Indeed, but don't forget the geographic structure of your organization and contractual limitations placed on IT either. For example, an organization housed in a single building, and an IT group that has little useless oversight (things like complicated ticketing systems, quotas, etc), one support tech could easily care for upwards of 2-3,000 customers, depending on the scenarios described above.

On the other hand, if your organization is spread across 20 small locations many miles apart and are forced to use a crappy ticketing system, you will probably need a support tech for every few hundred people, just because of the time needed to answer a single service call.

Depends (4, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594316)

The real question is are you always constantly working your ass off, fixing stupid problems - and therefore unable to do anything more productive? If so, then it seems you don't have enough people.

If you have a fully managed office, and you can remote in to all these desktops and fix everything really quickly - then you're probably OK.

Like most of IT, whatever works.

Re:Depends (3, Interesting)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594624)

The real question is are you always constantly working your ass off, fixing stupid problems - and therefore unable to do anything more productive? If so, then it seems you don't have enough people.

If you have a fully managed office, and you can remote in to all these desktops and fix everything really quickly - then you're probably OK.

Like most of IT, whatever works.

That last sentence hits the head right on the nail...

The numbers really are determined by a lot of factors... if your business revolves around programming and engineering, and thus your workers are from those fields (as opposed to tons of avg computer users in a non computer/technical field), you are less likely to have serious issues that IT needs to address, thus requiring a smaller IT staff. And of course, what money IT is allowed to spend on initial setup and/or maintenance also determines the staffing size for IT. One can design a system that remote boots from the NIC and reinstalls everything to a machine specific image - or kicks the boot to the HDD if there are no problems making serious non-hardware issues trivial - if the money was there during the initial setup or a big upgrade phase... or one can fix the stuff the old fashioned way and go hands on (which requires more of an IT staff). Hardware differences also can determine staffing size. One of our customers had a problem with certain AMD XP machines when SP3 came out - required lotsa "hands on" fixing... other of our clients did not have those machines and needed no one and no help. Also, are the machines needed 24/7? Is there mission critical data on them (or no mission critical data anywhere - or mission critical data is on the server)?

And so on... inotherwords, there are a ton of factors that determine staffing needs for IT. It could be one person per 10 or one person per 100, etc.

Thus, slimjim8094's statement really does sum it up nicely...

Like most of IT, whatever works.

Re:Depends (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594860)

I've worked as the "IT-guy" a couple of times where I was doing various support, from showing how to open a word document to installing machines to lightweight management of servers, usually around 100-200 users would take 2 people to handle, but this has been "low priority users" (school and government) where waiting a couple of hours for someone to come by to fix your issues isn't a problem.

As you pointed out, whatever works.

Re:Depends (4, Interesting)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594702)

The real question is are you always constantly working your ass off, fixing stupid problems - and therefore unable to do anything more productive? If so, then it seems you don't have enough^H^H^H^H^H^H the right people.

A good SA can come in and make a lot of these stupid little problems go away, never to return.

These sorts of problems can also be caused by bad management exerting too much control over the admins, or admins with weak people skills trying to please everyone rather than prioritize and do the right thing.

When asked to do something, to you just go ahead and do it? Or do you require things like justifications, business cases, funding, staff, etc? If management can just ask anything of the IT staff, they will do so, and it will feel like you're being walked all over, and that you're overworked. If you have some basic sanity checks and make those requirements before a project can be greenlighted, you'll find that your job can be a lot easier. Doing this also makes planning happen before you get midway through a project and find that different stakeholders have different opinions on what should be done next.

Re:Depends (1)

EatHam (597465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595202)

When asked to do something, to you just go ahead and do it? Or do you require things like justifications, business cases, funding, staff, etc?

Admins do not get to require justification or business cases to do their jobs. That is management's job.

You are understaffed (1)

greatgreygreengreasy (706454) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594330)

It sounds like you are on top of things, but I'd say you are understaffed. We have 10-15 Windows servers, and a few hundred XP/Vista machines, and one admin-type, plus two full-time equivalent techs, and are looking for at least one more.

Re:You are understaffed (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594638)

It sounds like you are on top of things, but I'd say you are understaffed. We have 10-15 Windows servers, and a few hundred XP/Vista machines, and one admin-type, plus two full-time equivalent techs, and are looking for at least one more.

Where do I send my resume?

Nowadays? (1)

jornak (1377831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594338)

It's normal. With the economy and the dwindling amount of resources being set aside to IT in companies, you can expect to see the tech to end-user ratio reach 1:1000 often.

100 to 1 is about right (3, Informative)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594342)

we're at around 1200 users and around 8 help desk people to support them all. 2 DBA's for 30 some MS SQL servers and 3-5 admins for 200 some windows/^nix servers. some people double by helping users in their office

At my location (1)

teslafreak (684543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594364)

At my company, about 1200 employees, a vast number of servers (mostly virtual). 4 service desk techs, 4 network operations personnel, 4 programmers. We still consistently feel a bit understaffed, but we manage. There are other locations of the same company with similar ratios.

Support/user ratio (3, Informative)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594392)

Here's what we've had at different jobs:

Internal Corporate Helpdesk - 6800 users, supporting every application on desktops, 10 support techs during the day, 1 on nights and weekends.

Website support: 10,000 users, supporting general usage of just 1 website. 4 techs, regular business hours only.

Still valid? (1)

geirlk (171706) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594412)

I remember hearing something along the order of 200 users, 50 computers and 2-3 servers per head in the IT department would be optimal when I worked as a sysadmin 10 years back.

I can tell you this much, administering 250 users, 120 computers and 7 servers is too much for one person atleast, that's from personal experience. =) Mostly Win NT 4.0 back then.

Re:Still valid? (1)

Ozeroc (1146595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595026)

Back in my NT3.51/NT4.0 days we covered 500 with 3 just for 1st look maintenance which included getting them damn IRQs right to get the SCSI cards to work without losing your sound card. oy!

Too many chiefs and no indians (3, Informative)

grapeape (137008) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594428)

Right now its 4 offices around 120 employees and just me...oh and I forgot (or selectively blocked) a former client who keeps calling me to pick up after their new "IT guy" who is supposed to save them money. If they were all in one location I could probably juggle it better but as it is I'm starting to burn out.

My dept is 'prox 600 computers/3 techs (2, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594434)

This is party due to our lack of automation - Active Directory's not got much penetration outside our area, we haven't got automatic package rollouts/updates, no out-of-band management, and there's no planning WRT buying computers; each dept will buy a machine as funds & needs dictate, with input from us.

The three of us are desktop support. That doesn't count the sysadmins & netadmins.

Re:My dept is 'prox 600 computers/3 techs (2, Informative)

Fireye (415617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594636)

Lack of AD doesn't prevent automated OS updates. You can implement WSUS without AD, which will take care of many critical OS updates, it just requires that you alter some registry settings and ensure the users have the latest Windows Update client.

What are you really asking? (4, Interesting)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594440)

I've seen one sysadmin per 70 Unix servers and one sysadmin per 30 Windows servers. That's a general guideline for SERVER systems. Desktops are another matter. I've yet to see a serious roll out of Unix desktops, so I'm going by Windows systems, but one help desk tech per 50 systems is what I've personally seen as optimal. More Windows PCs per tech and the help desk gets overwhelmed. Less than that and they sit around and play games most of the day. This is assuming that you push updates over the network, not go around and manually update each PC.

Re:What are you really asking? (1)

t0rkm3 (666910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594738)

In a 5000+ desktop roll-out of Linux, (the one I've had the privilege to work at) the ratio was around 100 desktops to one SA.

IBM's (According to their PS rep) benchmark for firewalls is 18 to 1, we currently are 35 to 1. With other Network Security devices (FW's, VPN, IPS, NAC) we are 42 to one. Avg time in service(in this field, not in company) in the group 14.4yrs.

What I had... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594470)

From 2004 to 2007, I was the sysadmin for a high school:

- 2 full-time IT staff
- 3 WS2003 servers
- 450 computers
- 100 network printers
- ~80 video projectors
- 150 employees of varying knowledge, mostly pretty low
- 1800 students of varying knowledge, mostly pretty low
- 170 phones. PBX, not IP.

This seemingly short staffing was offset by:
- Using Altiris to centrally manage imaging and software deployment; a practical godsend.
- Ditto for being on a domain: Group Policies are very powerful if used properly. Some schools are just on workgroups.
- A well-run school district IT office, so I wasn't flying solo. They configured all my switches and WAPs, did server names and IPs, assigned me a DHCP range, and other "big picture" stuff.

Lockdown (1)

wsloand (176072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594482)

In my experience, it's a function of how well you're doing your job and how locked down you can make the users' systems. If you do your job well and can effectively totally lock down the system (users install nothing, use Citrix, etc, and are only allowed to use a limited number of apps), that can be perfectly reasonable.

Re:Lockdown (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594744)

Agreed. This is ideal. Unfortunately, where I work, locked down doesn't mean what it should. The only thing it does is give users a community desktop (desktop redirection) based on department and limit some of their local access. They can still install crap -- and the proxy doesn't block as well as I would like (but I'm no longer management -- we were bought out and I was taken on to manage a small server farm and sql dbs).

Our answer is to have a handy-dandy ghost image to push to the workstation if the user screws something up. Not fun doing this across across a DSL vpn (we have hundreds of remote sites -- many of which are over a 5 hour drive for the nearest tech or special delivery), but it's better than shipping a new PC. Images are under 2gb... not scary.

Re:Lockdown (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594788)

Citrix is such a waste in so many ways.
(1) Waste of employee time waiting for the program to load remotely and piped their way.
(2) Waste of network bandwidth, especially if there is a large number of people using Citrix all day long.
(3) Citrix is just one more UNEEDED complication.
(4) Just install the programs they need locally, please.

I think you're understaffed. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594496)

Government facility:
3000+ PCs
2600+ users(yeah I know we have more PCs than users)
200+ servers

6 Server Admins (understaffed)
2 Network Admins
2 Telecom Admins
3 Infrastructure techs
15 Helpdesk Technicians (overstaffed by about 5)

47 other IT employees for software support/dev staff and management staff

used to do about 100:1, but data is more important (1)

tomherbst (888500) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594516)

It does not seem widely off - I used to manage a team of 10 people who did the admin/networking for 8000 users. We did not do all of the end user hand holding, though some days it seemed like we did. Our ratio was about 1:1 users to computers, so your needs may be higher with the larger percentage of users. Rules of thumb are useful, but in any support function is it really important to keep data on what you are doing. If the team works really hard it seems like you aren't even there. Most people don't understand the "magic" required to keep this stuff working. If you track calls/time, it is much easier to ask for more resources/staff when they are needed.

Small Shop (2, Informative)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594520)

We have a small shop, we support around 150 users, all on XP boxes, 2 Windows Servers, and 2 Linux Servers, we have 3 of us in our shop including the IT Manager.

Re:Small Shop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30595204)

Holy crap that's overkill. I manage 200 computers and 15 servers myself and still have a ton of down time in a normal 40 hour work week.

Do you do training as well? That's the only thing I could think of to need more help.

It Varies (2, Informative)

jeffy210 (214759) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594532)

It usually varies every place I've been between the quality/age of the hardware and the competency of the users. Additionally it depends on how automated the system is, and whether there's a dedicated support staff. Small places I've been I've find you can do about 45-75 comfortably... It was a bit stretched when it reached 100:1

Just my $0.02

135/admin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594538)

we have (at a small hosting company) about 200 freebsd servers and another 200 freebsd virtual machines (spread over 8 vmware-esx machines) which we manage quite easily with the three of us.

150: 1 is Decent.. (4, Interesting)

ironwill96 (736883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594548)

You have more than double that so i'd say you are pretty understaffed. I saw a video once that was actually pretty intelligent in talking about standard support ratios. Basically, there isn't a "standard" the answer is almost always "it depends". You start with your userbase - how tech savvy are they? How many applications are you supporting? What kind of hardware do you have? How many remote supporting tools do you have to use? Each of these answers adjusts the support ratio up and down and sometimes something as low as 75:1 is needed and other times 300:1 is just fine.

Still, in the place I work now we have 600 machines and 40 servers or so (most virtualized) and we have 13 IT people (with 1 open position right now). This includes 1 helpdesk person, 2 programmers, 2 systems support personnel (they support specific software we use), 2 hardware techs, 2 network analysts, 3 systems engineers, a secretary, and the boss.

Re:150: 1 is Decent.. (1)

cppmonkey (615733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595194)

The parent post is right on with what I've seen. 250:1 (users to admins) in the environment where it was Windows+Office+Thunderbird on the desktop and 50:1 where it was Mac+Adobe+Office+Video production+1/2 doz other highly specialized pieces of software.

What is perhaps just as important as the ratio is having a great secretary. The ability to keep moving and not have to stop and worry about signing for the Fed Ex man or the boss making "executive decisions" while you are at a users' desk is invaluable.


Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594584)

The contract I work on has one admin per 75 seat requirement. you need to get more people now!


Fireye (415617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594712)

You, good sir, live in the land of plenty. Can I come?

I think my corp is at about 1 syadmin per 800 people, one netadmin per 1500 people, and about 1 tech support per 700 people. I think the users would be happier with 1 tech support per 250-300users.

What's a "Sneaker Tech"? (2, Funny)

ZarfMouse (154055) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594590)

Google doesn't have any relevant hits for this phrase (except this article).

Re:What's a "Sneaker Tech"? (1)

jornak (1377831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594688)

Refers to technicians who are on-call inside the building, usually walking to wherever the problem is, hence 'sneaker tech'.

Ratio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594618)

Due some reasearch on this and you should be able to get easy results...

I think the current ratio is 1 IT person per 100-150 computers, but it depends on what your users are doing.

We need more details (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594646)

Unfortunately you are forgetting some major details. Most importantly what applications are the users mainly using? For example their business system, is it proprietary? Do they seek help internally for financial problems within their financial system? I've worked at places where IT was nothing more then the geek squad to where I am now which IT seems to be a core pillar of everything. I have learned more accounting over the last 4 years then I'd ever wanted to know.

Additionally, what industry are you in? Or should I say what do the users mainly do?

Also, what kind of controls do you have on internet usage (matters for malware)? Mainly what kind of issues do you have to fix? Are the users spread across the country or all in a central location?

Basically the complexity of your architecture makes a huge difference.

what usecase? (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594676)

If you're running a distributed system where each node is exactly the same and you just push out a standard image then you could have a 1:1000 ratio.
But if you have a a bunch of computers doing very specific things each one being different the ratio has to be less.

An average doesn't really make sense unless you can specify the usecase for these systems.

You're posting on Slashdot (1)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594700)

"Are we seriously understaffed, or is this normal?" It seems to me if you are able to read/post on Slashdot AND maintain those systems, you're doing something the rest of the world needs to look at.

Re:You're posting on Slashdot (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594904)

Im just managing the servers and i have automated the crap out of those. I have put countless hours into working every single kink out of the systems and make them behave. My job is the easy one, the grunt work lies at the user side of things.

1:5000 (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594720)

Was the ratio i had when i was managing an entire assembly plant's IT operations. Yes i was working my ass off.. 24/7 operation as well.

Where i am now, its more like 500:30000 ( ok, not a true ratio, but i wanted to include the total number too, since its pretty high. )

A lot depends on what industry you are supporting, your user base, and your budget.

well... (1)

dmnic (452122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594724)

at my office I support 200 users/pcs, 10 servers, 4 copier/print systems, document scanning/indexing systems and warehouse production systems - and I'm not allowed to use GPO. my company has other locations with less users/systems to support but with more support staff...

Re:well... (1)

nevesis (970522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594856)

You're not allowed to use GPOs? Why not?

Re:well... (1)

dmnic (452122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594982)

I wish I knew... I've been asking for a few years now.
generally it's not a big deal but a Exchange/PDC upgrade earlier this year frazzled my nerves with having to touch ever machine individually to update shares/printers.

Re:well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30595184)

My workplace is the same. "It's too easy to break a lot of things with GPOs."

I'm not making that up.

Re:well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30595012)

What happens if you get hit by a bus? There should always be a minimum of 2 people that know how to handle the daily stuff and the big problems, even if one of them doesn't work directly in the department day after day.

Collect data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594730)

I've modeled several models of this type, however there are broad variations depending on your environment.

Gather metrics on your work, build a taxonomy, build projections, tune the projections to fit new real world data, until you have a reasonable validated model.

Just to get you started: break your users down into light- medium- and heavy- support groups, and estimate how many calls per month you require, and how long these calls are for each type.
Same with systems, you probably have some hotspots such as specialized servers, or particular app/user combinations.
Break down the type of support tier required to service each type of request, three tiers is probably fine.

Don't forget 'devices', such as printers, that require regular and ad-hoc maintenance.
Budget increasing time for "training" users to perform standard tasks for you (such as cartridge replacement). This is ongoing, as you have staff changes.
Build a train the trainer model if possible.
Then shift this training into improvements in service intervals / rates for those areas.
You need to build departmental "emergency response teams" to handle crisis situations.
There are probably a few hiccups, like upgrades to Win7 if you have to, etc., these can be off-sheet, but need a separate burn-in curve for supporting user transitions.

Just an eyeball metric: sounds like you're running a call center or financial operation at 2.5 or 3 shifts (900 machines x 3 shifts = 2,600 users, plus the "low"). These users typically need about one person per 80-150 active users, however you need reserves (contractors, trained users, whatever) to handle large scale failures, such as patch Tuesday problems.

If I were staffing this "smartly", I would have 8 core staff across 2.5 shifts, have trained at least 3 people per shift to assist in functional stuff like printer paper/cartridges, and have an additional 4-5 contractors available "on call" for 1 hr response 24 x 7 as needed.

I'd like to encourage ongoing training : you'll find people who enjoy it, master the field, and end up happier, and helpful within your organization and in their lives.

Really? This must be for low-end users. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594752)

You have 900 computers (not even counting the servers) and 2600 users? And you got 3 people "taking care" of all that? I assume you're not counting on these "low knowledge" users to help and/or support themselves or each other...

If you roll everything out properly and don't have to deal with constant dumb shit from people (e.g. the "Spyware of the Week" calls), then yeah I guess you'd be OK with that headcount. As long as these are not "power users" and you're located within an acceptable distance of all these machines. Like dealing with "System won't boot, unable to get into Safe Mode" cases over a long distance call?

We have ~2500 Windows machines (some with max 2 logins/users per machine, though most are dedicated to one person) and 7 top-level techs situated in strategic locations throughout the country. As well as a "Help Desk" team of 7 people supporting initial support calls. So that's anywhere from 200-350 users for each Help Desk tech and when necessary the higher-level Desktop guys.

Then we have a slew of other IT teams (SysAdmin/Network/DBA/etc) which I'm not even counting. Total IT headcount is about 25.

I can't fathom doing what you do with 3 people. Unless you're not telling the whole story.

Also shouldn't it be "Computers/Users per Admin/Tech" and not the other way around?
I hate it when I have 200 techs supporting one user. The cubicle gets crowded and fist-fights are not unheard of.

There is no typical number. (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594758)

The minimum number of help desk technicians required is always directly proportional to the total number of ID10-T users they are to support.

How tight or loose are group policies? (1)

EsJay (879629) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594776)

Make user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Lock down group policies if you are overworked.

Re:How tight or loose are group policies? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595152)

Make user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Lock down group policies if you are overworked.

I think you meant:

Make a stupid user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Make a smart user an admin on their own machine if you are overworked. Make everyone an admin on their own machine if you're a contractor, for obvious self-enrichment reasons.

Wrong context (1)

FrozenGeek (1219968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594778)

Trying to determine whether you are understaffed by looking at ratios of IT staff to users (or computers) is not the correct way to go. It is the simple (minded) way, but it is not the correct way. Picking a particular ratio makes many gross assumptions about your environment.

A better method is to review your workload: Are you run off your feet? Do you have to put in lots of OT? Are you spending your days simply fighting fires? If you found yourself answering "yes" to one or more of those questions, you are probably understaffed (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you're not grossly incompetent 8^).

That said, three guys for a fairly large shop does raise issues like vacations and sick leave. Three guys might be enough under normal circumstances. But will two guys be enough? Or one?

It's normal (1)

DavidIQ (971233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594792)

We have about 400+ workstations with various OSs (Win 2000, XP, Vista, 7) and 20+ servers with various server OSs (Win Server 2000, 2003, 2008) and we only have the System Admin and a "sneaker tech". Oh and we have a remote location as well which they must deal with on the other coast of the US. At least from my viewpoint, your situation is not unusual.

4 techs for roughly 4000 servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594808)

At a hosting company I used to work at, we were severely understaffed. We had 4 techs to cover 24/7/365 and about 4000 managed servers, colo, dedicated, etc. It was hellish, but we got the job done.

cluster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594814)

we manage a cluster of around 5000 machines under Linux/Unix.
we are 5 person.

you do the math :)

Understaffed (1)

jon3k (691256) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594820)

6,100 employees 44 locations + 2 datacenters.

3 admins (1 network 2 systems) and 2 helpdesk technicians

Ask Gartner for facts/figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594824)

We currently manage ~80 Linux, ~170 Solaris, ~150 AIX systems with a manpower of 6 architects/L3 (count me in), 3 admins/L2. Our SAN (half pB+tsm+CDL) team has 4 guys and for wintel/VMWare (+500 systems) park there are 3 admins L3 and 4 admins L2.

Power of Scale (2, Informative)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594832)

The larger the corporation the more per\user per\server to admin. Theseare my observation sover the last 12 years in my career:

For small corporations (less then 1 million) I usually see about 1/800 ratio for support\end user and 1/50 for servers.

For medium corporations (greater then 1 million but less then 80 million in revenue) I usually seea bour 1/2000 ratio and 1/150 for servers.

For large corporations (greater then 80 million) I see about 1/3800 and 1/250.

Support metrics are usually driven by "Call Times" including resolve times and hold times so depending on the scale of the businesses and nature it isn't so much support/staff ratio but rather hold time\support ratio. ITIL was crafted specifically to facilitate outsourcing Incident Management (password resets and all that less then 15 minutes crap) to lower cost, drill down labor and maintaining low hold times versus Problem Management which is the higher skill set.

Server ratio is largely due to "bucketing" of servers\apps to an admin resource (Think along the lines of an Account Rep). A.k.a Bob handles Apps A,B, and C along with Servers X, Y, and Z. So depending on the corporation you can have anywhere from 2-8 apps assigned to a single admin. Each application may maintain upwards of 5-12 servers depending on the size of the application. Smaller enterprises tend to have smaller "buckets". A typical LAMP stack may have 1-4 app servers, 1 NAS, 1 batch server, and possibly it's own database server. As you get larger those buckets share other buckets so you may have a team that handles just apache and another that handles just MYSQL\POSTGRES\etc. Those buckets can be huge. I have a team of 8 DBAs managing right now 2307 database instances. That is roughly 289 server instances per DBA. A simple table update may take 12 minutes for a structure update to process so median process time may factor into staffing requirements when concurrency isn't an option based on outage windows. Databases are virtual servers usually with a SAN hosted on hardware that is managed by another team but you can get the picture. By specializing administrative roles you can increase the nubmer of server or services supported by a person (power of scale) so the ratio of servers per tech tends to rise the bigger the corporation. In addition more expensive, comprehensive tools, become accessable to larger corporations (TIVOLI framework for instance.)

Based on your description you should need:

2 Call Center Incident Management crew
2 Problem Management crew
1 Senior Network Adminsitrator\Network Architect
3 Junior Network Administrators
    1 of which is responsible for security\auditing
    1 of which is responsible for maintenance
    1 of which is special projects
    All three should rotate these roles quarterly or annually as well as rotate 1 as a Problem Management staffer (the non-special project members)

So your total support crew should be about 8 people. You may also for off hours support want to outsource to a location 12 or 6 hours offset based on your location. (6 hours makes meetings more practical as you can usually get a meeting when one group is just getting in and the other is just getting ready to leave.)

Approximately 8000/1 for Sun's old desktop (1)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594874)

I helped deploy a configuration of Sun's older Linux based Java Desktop System which allowed install, upgrade and configuration of 8000 desktops across hundreds of branch offices. It wasn't widely reported because Sun dropped this Linux based desktop to allow more focus on its own kernel and Sun Ray technology which easily allows more users per administrator. For Sun Ray desktops on Solaris I would imagine the ratio can be at least 10,000 to one.

Too much variation (1)

jd142 (129673) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594882)

It really depends on who your users are, what your servers are doing, and what level of support is desired/needed by the organization.

If you have 1000 users who use one app that they are all familiar with, user calls are going to be lower than an org with 20 different apps and a wide range of skills. In a large organization, you may be supporting everyone one from accountants who know Excel inside and an out to janitorial staff who are still using dial-up at home(seriously, they still are because they can't afford broadband) and have trouble using email.

Same with server apps. 100 file servers with the same os are going to take fewer admins than 75 file servers running a variety of operating systems and doing file, print, database, web, email and proxy/vpn/remote access.

Some orgs want techs to really know how the organization works so they can not only answer questions, but understand the business processes and be able to come up with new processes and services. They may also want that personal touch where you walk to the user's desk and help out. Other orgs are happy having basic phone support and making the users responsible for finding out the answers on their own.

Track busy time, adjust accordingly (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594892)

While I was the sys admin for a small ad agency of 50 to 75 users (fluctuated monthly) my boss claimed that he read or spoke with other companies who were operating with a 50:1 ratio. Granted, ad agencies can be a bit unique with a very mixed technology environment and REALLY difficult users, but it worked for me. Most of the time I was fixing failed systems but I still had time to implement newer / better technology to resolve reoccurring issues.

I think what a larger company needs is a support staff that is busy 80% of the day with some good down time, and then a fair number of individuals who are working on more permanent solutions to the bigger problems. There are too many variables involved to give a definitive ratio of users:admins, but the work load is key. You don't want those guys staying late every day, and you don't want them sitting around bored either.

Probably the most effective thing to do would be to have them document their time somehow. There are apps to help with this. Guard against scaring them into giving you false information - sometimes employees fear that they are being watched and may falsify their claimed work load and you end up hiring people to compensate the inflated demand.

It depends on your SLA (1)

Zorlon (181163) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594926)

As long as you manage expectations and, make management aware of the costs vs. risk.

There are a lot of factors that determine the manpower needed:

1) Are backups of files required by all users or just a few users (ie CEO, finance, hr etc)
3) What is the expected work hours 24/7? or 8/5?
4) How much redundancy is built into the servers? If they are in pairs then one can go down and be fixed during regular work hours.
5) How is your storage set up ? Disk drives fail so you will need RAID, mirroring etc
6) Have the servers been properly maintained ? A lot of times applications are put on servers without correct startup and shutdown scripts. If there is a power outage and the servers are cycled they should come up correctly with all applications.
7) Do you have a monitoring system in place to try to catch problems before they become catastrophic failures.
8) Do you have good configuration management so that the systems are as identical as possible.
9) Do you have routine maintenance items automated - this is easier if you have item 8 above.

All of these have cost and risk associated with them so it is important to go over them with management. You can explain how if you don't have a decent backup plan then data can get "lost."

My Numbers (1)

clawhound (811481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594936)

I used to handle about 400 hundred people and 400 boxes as a sneaker admin. So two folks for PCs and one for servers is workable -IF- you have your act together.

My suspicion is that you all are a bit low. Reasons:
- People get sick.
- People take vacations.
- You need to cross-train each other.
- Special projects can and do come up.
- There are under-met needs in the company.

To get the person that you need, you really need to show the business case for it. Once you can do that, ratios don't matter.

Eight Thousand (1)

afortaleza (791264) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594944)

I've worked in a school for 2 years and they had 1 admin for eight thousand people among workers and students who used the school's network.

Stupid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594958)

You are understaffed if you don't have the resources to complete the required workload. Otherwise, you staffing level is sufficient. If you are even asking this question, you are probably adequately resourced, since you'd clearly have noticed if there was a problem, and wouldn't be asking the question.

Trying to apply some general metric to determine how many staff you require is stupid. This would depend on a lot of different things: what platforms you are supporting (Windows clearly has a higher admin workload that most UNIX), what end user software you support, any infrastructure projects that need to be completed, what gets contracted out vs what's done in-house, ...

100-150:1 was a good ratio (1)

Pontiac (135778) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594976)

When I did desktop support we had 100-150 users per admin.
The load depended on the department.. The guy supporting the executive offices was at 50:1 and hammered most of the time.
You can push those numbers higher but then all you do is fight fires, projects don't get done and vacation coverage is a nightmare.
We came up with a chart at one point classifying each department as low medium, high and VIP(CIO,CEO,CTO, VP and so on).. Low was counted as 0.5 users
medium 1 , high 2, VIP level counts for 3. The admin supporting the nursing staff had 250+ real users but they don't put in many calls so it all balanced out.

For Server support I like to have 3 admins just so we have coverage for sick time, vacation and on call rotation.
It's hard to justify 3 with only 25 boxes so one could be a dual role as desktop lead/server admin.
It's always nice to have a guy playing desktop and server to keep communication open between the groups.

Funny you ask... (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30594988)

This was actually a recent topic over where I'm working at and we were trying to figure out a way to explain that we needed another person. We went the route of trying to find this magical industry average and like everyone else is saying "it depends". For our level of support and configuration here - 1 admin per 75 windows workstations seems to be the magic number. Right now we're at about 1 per 150.

However, "industry average" doesn't mean jack to the client. It's kind of like saying to them "well Joe has a Ferrari, therefore we need one too". The spenders want measurements (aka: "metrics"). For IT guys who are used to instantaneously jumping up to fix every problem the minute it comes to their attention - this will drive them nuts: what you'd need to do is measure your response time and time certain tasks take. Show them how many resources you manage. Our client couldn't believe we were supporting 300 machines. "I thought we only had like a hundred". They also had no idea how long it took to set up a new computer for a user. They figured it to be relatively instant, no factoring the time to carry it over, to tear down old equipment or clean off a table, add the user accounts, run the location's security patches, transfer old data, to build the initial image, etc. We found out we take an average of 3.45 hours per machine for an upgrade (moving gigs of data and making the master image averaged out per machine were the main hogs of time).

So "it depends" really applies to your question too when asking "what are you trying to say with this information?" Are you trying to justify the addition of a new employee or explain why response time has dropped significantly, for example? You'll want to be able to paint a picture that'll relate to their dollars. You'll want to be able to answer this when they ask "Will my decision to [add employee, upgrade software, whatever] affect cost (dollars and man-hours), scheduling (time to complete/react to situations), or performance (quality of product/service)?"

Wrong measurements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30594996)

Rather than looking at ratios, shouldn't you be looking at work load completed per tech per day.

The ratios are going to change depending on culture, type of business and products supported. The more independent your culture is, the less techs you need. The most products supported, the more techs you need. For example, we support over 500 different applications, that makes it much more difficult to support than just office and windows; again that changes your ratios.

Look at how many incidents are reported per day, how many hours are spending for root cause analysis, how long does the average server outage last, how many users it impacts, etc. Add that all up.
If your not in a spot where you can measure this type of time spent, rather than worring about being understaffed, you need to worry about the documentation of issues in your environment first.

All other estimates are useless.

about one per 2500 seats (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595010)

One place I worked in the 90s, about 100K seats, about 10 HD on the phones, about 15 field techs, about 5 WAN guys (myself and 4 others), about about 10 operators / system programmers / unix guys, works out to about 1:2500.

This was an IBM mainframe shop handling about 5% of all retail stock transactions worldwide on "dumb" terminals. If they didn't demand 24x7 coverage to handle worldwide markets, it would have been somewhat cheaper as we often staffed for "just in case". Having someone on pager was unacceptable per the SLAs and marketing, so we had to be on site, so they had to hire more people, even if all we did was read technical manuals all night (IBM had some pretty good textbooks for ATM networking, assembly language, COBOL, and a few others)... The IBM onsite engineer mostly did hardware work, everything was triple to quad redundant, and that redundancy was often tested and the customers never knew...

I guess those pesky PCs need one per 100 to 300 PCs to get an "acceptable level of service", for a PC anyway.

C'mon, tell the truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30595036)

So I've seen 1 sysadmin per 30 Windows Servers and 1 tech per 900 workstations. What do you do on patch Tuesday? How do you roll out these systems? Are the workstations solely running MSOffice and IE for a single homegrown webapp and nothing else? Does your "30 servers" include 1 SBS DC and 29 file servers with 0 printers?

I think before taking wild guessing and "epeen" statements of "I has less techs than you and we're flawless!" you're going to need to figure out what quality of work you want.

Are all of your users running as admin? No problem, I'm sure you've educated every single one of them about updating their software, avoiding Adobe exploits, staying off of social media sites and license compliance. I'm sure they do all of their own asset tracking, too. But that's clearly not going to work at an educational institution worth any salt.

How stable is your environment? Can you deploy a single system with firewall and reasonable security that has all the software a user will need for the next 3 years? Or are you in a "normal" environment where they need updates, new software and new hardware swapped on a regular basis?

1 tech per 30 servers, 1500 workstations to serve 4,000 internal customers 24x7x365 is ridiculous and absolutely not possible in a business that has to deal with compliance (PCI, SoX, HIPAA, FERPA, etc). Unless, of course, it doesn't matter if you actually stay in business and/or out of prison....

What Google SA's do ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30595084)

I've heard that Google runs 800 servers per SA - corrected to read *one* server and 799 clones, per SA.

That's kind of funny... (1)

m6ack (922653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595100)

That's kind of funny... 900 CPU's (clients) and 2600 users for you? At our place of business, we have much more like a 2:1 ratio of CPU's to people... Not counting VPN connected foreign hosts... How does it work out that you have fewer than 1:1? Are you leaving out dumb terminals and network connected embedded systems?

The answer will depend on the network complexity (1)

OutputLogic (1566511) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595112)

The answer would vary depending on the complexity of the network. A semiconductor company with mixed win/lin network and lots of different types of servers will likely to require many more IT personnel than an accounting firm of the same size but more "homogeneous" network. That's probably why there isn't much statistics on the average tech per user/computer.

Depends on how you count it. (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595134)

When I was there, RUCS (Rutgers University Computing Services) ran a campus of around 18k people from four active student admins and eleven never-seen never-active bureacratic staff. So that gives a ratio of about 4500:1. It's worse if you consider time of day, though: that was three during the day (6000:1) and one at night (18000:1).

Disclaimer: it's been almost 15 years, the school's size may have changed, and there's an outside chance that RUCS might have gotten rid of their dead weight and gotten their shit together.

It's about getting it done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30595148)

I work for a small company with a relatively big IT system. We have about 250 people; 6 servers (Win2003/2008) and ~300 workstations (XP/Vista/7) over 4 locations. We have 2 full time staff - the IT director and myself. We are only slightly understaffed: we fix petty crap and teach classes to the point where we would have to work some overtime to take care of everything. Solution: we outsourced the "serious" network/VOIP tasks to a local firm (also a small biz) so that we can focus on building relationships with the rest of our company. I've been with the company just over a year and it's working out really well, though I would still love to have a P/T person to work tech support. I'm not sure why, but I love teaching.

The answer is UNIQUE (1)

Lockster (95288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595150)

As others have said, it really does depend on the work-load.
Some have suggested at 1:75 is "low" - for me, based on the workload my staff have, that's *high!!*

I have 4 groups supporting various workloads in various geographies.
They range from as low as 1:20 to as high as 1:70
For us, the /number/ of users we support isn't the issue - it's the workload those users generate. Some part of that is due to the types of applications we support at each site. Some of it are just the demands some of those departments put on us (e.g. continual last minute requests). Some groups are highly self-sufficient. Others rely on IT day-to-day to help develop solutions to increase their own productivity.

I've asked the same question the original poster asked for years - what's the "right ratio?" The answer is: it's unique.

Admin/Server Ratio?(please contribute if possible) (1)

jr76 (1272780) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595172)

Hello, I cannot give my numbers but I'm pretty damn sure my site is incredibly understaffed, so I'm really curious on how it is done on other sites. I know this article is touching the desktop side of things, but if you can give some input on the ratio for admin/servers, it would be appreciated.

9,000ish machines to 6 people (1)

jrottman (1324775) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595174)

We have 1 central office, and 61 schools across the country. All technical support comes from our central office. For the client aspect we have 2 system administrators, and 4 Helpdesk technicians. We have 2,400 Windows 7 desktops/laptops, about 7,000 thin clients, and 72 Windows 2003 terminal servers. We are forced to design our systems and infrastructure to be very hands off in order to support these numbers. We automate everything we can.

1 IT staff per... (2, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30595200)

You need 1 IT staff (helpdesk, sysadmin, etc.) per:

20 Windows servers
50 Linux servers
100 full time computer users
1000 part time computer users

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