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Realistic Sysadmin Workload for a Company of 30?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the don't-underestimate-the-network dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 181

An anonymous reader asks: "My company was recently sold to a new owner. Currently I am working as a programmer using a number of languages (Java, C, C#, PHP). I am the only maintainer/developer on a number of important code bases. The new owner wants to add 'Network Administration' to my list of responsibilities. We are moving locations and our infrastructure needs to be rebuilt from scratch. He claims that after being set up (something I am also responsible for) our company IT needs can be met using only 1% of my work week. Our user base will be 30 people, mostly programmers, with a minimum of non-techie staff. I am a professional programmer, but have no real sysadmin/network admin experience. His solution is 'We'll get you a book'. Learning new things is great but, I just want to be a programmer. I'm worried that this network admin responsibility will become my new full time job. Does this 1% statistic hold water?"

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Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12766614)

let's do this!

leeroy charges into a space station.

Common Problem. (1)

huber (723453) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766624)

Employer forget that there are people out there who already know how to be a sysadmin. Instead they throw whoever is around in the position. I'm sure your a good programer, but whats gonna happen when there is a problem that you can't fix? You should remind your boss that sysadmin is an actuall profession that many of us are very skilled in.

Re:Common Problem. (4, Insightful)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768272)

Not to mention these fun possibilities:
You get behind on your programming projects because you're doing admin tasks (backups, patches, testing patches/backups, checking logs, ...) and your boss who doesn't value the admin side gives you bad reviews on your performance evals.

You become the scapegoat for everything related to system failure. Hardware fails, you didn't do your job. Software patch creates unexpected software failures (this happens more frequently if you use 3rd party tools in addition to MS products), and any other thing that might fall at your feet.

There are many more examples but if your boss/company doesn't value the job of sysadmin you're not going to get any points for the work you do. Especially since he thinks it's 1% of your time. What a crock of shit.

I handled it by just ignoring the dumbfuck boss and finding another job (which is working for myself so yet again I'm the programmer and sysadmin, at least I respect my own work!).

Re:Common Problem. (2, Insightful)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768405)

Use an analogy on your boss...

Computer professionals are like medical professionals. Would you go to an allergist for a heart transplant? Of course not. However, many allergists are also GP's, so can handle simple things like prescribing blood pressure medication correctly. You would not want an allergist operating on you however.

Suggest bringing in a pro sysadmin to get things setup, and then you can run it from there.

While it's true that a sysadmin does not generate revenue, it's also true that downtime COSTS revenue. Again, we can go back to the Doctor analogy. While it's true that you can change your diet and excersize regimen to improve your heart, it would be VERY unwise to not see a doctor about controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.

What a hoot! (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766645)

This is the best Slashdot gag ever! Oh wait, no it isn't. QUIT YOU MORON!!

I know a guy (3, Informative)

Apreche (239272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766649)

I know a guy who was the primary programmer at a similarly sized company and also the lone admin. He consistently worked weeks of over 40 hours. Since programming was his first priority he rarely did admin stuff. Low priority admin tasks would never get done unless the projects really really dried up. High priority admin tasks would mean overnights and terrible times.

The boss likely doesn't want to hire a separate admin since that person doesn't make direct money for the company. A programmer makes software which brings revenue. An admin makes computers work, but doesn't bring in any direct revenue.

If you are moving there will be a lot of up front admin work. If you can set something up that is really kickass from the get go, then you can probably keep the amount of admin time per week in the future really low, but not down to 1%. Of course, this requires basically not programming for awhile just to plan and set everything up. But if you don't then the admin work will be this ghost constantly haunting your higher priority programming.

Re:I know a guy (2, Insightful)

smcleish (118335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766959)

"If you can set something up that is really kickass from the get go, then you can probably keep the amount of admin time per week in the future really low, but not down to 1%. Of course, this requires basically not programming for awhile just to plan and set everything up."

Not only that - without sysadmin experience, it's going to take you longer and be much harder to set something up that's of high quality not to need a lot of upkeep. (Unless you're someone who expects not to make any mistakes, is confident that any documents you use are bang up to date, and that the only criterion being used to decide how the system is designed is to minimise future sysadmin time.) It'd probably in my opinion be better financial sense to employ a consultant at least for the set up stage, particularly if they can help you get started and get you to understand the system. Even then, it'll probably take all of your time to start with, just to get your head round all the tasks that need to be done.

As I think everyone has said (yes, I want to be modded redundant!), 1% is ridiculously optimistic. Accept it if you have to, but you should try to insist on keeping records of time spent on sysadmin tasks and reviewing the situation on a regular basis.

Do not accept (2, Insightful)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766650)

You know 1% of your time is nowhere near reality.
You could end up spending half your time on sysadmin work, especially if you don't really know how to do it (and have to learn for a book you dind't want to read to begin with).
Not to say you aren't smart enough, but obviously both the system administration and your coding will suffer if you don't feel up for the job.

Re:Do not accept (2, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767339)


accept it - but make clear that you won't do unpaid overtime to meet requirements of both positions. the employer is likely paying you for 8 hours a day, so give him that.

1% is also a fantasy, but that shouldn't be your problem directly now should it?(unless you totally totally hate admin work).

Re:Do not accept (1)

ogre57 (632144) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767853)

Tell the new owner "With all due respect, that 1% is propaganda from someone trying to sell you something. It does not remotely reflect reality.

One percent is 24 minutes per 40 hour week, or just under 5 minutes per day. If you think about it, odds are you are already putting in that much time on "admin" tasks just for yourself. Network admin for 30 people? Figure on at least an hour a week just to run thru the checklist to verify that there is nothing that needs done (no patches, no viruses, no disk space problems, etc, etc). More realistic guess, having been there at several jobs, figure at least 10% of your time (4 hours/week) for routine tasks that you "already" know how to do (or quickly learn). Add training/study time. Automatic bump to 100%+ for chasing down and correcting any problems.

Oh yeah, be sure to ask your new owner about overtime!

short answer: no (3, Interesting)

DJProtoss (589443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766651)

Whilst i'm not convinced about the 1% value, It is possible that that might work in a correctly, carefully set up network environment where each users accesses & rights is carefully set up, and you have a hardware support contract with someone, but I doubt it
However, irl this is *not* going to happen.
for a start, you are not going to be able to plan and set it up right first time (thats where the experience bit comes in ;) ), plus i'll wager that those 30 odd people will mostly be running windows, and will have local admin rights - that really increases the difficulting in managing them, especially if they are connected to the internet in some way.
Basically, your boss is being a cheapskate. You *need* a sysadmin, or at least someone whose job is officially part sysadmin and has experience - ask the boss whether he would want a sysadmin with little no programming experience and 'a book' to be writing the core code for your product? I suspect not. So why does he think the reverse is true?

Re:short answer: no (2, Insightful)

wakejagr (781977) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766697)

So why does he think the reverse is true?

He probably thinks that the reverse is true because he thinks that keeping a "small" network running is not a time-consuming task. People forget that when something goes wrong on their home computer, it can take a lot of time to get it working the right way (doubly so if you lack experience with the problem). Multiply that by 30, and something going wrong can take a lot of time.

I totally agree, an experienced sysadmin is needed.

No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (4, Insightful)

samael (12612) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766659)

I mean, sure, once the network is set up, the infrastructure for 30 machines should be perfectly stable.

But then email stops working. Or someone gets spyware on their machine. Or a graphics card plays up. Or someone loses their printer settings. Or a mouse is playing up. Or someone can't get through to google.

As Sysadmin, whenever anything goes wrong you're the person they'll come to. If you're working purely with techies who can handle most problems themselves, then fine. But if there are _any_ non-technical people in your company then I'd estimate 25% of your time will be spent dealing with them.

However, your boss isn't going to listen to this. So what you do is find a free help-desk package (if you're using Windows then Liberum is pretty good) and get people to funnel all of their support calls through that. That way at the end of the month you can go to your boss and say "Look, this is the amount of work it takes to keep a network up and running. That's why I haven't got any programming done."

Re:No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766784)

agree with parent, or you can setup a forum like thing for people to post to whenever they got problem.

I would definitely not trust the 1% since it is just like marketing speech. You can ask for a raise though or ask to pay OT. Then he will know it is more expensive to get you to do the admin stuff than hiring a new admin.

Re:No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (1)

sigxcpu (456479) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767146)

I agree,
another usefull tool I have seen used to track helpdesk activity is bugzilla.

Re:No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12766846)

As Sysadmin, whenever anything goes wrong you're the person they'll come to.

The importance of this fact cannot be emphasised enough. It's not just the time spent dealing with the problems. It's the interruption and distraction from your real job.

When programming, if you are interrupted, it takes about fifteen minutes to get back to being productive. Context switching is expensive for programmers. This means that even if you are only interrupted for little things that take a minute to fix, it still costs you fifteen minutes of programming work.

From your manager's point of view, being interrupted once an hour for a quick fix costs you 1/60th of your time. But the real cost is a quarter of your time.

I've been the "go to" guy for a small company before. It sends your productivity plummetting. Don't do it. Buy him Peopleware or some other book that emphasises the importance of being able to concentrate on what you are doing.

Re:No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767312)

Agreed. I'm the sysadmin for about 12 people, and always being interupted to add a new email account, forward someones email to elsewhere, setup a vpn for someone else, and so on.

Heya (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768068)

Joel [] , 'zat really you?

Re:No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (1)

bwalling (195998) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767915)

I mean, sure, once the network is set up, the infrastructure for 30 machines should be perfectly stable.

But then email stops working. Or someone gets spyware on their machine. Or a graphics card plays up. Or someone loses their printer settings. Or a mouse is playing up. Or someone can't get through to google.

Seriously? I've done this before with a group of complete non-techie users and had no problems.

Spyware is simple to stop. Hardware is under a support contract. Getting to Google is either a 120 second fix or a support call to the ISP.

It's not worth the employer's money to hire someone full time, and it's not worth it to outsource it. If your staff is largley techie, then it makes perfect sense to use what you have. If you reject this, you will damage your image within the management of your company.

Re:No, no, No, no, nooooooo! (1)

johnnnyboy (15145) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768065)

I agree, you took the words out of my mouth. As someone that has actually done this, he'll find that his time is a lot more than 1%.

Anything that comes up will be a distraction from his programming, even the smallest thing can force a programmer to lose his concentration from what he was just doing a few minutes ago!

I have done the same thing as send up some kind of helpdesk system, I installed RT (request tracker), unfortunately even with a large number of requests, my boss didn't even take into consideration. I'm guesing from experience he's just going to look at each task and time it (prioritize). (15 min, 30 min, etc..)

Bad boss says: "See John, it doesn't take much of your time, they're mostly small". I'll just answer, "there's 300 of them sir."

Perhaps he should ask for more money? he'll deserve it from doing two jobs!

Security is a process (3, Interesting)

NoSuchGuy (308510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766679)

Talk to your boss about security and tell him that it's a process not an investment and need a steady (time) budget.

Would be interessting what your boss answers.

The problem with this is (3, Insightful)

Digital Dharma (673185) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766680)

That most executives with this kind of understanding of IT infrastructure (i.e. little to none) tend to confuse systems administration with tech support. Sounds like you're being asked to fill more than one set of shoes.

As a professional systems administrator myself, I can tell you that very few individuals posses the capability to both program and maintain a mixed network. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it usually requires giving up more than just one's wishes to stay in their area of expertise. It also requires giving up weekends and vacations, as you'll inadvertently become married to the machines as more time goes by. It's unfortunate that IT professionals have gone from being held in high esteem to the average corporate foot soldier, thrown about at the whims of unknowledgable people, and ultimately, expendable. Good luck with your situation.

Re:The problem with this is (1)

Urgoll (364) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766886)

It's not just the fact that the skills required of a programmer and sysadmin are different, the dynamics are also vastly different. Programming is a long haul job, where you need to be able to focus on the job at hand. As a sysadmin, you're constantly being interupted by support requests (unless you happen to have a separate help desk). Since the sysadmin jobs are always urgent (email doesn't work, web server down, file server acting up, network is slow, etc), the programming job keeps taking a back seat.

If you don't know, how would he? (3, Insightful)

obi (118631) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766685)

If you don't know, how would he know what he's talking about?

I do both, and let me tell you it's more like 30% than 1% - and I'm not even doing everything. Not that it's not enjoyable, but proper sysadmining is a really important job, it's making sure everyone else is working smoothly. If it's badly done, the productivity of all these 30 employees will be affected.

Re:If you don't know, how would he? (1)

MadChicken (36468) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767087)

Mod parent up, an actual poster with practical experience.

Actually, I had a similar experience, with the exception that it wasn't being a sysadmin, but designing and implementing network applications. I was supposed to be a programmer "50%" of the time. It ended up that the programming tasks passed me by, when I finally did get back into it, I was redundant to the team.

I did enjoy the network part, though. I should have just quit whining. You may want to work out a new contract as a sysadmin. Go read BOFH on the Register, and see how it can be fun, too!

Re:If you don't know, how would he? (1)

erlenic (95003) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767736)

I have to agree. I'm in the same boat as well. I usually tell people that need help desk services to try a few things, google it, and if they still need help I'll get to it when I can. I still spend way more than 1% of my time on administration. More like 7 hours so far this month, compared to 24 programming.

Job Security (0, Troll)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766698)

Sounds like Job Security, to me. Try to talk your boss into a more realistic set of expectations and then relish in the fact that you're probably one of only a few of your friends who isn't unemployed, underemployed or using their EE degree to provide tech support to end-users on per-incident pay-support lines for some crappy line of USB-powered personal laptop fans.

The 1% is crazy (5, Insightful)

liam193 (571414) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766703)

If this is the case and you doing system adminstration for 30 people will only take 1% of your time, then the sysadmin work load / person is around 0.0003. This would mean that a company in a similar industry with a staff of 100,000 employees would only need a sysadmin crew of 30 people. When you think of it in those numbers, it immediately becomes apparent that the numbers are not even close.

From another angle, I would ask your boss why he has an admin, a marking/sales person, and/or an accounting person. The accounting work for a 30 person company has to be only a 1% work load for him. He can do all the administrative work in 1% of time. And there is absolutely no reason he can't take care of the sales and marketing items in another 1%. That's only 97% of time. What's he going to do with all that 97%?

As has been said before, there are real professionals who do systems administration. There are some people who can do reasonably well at sysadmin, network admin, network design, systems design, programming, etc. They are rather rare and they can't do all of them at the same time. For a company your size, it would probably make sense to get a person who specializes in sysadmin and can program a little bit (understands the code enough to be able to read and possible fix some stuff) and the two of you would work as backups to each other.

Re:The 1% is crazy (2, Interesting)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766998)

If this is the case and you doing system adminstration for 30 people will only take 1% of your time, then the sysadmin work load / person is around 0.0003.

It also means that, assuming the Ask-Slashdotee works a typical 40-hour week, the boss thinks that each employee needs 48 seconds of support each week.

If the boss really won't take no for an answer, my suggestion would be to point out that the "1% of your time" will be taken up for the next few months by reading that sysadmin book, so it might be a good idea to hire a sysadmin in the meantime to set up the network.

Re:The 1% is crazy (0)

Hell O'World (88678) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767498)

48 seconds? Maybe you should show your work for partial credit.
I figure it as:

40 hours = 2400 minutes = 144000 seconds

1% of that is 1440 seconds per week, or 24 minutes.

Still doesn't sound very realistic. That might be one support call per week. A fairly easy one.

Re:The 1% is crazy (1)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767679)

1% of that is 1440 seconds per week, or 24 minutes.

...split among 30 employees, which is where I derived 48 seconds for each employee :).

Re:The 1% is crazy (1)

liam193 (571414) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767681)

I think he meant that it was 48 seconds / person / week.

Re:The 1% is crazy (1)

bomb_number_20 (168641) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767682)

heh- maybe you should read the statement more closely.

He said each employee would receive 48 seconds per week. To finish your math...

1440 seconds / 30 employees = 48 seconds.

Re:The 1% is crazy (1)

rot26 (240034) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767762)

1440 seconds divided by 30 employees == 48 seconds per employee, as he said.

Re:The 1% is crazy (1)

Hell O'World (88678) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768775)

I respectfully reject any partial credit.
Never mind.

Right then. (2, Funny)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766711)

Run Away! Run awaaaay!

IT is to laugh... or cry. (4, Funny)

-dsr- (6188) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766722)

It's not clear whether you're expected to be the systems administrator, the network engineer, or the all-purpose all-singing all-dancing IT guy. Let's examine all three scenarios.

We'll suppose you work a 50 hour week. 1% of that is 30 minutes. In the "network engineer" circumstance, that's about enough time -- assuming that you have a very well designed and stable, simple network built on the most reliable hardware available, and you never change anything, just fix it. That won't happen, of course, because you've never done this before and therefore you won't get it exactly right the first time. I won't even mention that your boss is a cheapskate who won't be buying the most reliable hardware anyway. The first time you need to deal with your upstream ISP will chew up 30 minutes. If you ever need to buy replacement hardware, that will take a few weeks' time as well.

Now, as a systems administrator for 30 people, plus maybe five or six servers, you'll blow through your 30 minutes of allotted time every Monday before lunch. Someone needs a password changed. Someone else says "mail isn't working". The sales critter hands you a laptop and says "I spilled beer on it, can you get my files back?" Those are just the incidental time-users. When are you going to upgrade your antispam system? There's an intermittent problem with one of the file servers. Diagnosis may take more than half an hour.

Do I really have to say anything about being the defacto IT shop? No, I didn't think so.

Tell your boss that you want to keep track of your IT hours and be paid for everything over 45 minutes a week at the same rate he would pay an outside contractor. Since he's certain that you'll never go over 30 minutes, this is a great bet for him.

You should start looking for a new job with management that can make more realistic predictions about workloads. Meanwhile, explain to your boss that you heard that your coworker runs a network at home -- maybe he's a better choice?


schon (31600) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767772)

Most of your post is sound, but one paragraph made me cringe.

Tell your boss that you want to keep track of your IT hours and be paid for everything over 45 minutes a week at the same rate he would pay an outside contractor.

No. This is just utterly wrong.

Since he's certain that you'll never go over 30 minutes, this is a great bet for him.

And this is *exactly* why he shouldn't - because his boss will take him up on it.

This is a job negotiation, not poker. You can't win by bluffing.

The best thing for him to do is simply tell his boss that he doesn't want to do it. What he should do is simply tell his boss exactly what he told us here:

I just want to be a programmer.

And decline the offer.

He knows what he wants, it's stupid to accept somethig else, especially when he knows that something else will make him unhappy.

Re:IT is to laugh... or cry. (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768304)

Considering nobody's even taken into consideration the amount of time that he'll be administering the backups, he'll should be at 5 minutes a day within 15 minutes after he gets to work. Between making a quick check of the hardware, getting the offsite backups ready to go (after checking the backup logs), this is in no way realistic. He should be planning on 10 to 20 hours a week, minimum.

In Soviet Russia (0, Offtopic)

WetCat (558132) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766724)

AnyKey-man hires you!

[explanation] (1)

WetCat (558132) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767477)

The AnyKey man is a local sysadmin who is experienced to tell dumb users where the "any key" is. Popular in Russia. Usual salary is about $100/month. For students and other beginners.

It sure sounds like he's drafting you. (5, Insightful)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766748)

Are you going to learn how to be a sysadmin and network admin on the clock? Reading a book won't be enough. You'll need plenty of time, especially if you want to effectively secure your hosts and your network. My guess is he's not willing to pay for your time, especially not while your projects stall in the meantime.

There are consultants that just do setups. If he wants it done right, but is too cheap to hire a full or part time guy for just the servers and network, he needs to look at this as the next-best solution. At least, if they screw up, they can be held responsible. And then, as needed, either you or someone else can make minor modifications as situations warrant. Do you want to get blamed if the book you got and the weekend of cramming wasn't thorough enough to stop a scriptkiddie from 0wning j00r cvs server and erasing it, or worse, a competitor rootkitting it and installing a backdoor so they can watch your progress, maybe change some data, a couple months down the road while you're too busy on a real project to track vulnerabilities and new attack types in the 24 minutes a week allotted to this? (less than 5 minutes a day... can you even get through your email that quickly?)

Oh, and I'd say, get your resume ready. If he starts having more unrealistic expectations of his staff, you should probably look to go elsewhere.

More money than brains PHB? (5, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767259)

MOD PARENT UP! Very true, but a little too mild, in my opinion.

The job that is mentioned in the Slashdot story would take an already skilled person 50% to 100% of his time. That's because it is not serving regular users, it is serving programmers, who expect a lot more from their computers.

Computer administration is not just administration. There a many lengthy one-time projects, like finding better backup methods, or dealing with the latest vulnerability. Fixing and cleaning after a serious security breach can take a month, for example.

Anyone administering Windows computers must deal with the fact that there are people with huge amounts of money who want to exploit Microsoft's (deliberate) sloppiness. One list of major investors in spyware [] companies shows a total of over $139 million in venture capital. Remember, Microsoft makes more money if a user becomes tired of slowness and problems caused by spyware and buys a new computer, which is how most resolve such problems. If you administer Windows computers you have the richest man in the world and his rich think-alikes riding on your back.

It sounds like the old story. People with control over more money than brains buy a successful software company, figuring that they can extract more that ever before from the customers.

We already have enough information to predict that the company will go out of business. Because it is a reasonable assumption that the person who submitted the Slashdot story isn't the only one being abused, we know that the company has already begun dying; the abuse is killing the company right now. It may, however, be a slow death, sometimes old customers are reluctant to change to new software, and try to live with the new stupidity.

There is a reason why Dilbert [] is one of the most popular comics in the United States. The real bosses are actually worse than the pointy-haired bosses in the comic. The real PHB's abuse everyone, take more than their share of the money, and destroy [] the company [] , too.

The new owner of the company is wanting to test the limits to see how much he can abuse the Slashdot story writer. He is: 1) wildly out of touch, 2) ignorant, 3) self-destructive, 4) arrogant, 5) abusive, 6) seriously abusive, and 7) lacking in social skills.

What may happen is that not enough time will be spent on computer system administration, and the programmers will not be served. That's the self-destructive element.

"2004 US mil spending = US$455B, 1/2 world total" (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767288)

This week's best sig, slightly modified:

"2004 US mil spending = US$455B, almost 1/2 world total & > next 32 nations combined. The rich play, we pay."

Except that we're in debt right now. (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767821)

Something like US$1.05T? That's why I said our grandkids.
Especially after Federal Reserve Governor Edward Gramlich said we can't grow out of our deficit spending [] .
Guess what's left? Raising taxes and/or cutting services. You know the lobbyists won't let them cut much from the military funding. I guess when they stop raiding the Social Security funds, they'll go after Medicare/Medicaid next, then hospitals, schools, roads... oh, wait, they already are. Won't be much left for the surviving soldiers to come home to. Certainly not good jobs or the good health care and benefits they were promised when they signed up.

Make sure you have a good base to start from (2, Interesting)

wimbor (302967) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766774)

I am partly IT manager for my company, which means the IT part is only half of my job. And yes, I do more than half of my time on IT subjects, but NOT on pure network administration.

On a Windows network, with 5 servers (mail/domain, database, batch server, terminal server, test server), with Oracle databases and 30 clients, including VPN support for remote users, I spend between 1 and 10% of my time on pure network admin. Depending on if there are large updates needed (e.g. Exchange 2000 -> 2003, etc.) or not.

In a Windows environment: Make sure you set up user rights properly (block access to installing programs, etc.). Really lock it down very good for the beginner users, but trust power users if you can and give them more flexibility to manage their own system. Create a good security profile for your company, use group policy to lock computers down AND distribute software (!), use WSUS ( for windows patches, don't be cheap on antivirus programs, spyware scanners, your base network appliances and a decent firewall. Make sure you have decent warranty on your hardware, and if needed support contracts for servers. Outsource the firewall and router configs.

The pure Windows network administration is automated here (group policy, windows patches, software installs,...), and apart from creating a user now and then, and replacing a faulty drive or old hardware, I hardly put time in the network.

When a reinstall of Windows is needed (once in 4 years on desktops, really) the group policies make sure it gets installed with the basic software automatically. I only have to adjust some settings specific to a user. That's it. A new PC is ready on our network within 2 hours, from a clean and empty drive.

Most of my IT time goes to other software projects.

But, it does take some time to create this initial setup. After that, you are spending like 1 day per month (3%) on the network. If you have a disaster (crashed server), of course you need some more time, but apart from that... it's easy.

Just demand your management 1 full month to really concentrate on the admin tasks. In this time learn how to work with the domains, group policies and the lot. The more time you put into setting it up, the more time you will gain afterwards. Set up the network really good, then go back to programming.

If you want to spend even less time: buy Mac OS X Server and Apple hardware.

Good luck! If you are a Linux shop: somebody else on Slashdot might have an idea.

outside help? (1)

tadheckaman (578425) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766799)

You may want to look into having an outside computer IT company do the sysadmin work. Where I work, we manage many networks, including setting them up, from remote. Some of our clients are many hours away, yet rarely we have an issue that requires someone to be onsite. Usally there is a slightly more techie person onsite that can do simple tasks such as replacing a ethernet card or checking network connections, but if anything more complicate comes up, they call us, we fix it or walk the person through how to fix it. There are many solutions that scan the network at the firewall to protect against spyware, viruses, and content filtering, which also cuts down on alot of support calls. Sometimes you may even be lucky and find a company (like mine) that can do set fee contract support, so despite how many problems you have, it only costs the same per month.

Programmers (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766828)

You might think that programmers are easy to cater for as a sysadmin but you probably couldn't be further from the truth; programmers and other tech-savvy people will install programs, change OS settings, (un)plug cables, change BIOS configurations or whatever they have access rights for (if not; they might try to hack the OS to get these rights). It's a lot easier to support people who just use their computers to read some mail.

Re:Programmers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12768325)

Depends on the programmers...

In my shop, the programmers are 95% "self-service"; if they change a setting that screws something up, they know enough to change it back. Sometimes an intern screws themself though. We point and laugh enough at them then that they learn to be more cautious....

For us, it's the sales folk who create the biggest problem; they get the most spyware, viruses, browser-jackings, etc... And there's a running pool when each salesman leaves and turns in the laptop; how big will the porn cache be? (And what fetish, if any? So far, nothing illegal...) The 2 issues are obviously related...

Temporarilly get someone in (1)

Redwin (805980) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766876)

Why don't you hire in a professional system admin to set everything up, and get some training to learn to basics, preferabilly from the same professional source that set up the network?

Something to be careful of, as it is a new owner they may be looking to expand your jobs to include other services which require more sys admin stuff in the future. Make sure they are aware that expanding from software production to servicing clients using the software could intale a whole area of system admin work to run it, and that you as the "admin guy" will probably not be able to do both development and system admin.

I agree that the 1% of the workload is optimistic, however if the user base is mostly computer savy it may be possible as they will (hopefully) maintain their own systems. :-)

No, 1% is nowhere near close! (2, Interesting)

RandomJoe (814420) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766888)

I had a very similar experience, and I assure you 1% (1/2 hour per week?!?) is nowhere close. I work for a multinational that is too cheap to put admins in each office. Instead, they have a small crew of very sharp people at headquarters, and someone - in our case the Controller - also gets admin duties. Our Controller left, and everyone decided I would be a great fill-in until they got a new Controller (my boss doesn't actually want me doing it, so it isn't supposed to be permanent). Since I was already busy enough, everyone in the office (around 40 people) was told to call the corporate help desk first. In theory all the IT folks back at the main office would do the bulk of the work and I would just have to handle "real emergencies" or something like that.

Yeah, sure...

The first two weeks I spent half of my week or more on "IT duties". It has tapered off some, but even though they are calling the help desk, and I don't actually have to do a lot of the work myself, I still spend at least 5-6 hours per week. Mostly on the more irritating end user items - "my printer won't work". Plus things that evidently can't be done remotely anyway - "hey, we need you to go in and do this on your server for us".

Re:outsource it (1)

octalgirl (580949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767851)

I agree with this comment the most. This is a clear case of when outsourcing is required. You are both in the middle of a move and trying to upgrade the infrastructure at the same time? This is where managements ignorance of technology and the 'it's all magic out of the box' mentality is simply dangerous.

Turn this quickly into a positive by explaining that while you understand the company's situation (hiring a person for this is expensive and unreasonable for many small companies), the fact remains that you are a programmer and not a network administrator. The best scenario is that the move and upgrade are outsourced, with you as project manager overseeing the installation. Even at this level, you will spend much, much more than 1% of your time. After a few months when the project is complete and all of the small kinks have been worked out, your time maintaining the network should drop to a reasonable two hours a week.

It is also helpful to make clear if your duties will be 'network' or 'help desk'. For this to be done right your boss should pick someone else for that.

If the network company works well for you, you keep them on retainer. I do that at my location (4000 users, 30+ servers), and I only need to call in the big guns around 5 times a year, at an average of 75 to 150 an hour depending on the project.

Also, the 'buy a book' comment once again proves how pointy-haired some managers can be. Since the average network book is around 600 - 1200 pages, it would take you a minimum of two weeks just to get through it, assuming you understood what you were reading. A quickie course can cost anywhere from $1000 to $8000 depending on the content. Is your boss willing to spend that on your education? Or would he rather spend it on outsourcing this properly?

Automate as much as possible (1)

clone22 (252516) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766892)

You can be a programmer and perform sys admin tasks. Pick up a good book on shell scripting (Mastering Unix Shell Scripting has a lot of sysadmin scripts) and automate things like the management of print queues and volumes. Keep a log of every request you get, the amount of time it takes you to handle the request, who requested, and what was given a lower priority in order to fulfill. When your time starts getting short (it will), make management prioritize their requests and provide a time estimate for completion (actual time is time estimate / utilization factor). But, before you do any of this, take a look at the computer room. If the place is a shithole, save yourself a lot of grief and go find a new job.

More like 50% of your time (1)

df200 (577345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766935)

At the research institute where I'm currently working, a PhD-Student normally gets a half-time position. If that PhD-Student is also doing sysadmin work, he gets a full-time job.

And even then, I'm not sure if that time allocation compensates for the real amount of time spent doing sysadmin stuff.

Nix that idea (1)

schotty (519567) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766948)

Dont do it. There is no way that %1 of your week can attain the desired results. Plus to learn by book will not be fast enough if you are not already somewhat familiar with the core of the topic on hand.

IT fulltime is hard enough. Unless you get a reasonable raise or allowed OT, dont do it (and it looks like you wont get that raise or OT offer).

But that is me. PM me if you want a firsthand experience there, and why I have had 2 bad experiences in that ballpark and will not make a third.

Good luck either way pal.

Get out, get out NOW. (4, Insightful)

rocjoe71 (545053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766955)

Really, this cementhead demeans the both of you with answers like "get a book". He demeans you by not trying to understand your point of view has value and he demeans himself by not understanding the job of sysadmin himself.

If you do buckle under and play it his way I can guarantee you within a year of moving to your new office he will be blaming you for "not reading the book" for every extra minute you spend doing sysadmin work-- Likewise, you'll be blaming him for pushing you away from programming your programming career by insisting you "get the job done right first" with your admin duties.

Take a stand if you wish, but most small businessmen operate on the principle "No-one is irreplacable" and that means you too. You'd be alot happier working for someone who understands different IT roles and understands what your personal carreer goals are.

Re:Get out, get out NOW. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12768667)

I agree with everything in the previous post and add the following.

This exact thing happened to me. I was hired on as a programmer, they moved me to Windows/UNIX Administration saying "It will only take a few minutes a day".

2 weeks later, I was spending better than 50% of my day working on "minor IT things".

6 months later, I was fired because "I was not making all my programming deadlines". Never mind that I had physical proof that the IT job they stuck me with was the cause, they wouldn't hear me out.

Dude, my only advice is, RUN. Polish up your resume and start sending it out, make a post to Craigslist, just get out of that company.

You have been labeled as the "IT guy" by your boss; Refuse it and you won't be a team player and you're screwed. Take it and you won't make you're deadlines.

You are really screwed.

Sorry man, been there, done that, got the unmployment to prove it.

Just do it already (0, Troll)

pong (18266) | more than 9 years ago | (#12766986)

I worked as a software developer for an ISV with 8 developers and a couple of non-techies a while back. I was also the sysadm and while I propably spent a couple of weeks doing sysadm week during the first few months it tapered down to about an hours worth or something like that once I had everything configured. If the users are competent enough you don't have to do much support work and once things are configured correctly you just have to do the occasional manual update and fix things when stuff breaks.

Insane (1)

Ratbert42 (452340) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767004)

My company is down to about 100 people, 50 in the main office. We have three full-time IT staff (not counting a mainframe guy and a DBA) and they're swamped. One of those spends about 50% of his time on network issues (well, maybe 30% network and 20% voice-over-ip phones).

Used to be a SysAdmin (2, Interesting)

nighty5 (615965) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767017)

I looked after a network shared across 3 networks with around 30 staff.

Had a mix of Linux, Novell, NT 3.51, NT 4. MTAs included qmail, Exchange. Firewalls were routers, and ipfwadm...

So about 8 years ago.....

I also was an onsite engineer for charge out work...

To answer your question, it comes down to a few factors:

How old is the hardware? If its older hardware, then there will be more repairs.

Do your users have adequate training? If not, then you'll be doing lots of support.

Does your site consist of a lot of Internet connectivity, on-line shopping carts etc? If so, then add more hours to your maintainance.

Also don't forget stuff has to be backed up. That takes about 20-30 mintes a day to monitor backup logs, and managing tape routines.

What about application/security logs? You probably won't have time to even look at that stuff. Then stuff will probably break more often.

You see it comes down to how much time can be invested in the systems, the less management give you, the more time you'll spend on it.

I'd say you're average will be around 1 hour per day, every day - at a rough estimate.



P.S - I got out of sys admin gig, now a full time security consultant the past 8 years and love it.

nothing takes 1% of a work week (1)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767037)

Realistically, no budgetable task takes 1% of a work week if it requires daily monitoring. 1% is just 24 minutes. Under 5 minutes each day.

Filing out a weekly report, okay, 1%. Filing out a daily report, you're talking 15 minutes min (5 minutes to change gears, 5 to write, 5 to proof).

In fact, 15 minutes is traditionally the smallest billable increment for a lot of jobs, with good reason. And even then, that works for 'known' tasks that you can initiate and complete with no unpredictables.

A more reasonable guess would be 2 hours/week: 15 minutes a day to check things plus 1 hour/week to either probe further or initate things. That's 5% of your weekly time and that's just to monitor and initiate fixes, assuming ordinary stuff.

Add in, say, creating new accountings or adding new features on a monthly basis, and you're talking 4 hours/week (installing, fixing, learning, debugging). 10% of your time, and we're still talking routine stuff.

So, for a well set up system with few users, no special requests, and just ordinary maintenance, 5% of your time. If they actually need to update or modify things, 10%.

And those are minimums. A good IT manager or sysadmin is proactive, keeping up to date on the system so you don't, say, have the disks fill up due to one rogue user. That takes, alas, time.

Get it in writing... (1)

Kevin Burtch (13372) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767114)

Get the 1% after a certain date thing in writing, and make sure that it has a clause that if your time in that new task goes over 24 minutes in a week (1%), that it is counted as overtime (1.5x) pay.

He'll rethink that figure in a hurry.

Depends what the options are (2, Insightful)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767147)

The 1% figure is clearly rubbish, but your company has new owners and you don't have any immediate reason to jump ship (or anywhere immediately to jump to) it's at least worth trying to start on the right foot with them. Chances are the new owners are trying to work out of the current staff who is capable of doing what in the future - and the fact that you got chosen for "extra responsibilities" is a sign they have confidence in your capabilities. Chances also are that they're look at who may it may be possible to get rid of.

That said, it's essential that you keep track of exactly how much time is spent doing what, so that when your programming boss asks why work isn't getting done you can tell him, and likewise to your sysadmin boss.

Some sort of helpdesk system is essential, to allow basic categorisation of problems and help time tracking.

Try and specify some form of "service level agreement" - if only "1%" of your time is needed then that's 5 minutes a day ish - so users having to wait a day or so for an email reply from you shouldn't be a problem to your new boss. Ensure that he's told them that though!

Be wary of "out of hours" stuff too. If you run any kind of live systems (e.g. for customer interaction) they may need work at odd hours of the day or night. If you specifcally don't want to do this, or get paid X for it, best to try and set expectations (in as polite a way as possible).

1% of the time, no way. (2, Insightful)

atomic-penguin (100835) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767250)

You need to make it clear that it will take more than 1% of your time. One worm can hose a LAN and productivity may be lost for the entire day. The company doesn't want to go with someone full time. Suggest hiring a third party to manage the network. The third party can bill the company when there is a catastrophe, and you won't have to pay them a salary.

more like 5% (1)

mr. mulder (204001) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767255)

I'm in a similar situation; however, there's one big difference - I didn't mind taking on the additional responsibilities. I just made that point that I was saving the company additional money by not re-hiring someone or outsourcing the job to a local consulting company.

As for the 1% metric, I would have to disagree (on the network admin side). It's closer to 5%, which isn't really a big deal. The big time crunch comes in when you set it all up - after setup, you will spend 0% of your time maintaining things (especially if you don't worry about firmware upgrades and patches).

Now, if you add in system admin to the whole bunch, people will start treating you like a help desk - how do I do this in Excel/Word/PowerPoint, why doesn't this website work, etc. In my experience sys admin will consume a lot more of your time than the network side because the sys admin side deals with people, not just hardware.

Don't do it (1)

Cthefuture (665326) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767270)

I used to work at a similar sized company. Around 30 people, mostly programmers. Network admin was a full time job for two, sometimes three people.

Don't kid yourself, it's too much for one person if you have other tasks. Also, once you become an admin it's really hard to go back to programmer (both because you get lazy and also because you just won't have time).

I have always held steady in that area. I would probably be a really good admin but I refuse to do it. My statement is simply "I'm a programmer, not an admin." I can only imagine you have at some point given your boss reasons to believe you are a good admin type? Don't do that.

I did exactly that - and it's not funny (2, Interesting)

Welshalian (733176) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767368)

I did exactly what you've been asked to do. I'm a programmer. When the company was small (4/5 people) I was the defacto sysadmin. As it grew to 30 people, we hired a sysadmin, and I gave him the occasional hand (holidays, sickness). Then he left and we were late hiring his replacement, so I said I'd keep the systems ticking in the meantime. I wish I hadn't. Trust me, I was good at it. But it cost me a lot of heartache, I had to fight quite a few people (including the CEO). IT-related workload was high (say 20% of my time), but the thing that did it for me was the fact that sysadmins are expected to take a lot of flak when things go bad, and keep their mouth shut. I found that really hard. I tried explaining that I was just volunteering and filling in - I just did not have the time to do all they wanted. Yet the day-by-day grumbling about problems (some real, some not-so-real) made me bitter and unsatisfied. One day, after the umpteenth stroppogram, I threw in the towel. I said I wouldn't do it anymore. Never regretted it. Now we have a proper sysadmin and I kiss the ground he walks on.

May be possible... (1)

droyad (412569) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767370)

I work for a (small) company that manages the whole IT infrastructure for several other small companies. We have a client (non-technical) with about 30 employees, and they only require approx 1 hr of our time after it is set up. However they are set up in a Windows Terminal server environment and we have locked it down so the user's can't mess ANYTHING up.

A network needs minimum maintenance if:
- User's are not allowed to touch the server
- Workstations are either locked down, or managed 100% by the user
- Workstations/Server are quality hardware. A fleet of 30 computer can have 1 non-HDD failure in 3 years. HDD failures are worse.
- Workstations are identical equipment
- You create a standard image and use Symantec Ghost (or equiv) to roll out
- You roll out a clean image if anything goes wrong with software and it takes longer than 15mins to fix

This is all expensive to start, but pays for itself withing the 1st year. Things that may work against you:
- Techies (Programmers, Hardware, Engineers) tend to mess around with their computers
- Maintaining Programs (new, upgrades, etc)
- Security updates
- High user churn
- Management who do not see the value of doing it right from the word go
- Development servers tend to break every other day.

Contary to popular opinion Windows networks can be secure, and can be easy to manage. Operative word is "can". Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003 are rock solid.

Re:May be possible... Linux option (1)

droyad (412569) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767400)

Forgot to mention, I do think Linux has it's place in servers (Don't love MS that much).

However, I also think Linux only starts paying of when managing 3 or more servers. The learning curve is pretty high compared to Windows Server.

How to do something in windows is easy to figure out, but takes some time to replicate to other servers.

How to do something in Linux is hard to figure out, but takes little time to replicate.

Right tools for the situation.

P.S. Look into Windows SBS 2003

Re:May be possible... (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767651)

- User's are not allowed to touch the server
If you break it, you fix it.
Workstations are either locked down, or managed 100% by the user
100% managed by the user.
Workstations/Server are quality hardware. A fleet of 30 computer can have 1 non-HDD failure in 3 years. HDD failures are worse.
They are. Users handle simple fixes themselves, you just provide backup hardware.
Workstations are identical equipment
No, but if you have something non-standard in your workstation and it breaks, you replace it yourself.
You create a standard image and use Symantec Ghost (or equiv) to roll out
You do. Or leave it to the users.
You roll out a clean image if anything goes wrong with software and it takes longer than 15mins to fix
You do. Or leave it to the users. (put a standarised ghost image on the server, or on a publicly available CD.)

Techies (Programmers, Hardware, Engineers) tend to mess around with their computers
They are also less likely to call for help and more likely to succesfully fix things they break.
- Maintaining Programs (new, upgrades, etc)- Security updates
Download, announce, make available, everyone installs on their own.
High user churn
In a team of 30?
Management who do not see the value of doing it right from the word go
Request raise for each such "saving".
Development servers tend to break every other day.
It's the developer's job to create an easily recoverable development environment for risky applications, not the sysadmin's.
And always have this line ready: "I'm getting $50 a month extra for doing this all, what do you expect?"

Re:May be possible... (1)

droyad (412569) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767892)

- User's are not allowed to touch the server
If you break it, you fix it.
Not on servers. If the server goes down 30 people can't work. If too many people play with the server, no one can get blamed and it lands on you.

Techies (Programmers, Hardware, Engineers) tend to mess around with their computers
They are also less likely to call for help and more likely to succesfully fix things they break.
I disagree, depending on their capabilities, they will try to fix it, but break more stuff along the way

High user churn
In a team of 30?
Possible, we have a client (10 emp) who changes an employee every month

Re:May be possible... (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767976)

So okay, no touching the server.
With fixing - if they can't fix it, roll out a ghost image. No putting up with "but I have all my work there!" shit. They have the backup software, they should have made backups. There's no way you could make them on 30 computers (likely Windows) in 5 minutes. And if one employee gets changed every month, you'd better start looking for a new job NOW. With the extra admin responsiblity you won't stay longer than 3 months anyway.

Re:May be possible... (1)

GrievousMistake (880829) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768337)

User files should have their own partition anyway, separate from the programs.

No way. (1)

seanellis (302682) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767384)

Not a chance. If you can, refuse (politely of course). If not, start looking for another job.

Look at it this way: 1% of a 40 hour work week is 24 minutes.

What are you going to be in charge of? Off the top of my head, I can think of:

- Mail server
- Spam filter (including dredging out false positives)
- Web server (if you have one)
- Phone system (don't look at me like that - you will end up dealing with this sooner or later)
- Software installation
- Software purchasing, upgrades and updates
- Security, including virus disinfection
- Hardware (my hard drive just died)
- Backups

Backups alone will more than fill your 24 minutes a week, I guarantee it.

Also, most of your users are techies. That means that the only problems you'll get to see from them are the ones that are too difficult for a non-sysadmin techie guy to solve (which is, by your own admission, what you are).

They will also try to get around your nice permission structure, or develop their own fixes to problems best addressed by you, "so as not to bother you with this trivial problem". I know - I am one of those techies and I do it all the time.

If fixing one of these when it goes wrong takes you an afternoon, then that's your sysadmin time for the next 10 weeks eaten up. Fix it now? Fine, but no backups till September.

As a reference point, the company I work for has about 50 people on site, and two full-time sysadmins. They are usually busy.

How much Dollars will you get ? (1)

straybullets (646076) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767405)

Well, i'd do it .

Managing a 30 PC lan won't be too much of a hard thing to do, even if, of course, it will take way much than 1% . It's another responsability, with a lot of things to do : hardware problems (the network is always to blame) , software and security , dealing with third parties (bandwith provider) etc etc ...

It depends on the nature of the network to admin but if it's not too hudge, it won't be to difficult. But if you do it you should really reall get a good raise for it . Everything has a price, and this is fairly expensive!

No, it's not realistic (1)

sofo (18554) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767436)

One percent is only realistic if your new employer can guarantee that nothing unexpected will ever happen. One percent may cover the routine log-grazing and backup rotation as well as a few other tasks but if your mail server goes down, a switch dies or an operating system update takes down 75% of of your staff... well you get the idea.

Strictly depends. (2, Insightful)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767474)

Depends on your current work load (how much is 1% of it?), on how well you do your job, on how much is left to the users etc. I can guarantee you the minimum non-techie staff will probably be about 80% of your netadmin work. Thing is, once the network is set up correctly and everything works, simply everything works. Then your sysadmin work is just to sit and surf slashdot and be there when something breaks. And when something breaks, you fix it. Count, how much time you spend on fixing your own box, multiply by 30 and you have it - the 1% time is a reasonable estimate. Install patches, replace broken parts, upgrade software - that's not something that takes a lot.
This all depends strictly on one factor though.
Your boss.
Bosses tend to have a lot of dumb ideas and like to make admins execute them. So you may find yourself replacing a perfectly functional 100megabit LAN with 1GBIT one, you may find yourself switching the webserver to IIS from Apache (and back, a week later) or so. Make sure your boss isn't one of this kind. And make it be an admin ONLY. NOT webmaster. NOT unpaid after-hours home helpdesk. Not an accountant, a backup secretary or teacher. If these are to be your responsiblities, just add each as extra salary request. Be sure to list them, with sums you associate with them, so the resulting jaw-dropping salary request will be explained with the cheap rates you want in each of the fields separately. Then say you'd honestly rather see your responsiblities scaled back.
And request a backup. A second admin to be there when you don't have time, or to help you in a 2-man job. Maybe two of them. May be same kind of programmer as you. Things like troubleshooting failing network cables, big changes in the network, mass upgrades etc are done WAY faster when 2 people do them, and it makes holiday breaks "safer" too.

The 1% SysAdmin (2, Insightful)

alexjohns (53323) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767531)

Here's some of the things a sysadmin needs to do:

Add new users; delete old ones; reset passwords when people forget; Manage disk space; read several sysadmin newsgroups and mailing lists to discover new exploits, viruses, worms, etc. that could affect your system; patch your system to fix these problems and install new versions; run backup software. Shit, the list is endless.

Who's going to run your mail server? Gonna do any spam filtering?

Being a sysadmin for 30 people is at least a 50% job, at a minimum. Depending on how much you rely on your network, both inter and intra, will determine whether sysadmin the other 50% of the time.

And if you have internet access and the usual clueless users (note: they're all clueless), you'll spend the other 50% of your time removing spyware, adware, viruses, worms, and all other sorts of nasty things from your users' PCs and your server(s).

You need to be proactive here. Tell them 'No!'. If you want to program, tell them to hire a sysadmin, otherwise you'll get sucked over to the sysadmin side and eventually they'll have to hire a new programmer to do your old job because you won't have had time to do it.

Yes, been there, done that.

How long does it take to pick up the phone? (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767577)

As the "Network Administrator" how long does it take you to make an "administrative" decision to pick up the phone and call the IT-outsourced company you have decided to use to come fix the problem?

1% of your time seems reasonable for this effort.

Honestly, 1% is not enough. It may not require 100% of someone's time, but it's closer to the 100% than the 1%.

Ask Google Calculator... (2, Insightful)

clambake (37702) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767639) _en&safe=off&c2coff=1&client=firefox&rls=org.mozil la%3Aen-US%3Aunofficial&q=1%25+of+40+hours&btnG=Se arch []

1% of (40 hours) = 24 minutes

So, get yourself an egg timer... Set it to 24. When it rings at 8:24 monday morning, go to your boss and say "1% of my work week has passed, which is all you said I was required to work as a sysadmin. Please feel free to report any problems to me next week between 8:00 and 8:24."

Re:Ask Google Calculator... (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767757)

Please feel free to report any problems to me next week between 8:00 and 8:24

This will be followed by a comment to the effect of have your desk cleaned out before 8:26 AM THIS WEEK.

Re:Ask Google Calculator... (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768127)

But which day this week?

Re:Ask Google Calculator... (2, Funny)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767869)

Too be fair, that 25 minutes should be split up over the course of the week. So 8:00:00 to 8:04:48 every morning should be dedicated to sysadmin work. Depending on the hardware, that's about how long it takes to boot up the computer and log in, so this sysadmin gig sounds really easy!

Track your time (was Re:Ask Google Calculator...) (2, Insightful)

Cycon (11899) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768184)

1% of (40 hours) = 24 minutes

So, get yourself an egg timer... Set it to 24. When it rings at 8:24 monday morning, go to your boss and say "1% of my work week has passed, which is all you said I was required to work as a sysadmin. Please feel free to report any problems to me next week between 8:00 and 8:24."

Of course if you ask like an ass your boss will think of you like one.

My advice is to give it a shot and see if you like it, all the while keeping track of time spent doing the System Administration work - reconfiguring the network, studying the book they buy you, fixing problems as they come along, etc.

Once you have a document you have something you can point to when you later confront your boss. Its not unreasonable for management to ask an employee to work a couple extra hours a week for a short period of time, and if you take it in stride and have a "good attitude" about it you should be compensated for it.

When you feel the time is right, pull your boss aside, show him how much time you're spending on these "new" activities, and tell him you either want a raise, more time off, telecommuting days, or even 100% flex hours. You're not being shit on with more work dumped on your head, this is an opportunity to advance a little if you look at it right. If nothing else its real-world work experience you can use to pad out your resume ("my company needed a SysAdmin but couldn't afford it and while that's not what interests me I stepped up...")

If you absolutely don't want to do it then consider quitting your job and finding "strictly programming" work elsewhere.

Just don't be a dick about it from square one because that's "not what you do"

Two Words (1)

teddlesruss (163540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767662)

No Way

Way too low (1)

verycoldpenguin (874449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767767)

I work in a company of around 150 people. There are 1 (and a half, he is shared between projects) full time staff doing the administration. On top of that, there are people dotted around the company who do many other sysadmin/network admin tasks such as printers and network setup. That is a totaly Windows network however. The linux side, which has as many servers, two firewalls and six seperate networks for sandboxes, etc. only takes a few hours a week, but I expect my users to know what they are doing. The 1% is too low, but how far it is too low will depend on the competence of those around you. Gareth

my experience / rant (1)

Vodak (119225) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767781)

Where I am currently working (A non-profit organization) there IT needs are low and there is less then 30 users of the system.

This does not mean their system needs are low. There is always someone who needs IT help constantly. So you will have little peace when you are "The guy" that is in charge of it. If you are friendly and social at work as a programmer people will be more apt to come to you for problems that shouldn't warrant your time... little things that people working should have learned years ago. Not to mention that since you are the sysadmin guy you are also known as the fax guy, the copier guy, and the phone system guy...

Of course you are building a new infrastructure from the ground up. It's a good chance that your boss(es) are going to come up with a lot of extra functionality that they think is cool or needed that will be a pain to get working correctly...

But I am just turning this into a rant.

Our sysadmin quit and I took his job. (1)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767819)

I was maintaining the Linux-based CRM system I wrote for the company, which had matured over the three years I'd worked for them at the time. So it was no longer really a full-time job, and I spent a lot of time reading Slashdot and the like.

So when our sysadmin went on a drunken rampage and didn't return the next morning, I was given the job. I didn't want it, primarily because I knew nothing about Windows and had little enthusiasm for it.

I actually liked a lot of aspects of it. I was taking on and mastering new things, which was interesting for a while. But I did find that because it does involve interruptions, it was preventing me from doing a lot of programming I should have been doing. This was true especially when the boss decided to take on new projects and throw a lot more programming work to me than anticipated.

Dealing with spyware and adware and virii when you're not a Windows expert is a very, very bad idea. I was never able to prevent the rampant spread of them through our network. We used a lot of outside consultants, who were allegedly experts on this topic, but even they didn't do much better. This is probably because the owner of the company was (and probably still is) a cheapskate at heart.

When I would make some mistake, however minor, the boss would yell and scream at me at the top of his lungs, which made for a very poor working environment. And of course because I had a hand in decisionmaking, I would be blamed for every problem. This might seem reasonable, but I was never praised when things went well; that, of course, is just me doing my job.

I am no longer there. I now do multimedia development for a major university and use only Macs. Believe me, it's a lot better over here than over there.

I don't know if you'd go so far as to switch your career as drastically as I did, but I think you're descending towards very unhappy circumstances if you take his offer.

Hope that helps.


hiring? (1)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767899)

They want to use someone with no sysadmin/network experience to design, implement, and maintain their network? Just give the person a book and let them loose? Are they hiring, I'm qualified for that job!

College (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 9 years ago | (#12767910)

If there are any colleges/universities within driving distance, I'm sure there would be at least one student looking for an internship. While you remain the guy-in-charge of the Network Admin duties, you can pass everything you want to your able-bodied collegiate partner-in-crime. Some schools even pay the hosting company to have a student intern.

compare the downside and upside (1)

thechuckbenz (526254) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768008)

Always speculate about the upside and the downside of doing something. For this, the upside is learning sysadmin stuff, maybe a little respect, and maybe there's a threat of this being necessary to keep your job. But the downside can be nightmarish - problems will come up that take you away from the programming work, leading to diminished project responsibilities, spiraling until your main task is sysadmin, followed by hiring a real sysadmin, and then you're low man on the project totem pole.

Read the alt.sysadmin.recovery FAQ (1)

mutterc (828335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768202)

It will explain why it's impossible to get out of sysadminning once you've done it.

On the other hand, sysadminning will not dry up until well after programming has all gone offshore, so it may be better to embrace the new job.

Oh, you're in for it now (1)

jermz (6352) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768234)

Do you have any idea how most of us sysadmins got into the business? We started out as programmers, configuration management, hardware techs, etc. Then the inevitable happened. "Hey, you know something about networks. Could you take a look at this?" Ten years later, you look back on your life and wonder what happened.

The 1% is completely unrealistic. You may be able to design and implement a network that will take only 20 minutes a week to maintain - WITHOUT USERS!

Sysadmins know. It's the users that cause the problems. And heaven help you if you are connected to the Internet.

My guess is 25%.

1%? Oh, boy. (3, Interesting)

foxtrot (14140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768321)

I was in a similar situation a few years ago. 45ish people, we rolled our own network, mostly techie types...

We needed about 1.5 system administrators.

Fortunately, we had two. So about 1/4 of my average work week was spent as a testing droid for the developers and-- get this-- getting ahead of the game.

Whoever told you 1% of your work week is on crack. Stuff simply just doesn't work that well. :-/


Nope. (1)

Bravo_Two_Zero (516479) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768322)

Does it extrapolate that a company of 3000 could be handled by a single admin? Pointless extrapolations aside, I spent time as a part-time SA for a 6-person company with a highly-competent staff (highly-competent... I was easily the dumbest guy there). The senior SA split time between programming and SA duties. We averaged 20-30 hours per week. Some were very quiet. Other weeks involved hardware issues.

That breaks down to:
4.17 hours per person
5 hours per server
1.79 hours per system (servers + clients)

Use those to calculate your potential time. YMMV.

(We had remarkably few OS issues, though, since we ran FreeBSD... thbbbtt!)

Oh, and one more reason that 1% statistic is goofy (1)

foxtrot (14140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768398) that once you've got the title/reputation as "the guy who fixes things when they break", you wind up with the weird stuff.

When I was that guy for a small company, yeah, I got the usual, "Hey, is the network slow today for some reason?" or "Uh, my machine's doing weird stuff."

I also got, "Do you know anything about the IVR system?" I got, "Don't suppose you know how to fix microwaves?" And my favorite: "Someone's stuck in the elevator and the maintenance guys don't get here 'til 8AM..."

Sure, you can just say no, but heck, just answering those questions alone will soak 1% of your work week... Small-company sysadmins have a tendency to become the person you ask about ANYTHING electronic...

(It turns out the file "blade" on a standard leatherman is just the right size to trip the door 'lock' catch on an elevator (that's what the round hole in the door is) so you can get the outside doors open, once you can see the inside doors from the outside you can see the latch for those...)


Support ratios (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12768538)

About 5 years ago, "normal" support ratios were 1 FTE support staffer (sysadmin, network, help desk, whatever) for every 20 to 50 Windows NT machines, and 1 to 20-100 Macs (OS 7-9). While Win2K and WinXP have made routine administration somewhat easier, they also now have more choices, and there's a bigger problem with malware of all kinds. I see no evidence that the ratios have changed all that much.

The variability in the ratios depends on the user base, the quality of the initial set up, and support policies. Having a budget for regular harware replacement also helped a lot in keeping the body count down.

I'm aware of one company where desktop software problems never take more than 30 minutes to resolve; all user files are maintained on a server, and if a desktop problem can't be resolved in 15 minutes, the hardware is re-imaged. That company is big and has a support ratio of about 1 to 60, despite some pretty complex networking... On a slow day, they re-image about 5 boxes; they once had to reimage almost the entire desktop install base ASAP when the CEO distributed a mail-based virus; took almost 24 hours...

1% is realistic, for a professional admin (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768569)

And a 30 user network.

But you're not a competent professional systems administrator. Most of the developers I've seen as admins have been a disaster, continually trying to code their way out of problems after the fact when they should have organised their way round the problems before they happened.

Depends if you do the optional extras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12768619)

Given the usual sysop's schedule:
1% work
29% complaining
10% coffee drinking and complaining
10% eating, spitting out crumbs whilst complaining
50% "unavailable", frequently seen either slinking into the carpark late, sneaking out early, in town buying Star Trek novels or crafting witty chain emails along the lines of "You're a luser if ...", "10 ways to know if you are a luser" etc. etc.. Will complain loudly if approached about an "on call" duty performed for a total of 1 hour three years ago. Of course nobody has the heart to inform him that 9.30am does not count as an unsociable hour. But then for the network dude every hour is unsociable.

If you take it, say goodbye to programming (1)

Nathaniel (2984) | more than 9 years ago | (#12768844)

Assumption: The company has plans to grow at the new location (else why did they move?)

If you take this job, say goodbye to programming for the duration. Maybe not right away, but eventually, you will have no time left to program at all.

As the company grows, the system administration tasks will grow. And you will always be the guy that knows the most about the systems.

Contextual knowledge will lock you into the role, because you know the system, and there isn't ever time to transfer all that knowledge to someone else, even if they do eventually hire a full time system administrator. There will still be things about the system setup where you are the most knowledgable person.

If you want to switch careers to system administration, this is your chance.

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