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Are Sysadmins Really that Bad?

Cliff posted more than 6 years ago | from the is-there-a-b0fh-near-you dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 273

tgbrittai asks: "According to Paul Boutin they are merely an obstacle to be manipulated or outmaneuvered. According to Steve Wozniak they are pimps. I've known my share of good and bad sysadmins, programmers and every other professional role out there, and I have to wonder: are sysadmins really THAT bad?" Most times sys-admins are overworked and underpaid and have to deal with users who take advantage of their local IT person, tasking them to fix systems that they callously break. Others are truly worth the name "Bastard Operators from Hell". How would you rate your sys-admin and what things did you have to do to make things run smoothly (or not)?

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273 comments

Are you trying to get us in trouble? (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066175)


Are you trying to get us in trouble?! It's a damn good thing I'm a subscriber, I managed to block slashdot in our squid cache and drop it in a dns blackhole just before this story went live.

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (3, Funny)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066257)

Yes, but aren't you the only one there who reads /. anyway?

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (2, Interesting)

avronius (689343) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066635)

The Woz' doesn't say that sysadmins are pimps. He says that he'd support his son's decision if he chose to become a pimp, but would not support him if he chose to become a network administrator. From the link:

As I administered a network that spanned my homes and friends' homes and public ad private schools and libraries in my town, using T1's and RF links, I got bogged down. Frequently things would fail and, whether it was my equipment or the ISP above me, I was the middle man letting a lot of people down. I lost my life to this for a year and finally got staff hired to administer part of the WAN for the public schools. Finally, the problems became very rare. I'm in a city with very bad phone service and very bad T1 service too.
I don't think that the Network Administrator job is a bad gig. Some of my best friends do the network thing, and until the last few years, it was a large part of any role that I filled.

I will admit, however, that I always hear circus music when I'm standing near one...

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (3, Insightful)

allenw (33234) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068251)

I think Woz's post tells us what a lot of us already know: Just because you're "technical" doesn't mean you can be a "high-end" administrator or understand the difficulties/nuances of "scaling up".

It reminds me of many, many, many conversations I've had with programmers, qa, etc, over the years where they tell me what they perceive to be the solution to the problem without really understanding either the long term impact or other factors. [I'm sure we've all heard the "disks are cheap" line when someone has filled their home directory with crap.]

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (1)

Kwiik (655591) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068719)

he clearly works in an IT call centre where the lowlifes under him think they know even more than him

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (5, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066339)

Are you trying to get us in trouble?! It's a damn good thing I'm a subscriber, I managed to block slashdot in our squid cache and drop it in a dns blackhole just before this story went live.
You must be one of the good sysadmins. The bad sysadmins have just been yanking the cables out of the back of the routers.

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (2, Funny)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066523)

No, really BAD admins start fire in the building to cause a complete emergency evacuation of the building. Of course, during evacuation some people (the ones who read Slashdot, by sheer coincidence) do not make it to the fire escape.

Can't allow them to browse Slashdot from home...

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (3, Funny)

tibike77 (611880) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068519)

Actually, those would be "brutal" sysadmins.
A truly evil sysadmin would have root access and rootkits installed on all user's home computers already ("here, have this software for home, you'll love it") and have them all zombified under his command. ;)

ATTN: SWITCHEURS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19066771)

If you don't know what Cmd-Shift-1 and Cmd-Shift-2 are for, GTFO.
If you think Firefox is a decent Mac application, GTFO.
If you're still looking for the "maximize" button, GTFO.
If the name "Clarus" means nothing to you, GTFO.

Bandwagon jumpers are not welcome among real [imageshack.us] Mac [imageshack.us] users [imageshack.us] . Keep your filthy, beige [imageshack.us] PC fingers to yourself.

Re:ATTN: SWITCHEURS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19067211)

Go fuck yourself, troll.

Mac OS X: An OS named after pussies used predominately by men who love cock.

Keep your homo OS to yourself, faggot.

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (2, Funny)

david.given (6740) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066899)

You must be one of the good sysadmins. The bad sysadmins have just been yanking the cables out of the back of the routers.

Was that incompetent-bad, or evil-bad?

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (2, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067007)

You must be one of the good sysadmins. The bad sysadmins have just been yanking the cables out of the back of the routers.
Thank god I'm lucky and I have a good sysadm
NO ROUTE TO HOST

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19067579)

You must be one of the good sysadmins. The bad sysadmins have just been yanking the cables out of the back of the routers.


No, they use the appropriate variant of this [fiftythree.org] .

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (1)

trb (8509) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069413)

You must be one of the good sysadmins. The bad sysadmins have just been yanking the cables out of the back of the routers.

The good sysadmins release the cables using the clips. The bad sysadmins use tin snips.

Re:Are you trying to get us in trouble? (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067735)

Are we that bad? Yes.

And I should know, because I am one :)

What was your username again? <clickety-click>

Woz is JOKING, you guys. (5, Informative)

Kent Brewster (324037) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066285)

From woz.org:

"If my son wants to be a pimp when he grows up, that's fine with me. I hope he's a good one and enjoys it and doesn't get caught. I'll support him in this. But if he wants to be a network administrator, he's out of the house and not part of my family. I tell this joke a lot. Once, a teacher told me that she tells the same one but for a 'teacher'."

Re:Woz is JOKING, you guys. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19066329)

Except that it's practically impossible for anything that guy says to be funny. What a douche.

Re:Woz is JOKING, you guys. (2, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067355)

Except that it's practically impossible for anything that guy says to be funny.

That's not entirely untrue, but he's also the kindest-hearted guy on the planet and would never say anything genuinely nasty about anyone, not even sysadmins. Not even the sysadmins who tell you that Lotus Notes is fantastic, "it's just a terrible e-mail client".

Re:Woz is JOKING, you guys. (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067541)

Yeah, I got my back all up and was ready to write a diatribe (I did RTFA first, however) and found out that this story is a simple case of a lack of reading comprehension. Every time something like this happens, it makes me sad. Especially on a geek news site, where probably a lot of the people have dabbled in programming - they'll be as careful as they need to be to get their code to validate, but when it comes to understanding a natural language, they won't even put in the effort. Then we end up with crap like this. Half the time I'm explaining something to someone, it seems like they just don't get it. (the other half of the time they're raising on-topic objections) :) Maybe I need to dial back my vocabulary for the average person, but I think there's something about logic missing there too.

Re:Woz is JOKING, you guys. (1)

try_anything (880404) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067743)

Hey, this is the internet, where every utterance is Sincere, Sarcasm, or Troll, and everyone defends their position to the bitter end. That requires a little dumbing down of the writing, but isn't it worth it to be able to communicate with a bunch of teenagers?

Re:Woz is JOKING, you guys. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19068247)

Yeah. Cause every time someone insults sysadminery, God stomps the life out of a kitten.

MEEEEOOOOOOW!

Boutin has a good idea.... (5, Insightful)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066315)

....when he suggests "Treat everything he does as a favor. ". Actually, that's not a bad life strategy - when the waitress refills your coffee right away, treat it as if she didn't really have to - because, really, she didn't! She could have just ignored your empty cup, or waited a few minutes, or whatever.

Same with a sysadmin. When he adds a rewrite rule (done! [thenewsroom.com] ) 20 seconds after you ask for it, act appreciative and say thanks, even though that's his job. Because he could have put it off until tomorrow and probably would have reasonable excuses for doing so. (Incidentally, I hosed up this rewrite rule the first time by leaving off the trailing $. Doh!)

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (5, Funny)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066479)

Thanks for this enlightening post. You could have not done it, and I'd not have replied and wasted more of my day. But it was a favour to the entire Slashdot community. Cheers!

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066717)

Well...

As a matter of fact there is a point here.

In the coffee shop analogy you could have ordered a new coffee and got it right away. In the real world you could have gone out, outsourced your IT and payed the outsourcing contractor to do the same job on a per-item basis.

Really - it is your choice. In a non-outsourced environment the sysadmin time is usually doublebooked and person is overworked to the point of total stupor. In many cases it takes some understanding and appreciation to get your job done right here, right now ahead of the queue. The alternative is you pay per item done.

As I said - your choice. Organisations especially as they grow bigger prefer the predictability of per-item work. What do you preferer as an individual is entirely up to you.

Disclaimer - after 12 years of sysadminning (sometimes more, sometimes less) I no longer do sysadmin work as a primary day job. And I no longer do any work that involves end users. So my opinion may be a bit biased.

[ot] confused: (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067081)

I don't think your post ended up where it should have. That or you should have explained yourself better. Thanks for the kind favour of replying to my (admittedly cheap) joke!

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066533)

No kidding. A little common courtesy and politeness goes a long way. If someone is polite and friendly with me when I help them, I'll put forth an extra effort, and I will remember their attitude when they ask for help again in the future. And it also works both ways. If I take a relaxed, polite, and understanding attitude towards someone who's helping me, I generally get better results. And even beyond that, I just find that being nice is much more pleasant for myself than being angry or impatient.

Chances are that even if you like your job, from time to time you get tired, or stressed out, or just generally annoyed. You don't always know exactly what you're doing, things take longer than you expected, sometimes the tasks just pile up faster than you can take care of them. Why someone would expect that anyone else's job is any easier or more fun is beyond me.

All that being said, some people are just plain dicks, and all the politeness in the world won't change them. I don't know how to make it easier to deal with that, other than to take some solace in the fact that people like that usually are unhappy.

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (4, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068493)

I think it's *always* a good idea to thank people for their efforts - granted we all get paid to "do a job" but we're not cogs - we're people. Knowing that someone appreciates what you've done is an incentive to do these things because you want to, not because you have to.

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (4, Insightful)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069585)

Yeah my boss keeps calling us resources. I quite frequently remind him I am not a resource like a server, or a software provider, I am a human being.

Now when's Sysadmin Day??

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (3, Insightful)

dctoastman (995251) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068741)

Yeah, that's why I always get good service at places I frequent even though I'm a moderate tipper.
Mainly because if the wait-staff looks at my table, I say thanks. I win through being the lowest maintenance patron in the joint.

It's a zen thing. Get great service by not wanting it.

Re:Boutin has a good idea.... (2, Funny)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069481)

Yes thank you for your informative post. I hope you continue to post on Slashdot even though you don't have to. ;)

.. but.. I -AM- the SysAdmin! (2, Interesting)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066355)

Can I really be trusted to tell you how good or bad I am?

Frankly, I've always loved the name SysOp.. it just sounds better.. even though it's not an accurate title anymore. .. which begs the quesion.. do we really have SysOps anymore?

This is the song that never ends... (2, Interesting)

avronius (689343) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066827)

We will have SysOps as long as we have people that don't wish to know anything about the mainframe / mini computer / etc. . Their titles may change somewhat, but ultimately the role will remain.

Need that report, but don't know how to login to the mainframe? Call an operator.
Need this report to print in front of the 30 jobs in the queue? Call an operator.
Need to cancel a scheduled batch process? Call an operator.

Alternatively, we could just add those tasks onto the shoulders of the sysadmin... it's not like they don't have free cycles ;)

Once, we were narrow of scope with a deep understanding of the subject matter. Now, we are a mile wide and an inch deep. Less focus, more distractions... ooh - something shiny...

Re:.. but.. I -AM- the SysAdmin! (1)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067251)

We have an operations crew. Not sure what they do most of the time, but they're there.

This is the operations crew (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19068403)

We're watching you and we also happen to know that a 3 phase 415V busbar runs dreadfully close to the RJ11 cable which terminates at your office desk telephone. I also recall this cable being reported as damaged (stripped bare by *accidental* friction). However the repair job is in our very long backlog queue at the moment, just after "Halon release trigger malfunctioning in Lockejaw's office".

Please call us if you have any further queries on what we do down here in the basement.

Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional to (5, Informative)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066361)

Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional to the number of rules they have to work under.

The more red tape an admin has the worse the actual results they will provide

When you take a good sys admin, tell them what you want, give them a sensible budget and ask them to delvier it you will frequently get a great system.

When management try to micro manage, heap them with rules, specify particular components because they read an artical that described it as good or the vendor took them out to lunch you will get problems - lots of them.

Right now I work in a very large bank and some days I think the admins could not find their rear end with both hands and a man page - I've never met them persoanlly so no idea what they are actually like. From otehr friends I have working in banking I know how much red tape they have to work under and I suspect half of the problems the user end sees (bear in mind I'm an ex admin myself and now developer) are caused by the red tape, not by the admin.

Virtual break glass on the root password? 2 weeks aproval before changing anything, even if its trivial? These are the kind of things that can drive an admin insane.

Last company I worked for was a start up - a great place to work for a short period, the admin their was very competant on solaris, windows and linux, had a great system implemented. It didn't start going downhill til a new CEO came in that started to micromanage him (and everyone else). Thats why I got out, same for a few others, the sys admin is leaving when he can find something else he wants to do. Still even with all the hassel he had I still got great results from him, mainly because I respected his limitations, didn't break things, knew what I was doing and helped him out when he needed it. Sales staff on the other hand? With them if it wasn't explicitly on his supported list he;d tell them to take a running jump - because of all the hassel they caused breaking things (the same way repeatedly), ignoring instructions, using unsupported devices or software and then wanting it fixed - and they wondered why he didn't want to help them?

Sys admins are human like the rest of us - overly managed they are stiffled, pissed off they are unhelpful - what else would you expect?

Re:Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional (4, Interesting)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067017)

I strongly agree with everything you're saying. One of the 20 unofficial roles I have at a large bank is Unix System Administrator. I really only spend ~100 hours/year doing system administration, and that's only to deal with something breaking. We have enough work for a full time sysadmin, but we have management who aim to consistently do less than the minimum. I believe the fundamental problem of system administration in any business environment is that you never see the benefit of good results. You only see costs of failures and people running around putting out fires all of the time. A good system administrator tends to work himself out of a justification for a job because there's no compelling business reason to keep employing someone expensive whose benefits to the organization are invisible. Coming in on the weekend to replace hardware, fixing things that break before people notice they are down and recovering files for people who will never admit that they deleted something important are all common sysadmin tasks that are rarely acknowledged.

Micromanagement and imaginary, perceived cost savings create unsustainable environments. Here in a non-technology group of a large bank, we've got a handful of Sun servers attached to an EMC. There are numerous persistent memory errors on the Sun's that could be fixed with a service call and a small scheduled downtime. Well, in a normal environment that is all it takes. However, we don't currently have a maintenance contract. We did have a service contract years ago when the problems started, but maintaining systems is an anti-goal for management - apparently there is no profit in keeping things running. The EMC has been performing well, with the occaisional disk failure that is completely invisible thanks to RAID and automatic call home to get a replacement disk sent out. That's been our key saving grace since we don't backup anything(including production servers).

Unfortunately, this kind of short sighted, unprofessional approach to IT is common in business driven organizations. When everything comes crashing down, as it always will given sufficient time, someone will look at what happened and try to prevent it from happening again. This is the kind of sabatage through mismanagement that leads to the creation of company policies that make it hard for anyone to do their job. Our company has policies that require that system, network, security and database administrators all be separate people. The developers have to be separate as well and can't have access to production systems. There's some very good reasons for all of these policies, but business people can't resist the temptation of hiring one person to do all of these jobs. After all, who better to get things working and fix problems than a developer with root access to everything. It sure cuts down on time wasted in getting authorizations and having meetings.

Re:Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067397)

No backups? No maintenance contract? In a BANK?

Sounds like time to leave, before the shit hits the fan & guess who gets the blame...the 'unofficial' sysadmin.

Hope you've CYA with lots of memos, friend...

Re:Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068255)

Banks, like all other companies, are filled with large numbers of people who do things that are totally useless. For example, a marketing organization doing their own IT isn't going to lose customers' money. The worst thing that could happen here is that we would fail to produce lists of prospective new customers who need to be sent junk mail or be hounded by telemarketers. Personally, I think those kinds of catastrophic system failures would be a net benefit to the human race, but I'm biased against marketing slime. =)

CYA memos are what everyone suggests, but they seem like a tactic for those who have already chosen to fail. Is the idea that you could pull them out in court and hope some jury believes them? They sure wouldn't have any bearing on finding a new job. All they say to a prospective employer is that you CYA first and serve the company second. Realistically, what can you do with CYA memos? Go above your management and say "see, I tried to CYA, please don't fire me"? That might work if you happen to work in a company where the corruption doesn't go all the way to the top. How many CEO's do you think got in their position without having some degree of moral flexibility?

Perhaps I'm a pessimist and there are more honest people with a strong sense of integrity in senior management in most companies than all of my experience would suggest. However, I think a better bet would be to have dozens of witnesses to the numerous times I've warned our Director, VP and SVP of the extremely high risks we're taking. I'm confident that our SVP is savvy enough to lie under oath and sound credible. Our director would tell the same story, but doesn't seem very credible even when telling the truth. The administrative assistants, project managers, developers and many others who have come and gone are probably less inclined to face severe consequences for perjury if they were asked to testify if they were aware of my numerous cautions against these blatant violations of company policy.

Sure, I could be the scapegoat someday, but isn't that true of everyone? One thing I can be sure of is that this organization would not want to have me testify in open court about how they work. =)

Been there, done that. Dammit! (4, Insightful)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069321)

I believe the fundamental problem of system administration in any business environment is that you never see the benefit of good results. You only see costs of failures and people running around putting out fires all of the time. A good system administrator tends to work himself out of a justification for a job because there's no compelling business reason to keep employing someone expensive whose benefits to the organization are invisible.

You said it. I was one of two Unix SAs supporting a few dozen servers for which several hundred users depended for their jobs. If something went wrong, they called and, just like magic, things were fixed. They loved us and they loved the application. The worst thing that could happen would be a server death and when that happened, we'd call up the manageer of the affected group, ask them to have their people save their work locally and sit tight. Out of the closet would come a pre-configured replacement server. We'd plug it in, restore data from one of our three redundant back-up systems, and have those users up and running again in two hours, max.

I loved the work. Absolutely loved it. Because this was a government job with generous paid leave when one of us would be gone, having two of us meant there was always coverage and no downtime. Given that our users brought in 10s of millions of dollars a month, we were a paltry and perfectly justifiable expense.

Our problem was that nothing ever went wrong. Our big 'ol rack of servers hummed along with no drama and whenever the boss dropped by, he'd likely see us plodding through something routine like adding a user or checking system capacity reports. Every few days, we'd get bored and actually walk around the cube farm of the users, stick in our heads, and ask if everything was ok, can we do anything to make things work better? Our users loved us; our bosses didn't even seem to know what to write on our evaluations.

The Windows servers on the other side of the datacenter? Holy Cow, did those guys have the drama! Things were crashing all the time (We're back in the early NT days, mind you.) Whole populations of users suffered critical amounts of downtime. The admins put everything back together, of course, and were lauded as heroes because they had fixed the big, bad problems that had killed so many people's productivity for so long. They were HIGHLY visible to management. They got awards for fixing things. They were heroes.

Us Unix admins were those two people who sat over in the corner and never seemed to actually, visibly do anything.

You can see where this is leading, right? The Windows server side and the Windows front-line support side needed warm bodies, so I got thrown off Unix and into a GUI world I neither wanted nor understood. (Don't get me wrong, I've done the Windows work for years and I love helping people, but I'm not in love with the OS I now use and support.) Later, the other SA was tossed and our servers virtualized on mainframes. The number of SAs was cut to the bone and beyond. Virtualization was a nice concept and it works fine, but getting something fixed when it breaks is now a major red tape experience for our poor (former) users.

Fires to put out mean that firemen get chances to become heroes. Safety engineers who inspect your business and show you how clean the grease traps so nothing actually catches on fire are just needless expenses to be cut as soon as possible.

The moral is: Be a fireman. I figure they get more women, anyway.

Re:Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067197)

"Right now I work in a very large bank and some days I think the admins could not find their rear end with both hands and a man page - I've never met them persoanlly so no idea what they are actually like. From otehr friends I have working in banking I know how much red tape they have to work under and I suspect half of the problems the user end sees (bear in mind I'm an ex admin myself and now developer) are caused by the red tape, not by the admin.


I work in a banking environment with less than the usual red tape (for a banking environment) and most sysadmins are still less than impressive.

As i see it, it's a problem with banks (who see IT as a cost center rather than an essencial part of empowering their business) and not red tape.

The truth is, as companies grow, checks and controls are added for a reason. Consider the scenario where Group A responsible for system 1 (say, Accounting) asks the sysadmins for a seemingly small change to the configuration on a server machine which in turn breaks the systems of Groups C and D (say, responsible for the Sales and the Dispatching systems) resulting in a down time of several hours and a month's worth man-hours wasted.

Checks and controls (say, a change approval system) are added preciselly to avoid this kind of scenario: beyond a certain level of complexity, some level of check and controls is required to avoid that everybody is constantly tripping in everybody else's toes.

Red tape (read, unnecessary bureaucracy) is born when bureaucracies gain a live of their own and rules are created for purposes such as "showing work done" or "creating and fencing a new area of responsability". Another way how red tape is born is when the reason for a rule ceases to exist but the rule is not remove.

In my experience, banks are not especially more prone to red tape than other big companies - mostly it boils down to:
- The quality of high-level and mid-level management. Good managers (like good programmers) aim for lean and mean and low clutter.
- How old the company is. Old companies, if they don't go through periodic process reinvention phases, tend to accumulate old rules which have long since become worthless.
- The level of competitiviness and the size of the profit margins on the business area/location where a company operates. Companies in highly competitive markets and/or having tight margins have a lot more incentive to "trim fat" than companies in stable markets with high barriers to entry.

Re:Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional (4, Interesting)

mmdog (34909) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067229)

The first IT job I took after getting out of the army was answering phones on a help desk for a retail company. We had to support about 1,500 users.

Not long before I started that job, the company had hired a new "Director of End User Technology" and this guy was sharp. His primary goal at the time was to straighten out the cobbled together mess of a network that had haphazardly grown department by department. The place was a real mess and the network ran like mud.

Over a period of about four years, we standardized our PCs and laptops, physically consolidated the servers that were spread all over the HQ building, corrected the messed up cabling, centralized administration, built a training room and implemented a number of classes, etc. It was a truly exciting and fun place to work and virtually everyone who I started out with on the help desk eventually learned, got certifications and moved into administration and/or engineering. When I had started there we had a real mom & pop shop type feel and very little oversight. All we had to go on were some clearly defined goals and a directive to "get things fixed."

We consistently accomplished our goals. Within the first couple years we had fixed the network and made it into something useful. The consequence was more use by upper management and as you might expect, more management from upper management. Every time we met another goal, the more visibility we received. The more visibility we received, the more layers of management they installed above us. Every layer of management installed made it harder and harder to actually get anything done, basically because each new layer of management knew less about IT but more about "managing.".

I guess mostly I'm just whining here, but eventually most of us who had built the network quit. They 'managed' us right out the door.

Re:Quality of sys admin is inversely proportional (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19069753)

When you take a good sys admin, tell them what you want, give them a sensible budget and ask them to delvier it you will frequently get a great system.
When management try to micro manage, heap them with rules, specify particular components because they read an artical that described it as good or the vendor took them out to lunch you will get problems - lots of them.
Rephrased: When the system administrators do the system administration, things turn out well, and when managers do the system administration, things turn out poorly. Sounds like it should be obvious, but apparently it's not.

Everybody is overworked and underpaid (4, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066411)

Don't cry me a river about that...with the exception of upper echelons of management, I'd say most people do more for the company than they get back as a reward for their work.

I've been on both sides of the fence, I've seen users that put every piece of software they can find on their machine, then come calling when they break. I've been blamed for doing something to break a printer, about two weeks after I was there to swap a monitor.

On the flip side, I've worked in places with a tiny server share to store important data and an IT staff that doesn't really guarantee it'll be backed up. So we ended up having to work around the IT staff in a lot of things. It was easier to cobble together something that we can guarantee is backed up AND that has enough space for us than to go through the reams of paperwork to get more space and justify some sort of improved SLA.

In fairness to the IT folks though, a lot of the people working IT are just trying to feel their way through the system that was put in place before they started, and they think it's just as stupid as the end users. But they lack the power to change it, and their bosses don't want to.

Re:Everybody is overworked and underpaid (1)

NeoPaladin394 (1044484) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067051)

I find myself partially agreeing and partially not. You're right in that it's pretty darn hard to find jobs out there that aren't stressful and underpaid (the ones that aren't are being clung to, I'm sure), but a sys-admin for a large entity definitely has his or her hands full.

That being said, if you're too busy, do the paperwork to hire more people.

I have had to deal with two sysadmins in my lifetime. The one at my alma mater was a freaking pain in the @#$ to deal with on my student worker job. I was supposed to maintain computers in one of the buildings, and having to deal with this guy was pulling teeth. There was one situation where we had a hardware lock in place for the hard drives of one lab that would erase all changes to the disk on reboot. Of course, this didn't bode well without SP1 or 2 being in place or updated virus definitions, so these machines would boot, become infected like crazy, and be rebooted when they couldn't be operated anymore. Fun time for me to manage, I can assure you.

So a fellow worker and I started hunting down the key that would "unlock" this hardware device. Turns out that no one "knew" where it was. Read: the ones in the sysadmin office that did know simply felt we didn't deserve the knowledge. Meanwhile, a class had to get in there in an hour. So what did we do? We unhooked that damn thing and updated the computers, and meanwhile word got around to the sysadmin that someone was looking for his preeecious. Our reward? Being yelled at by this skinny little wimp to "HOOK THEM BACK UP!!" mid update. Not a request, not an upset "don't do that," but a literal yell. He was all proud of his'self, and that wasn't the last or only time he raised his voice to us serfs. Don't get me started on all the evil glares I had to deal with simply to get a database created for my then-boss, only a tenured professor. You would think our little two table dbase used once a semester would have broken the system.

I'm under a sysadmin currently that is the coolest guy in the world. He's quick to start kicking troubleshooting arse and AFAIK really enjoys doing it. I've seen him pull miracles out of orifices I didn't know existed, all the while joking around with whoever he's with. He even enjoyed the rubber snake we put in one machine we mailed him to troubleshoot. I think the term used in the office that day was, "you guys are full of sh@#."

So I guess I'm 50/50 thus far.

Re:Everybody is overworked and underpaid (4, Interesting)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067347)

But they lack the power to change it, and their bosses don't want to.

That brings to mind my first rule of systems administration: Give me the authority and the resources to prevent the problem and if it breaks anyway I'll work 20 hour days to fix it. Get in my way and stop me from preventing the problem and I'm headed home at 5:00 whether you're in a frothing panic or not.

Most places I've worked liked the display of initiative and steped back to let me do my thing. They liked the results too: 20 hour days were very very rare.

Re:Everybody is overworked and underpaid (1)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067369)

most people do more for the company than they get back as a reward for their work.

That's kind of the point of hiring someone. If you get $25,000 benefit from a person and pay them $30,000, you'd be better off to fire them. If you get $25,000 in benefit, you need to pay them less than $25,000 to justify the hire. Conversely, the employee could probably earn say $15,000 working alone, so if they can get $20,000 for doing $25,000 in work, it's worth it to them to get hired.

So you've got the benefit to the company (x) and the amount of money the employee could make elsewhere (y), and as long as x is greater than y, you can figure out a salary in between.

Of course a lot more factors into it. Like risk (you are probably safer with a salaried job than going indie) and also the difficulty of figuring out an employee's contribution to firm revenue (easy for front end and sales, harder for back end like sys admins).

But the general idea is simple: you are supposed to earn more money for the company than you get paid, otherwise they would be stupid to keep you in their roster.

Lack of experience (2, Insightful)

packetmon (977047) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066447)

I think the new "fleet" (if I could call them that) of sysadmins are too inexperienced and are often thrown into a wild west of "our infrastructure works like this!... With an infrastructure that many times hasn't been planned out too well, is highly misconfigured, is a nightmare in progress. Often those sysadmins will have to adjust to someone else's tailored system and will fail miserably... I've seen it for years on end, horribly designed systems with no documentation, horribly managed systems butchered to perform a task. No two systems will be alike and I believe its this same scenario which makes or breaks an admin... However with the newer sysadmins coming around, and I've seen plenty in the past 3-4 years, they're inexperienced... Running Linux @ home or your own personal webserver does not make you a bonafide sysadmin. At least not in my little space... I know admins who strictly know perl... Good for you. Now go fix this legacy system which by the way doesn't have perl on it, and you're not allowed to install perl... Would you know how to do so in say awk and sed? To me a sysadmin knows things from the core up, not from a yum install *something*, apt-get *make-me-look-nice*, or whatever other command. Just my two centavos

Re:Lack of experience (5, Insightful)

abaddononion (1004472) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066733)

I dont disagree with your statement here, necessarily, but it does sound to me like an issue of pointing out a problem, without really offering any notions for improvement. You say that new sysadmins are too "inexperienced" and dont necessarily know enough about Legacy systems. Well... how would they? I mean, if you've worked on any mainframe systems, you'll know that knowing one set of commands doesnt do you ANY good on the very next mainframe you might be forced to work on. And how exactly does one become an "experienced" sysadmin? Go to sysadmin school? Really? Sign me up!

It seems to me that things are the way they are because... well, they have to be. When an old sysadmin leaves, you're not going to be able to replace him with someone who knows everything about your current infrastructure, and happens to have niche knowledge of all of your various legacy machines. If such a person exist, chances are very high that they're currently still employed somewhere else, or are about to retire. Employees dont stay in circulation forever. Eventually mass amounts of experience starts falling out of the market, and has to be replaced with "noobs".

Im not saying huge companies should necessarily be hiring inexperienced sysadmins. But someone has to, or inexperienced sysadmins can NEVER become experienced sysadmins. Im fortunate, in that I was hired on as a sysadmin at a University, during a complete infrastructure rebuild. So while Ive been forced to learn a passing familiarity with the mainframe systems, it's mostly been to help usher them out entirely. And Ive been, for the most part, at liberty to build the new infrastructure around her to my own personal standards and benefits, meaning Ive got a pretty good grip on things. Gradually, I run into problems that I cant solve with a simple script, so Ive been forced to learn things like sed and awk, as you mentioned, more and more over time. And even those, btw, arent a universal solution, especially if old IBM-era mainframes are involved.

Even if what you're saying is the problem, if sysadmins with "not enough" experience for a particular job are being thrown into them... there's no real solution for that. I mean, if you draw up a requirement for all of the systems you want a sysadmin to know, chances are NOT good that you're going to find someone who A. Meets all the requirements, including experience with all of your legacy systems at your company B. Lives nearby or is willing to relocate to where you are and C. Is looking for a salary exactly where you're offering it.

Re:Lack of experience (4, Interesting)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067665)

The solution is so painfully obvious that no one will ever implement it.

Business people need to look at more than one little line item on a budget. There are a lot of jobs that pay $50-80k for a sysadmin. The vast majority of day to day things can be done by one of these people. When they get stumped on legacy stuff or something really weird, they end up spending a lot of time spinning their wheels and have a hard time getting the problem solved.

The other option is to hire the $150k sysadmin who has tons of experience and makes the hard problems look easy. These are the kinds of people who you can give 3 months to solve a problem, or you can hire a team of 5 people to work for 20 years on the same problem. If you put it in that perspective, the money is well spent.

Smart business people look at numbers and know that $150k is more than $50k, and also know that if they yell loud enough about the $100k they saved, some of it will end up in their bonus.

The thing that seems obvious to me is that you hire a bunch of the cheaper people who can do all of the normal day to day stuff, and you also hire a guru who gets all of the impossible tasks. The less experienced guys learn from the guru and the guru doesn't spend 99% of his time doing tasks that would be better suited to a college student or a shell script.

Of course, companies don't like this idea because HR people don't want to believe that one person can be worth several times as much as another person who is referred to with the same type of job title. In HR there are no gurus, so the concept is completely foreign. After all, if someone was inclined to be a guru in any field, how would they end up in HR? =)

Re:Lack of experience - or Lack of understanding? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19068937)

I work as a System Support Engineer. My job is to sit behind a phone and computer, visually try to hold multiple plant or company infastructures in my mind with out ever viewing anything and step through Sys-Admins, DBAs, Engineers, and others through finding their root problem and providing a solution.

I've noticed a signficant break in those born after 1981 in terms of 'how' people understand computers. Not so co-incidently, those born after 1981 are also called Gen-Y or Millinials.

I have noticed that the following generations really don't understand computers, electronics, or any of the like. They know how to use them, they might learn some rules to follow. But to them, all this technology is simply like the microwave. I've had 'techs' try to 'clarify' with me that you know when your moving a file you can see the paper moving over from on folder to the other as well as all other sorts of rediculus ways of understanding the device they are working on.

How to these people can you possibly explain to them the source of the problem is a bad router that is tossing out a few bad packets once and a while at plant A, while their software is giving them a garbled message at plant B. Let alone stepping through the root problem.

These people can multitask like no other, text message 20 people 20 different messages at once; however, get them to think? That's another story. It's not about inexperience completely, it's about not studying and not understanding. I rather take the guy who has never heard of Solaris, and put them incharge of a Solaris machine who really understands computers then a person who has worked with Solaris for a year or two who ultimately doesn't understand the machine they are using.

Re:Lack of experience (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19066909)

Not that I don't generally agree with your post but I'm picturing you with the beard and suspenders in the Dilbert Computer Holy Wars comic [mweissmann.de] Wally - Hold it right there, buddy. Wally - That scruffy beard....those suspenders...that smug expression... Wally - You're one of those condescending UNIX computer users UNIX guy - Here's a nickel kid. Get yourself a better computer. As a former UNIX, VAX, and Windows administrator I agree that what passes for an administrator today wouldn't have been able to do much 10 years ago.

Jim

home networks (2, Insightful)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067959)

I agree that 99% of the "I'm a sysadmin 'cause I run linux at home" crowd have gross delusions of competency.

But that final 1%....

The bottom line is somebody with a bit of skill and motivation can learn things at home that they could never dream of at work, precisely because nobody gives a damn if the network is down for a week. I would be laughed out of the office if I suggested a pilot project on the main network with Kerberos authentication and applications, or switching apps to use LDAP authentication, or running a VPN on the internal network as a precaution against internal compromise. But I've done all of them at home and learned a lot of the pros and cons. It's not the same as anyone who's used these tools at work, but there are a lot of well-experienced sysadmins with even less experience out there. And even the work-seasoned sysadmins might have only used one or two tools instead of trying every server supported by their distro.

Re:home networks (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069169)

I had the perfect job once. I was beholden to no one about the network (dev network, specifically to isolate a networking lab from the production network). I was responsible for one main system (multihomed filer) and a dhcp server. while I was there I took the time to learn all sorts of good stuff, and if the network went down from a broadcast storm so what?
then we got bought out and management sucked the life from me, so I moved.
-nB

They often can be (1, Flamebait)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066451)

I've worked with many a sys admin who would have been laid off if they were a developer displaying that level of lack of knowledge in their field. In fact, many of the ones I've worked with have needed build guides that are so detailed that the average person off the street could take the same instructions and build up a system. I've known many bad developers, but the difference is that you could put them in front of a compiler with an assignment and they'd figure it out one way or another. It might not be great, but they'd get it done. Can't say the same thing for the admins; often as helpless as little kids when you put them in unfamiliar territory.

And yes, there are good admins out there. The problem is that admins are pulled in from all walks of life and often have little formal or informal education.

Re:They often can be (2, Insightful)

berashith (222128) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067619)

this is often the beginning of the bad attitude seen coming from admins. A developer who has the option of blaming the admin for the failure ( while just finding a way to get it done ) can be endlessly frustrating. Obviously the problem with the app is a problem with the server, as the app is running on the server. This will lead to admins asking for the detailed instructions as an act of self preservation. If your admins are asking for these specific details on how you want your system and environment, and requesting a document for these details, the admin has likely been burned and wants to have something to point to when the developer needs a scapegoat at the deadline.

And dealing with people is "unfamiliar territory" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19067623)

They treat every person like the worst illiterate wanker who ever yelled at them. Try a little customization, guys. I'm not the one who yelled at you for blocking porn and sent an email to the CEO over a half-hour planned email outage at 2am. That was a different guy, so don't treat me like scum, even if my request isn't technically sound. You don't know my job, and I don't have to know yours. At least I'm asking politely whether it's possible, not threatening to get you fired if you don't do it.

My SysAdmin is my Boss (5, Funny)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066575)

And he is the best Boss ever. He even reads /., which should demonstrate how cool he is. He certainly wouldn't do anything bad, like access my computer, log on to Slashdot, post an article telling the world how awesome he is, and then give me a warning to secure my computer (and change my /. password).

Re:My SysAdmin is my Boss (1)

coolGuyZak (844482) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067723)

Damn skippy he's awesome! He lets you waste time on /. instead of doing actual work!

*ducks*

Sys Admin frustration (4, Interesting)

pl1ght (836951) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066611)

I currently work as a Network Admin for a large retail company. I started with this company as a store clerk, then moved to the helpdesk, while i was in college. This helped me learn patience and how to be polite with everyone no matter how annoying, wrong, irate the "customer"/"employee" is. I look at some coworkers who have no clue how to handle talking to a customer or a user needing help and give them lip every chance they get. I understand the frustrations of having petty work assigned to you by a VP level person that interrupts your day and workflow. All the time i have important time constrained projects interrupted by those "important" people who have to have some blackberry/treo/etc problem fixed asap. I have to drop whatever important task I am on and concentrate soley on the happiness of this one person. Ultimately thats what it comes down to i have found. Although i get my work done and i am thorough on all mky projects, I am not known for that, I am known for always being the nice guy who helps out the Execs and their exec assistants, and honestly that puts me in better light than anything else. Sometimes the interruptions are extremely frustrating, but when the execs are happy, everyone is happy.

I hate dealing with Sys Admin (5, Interesting)

shaka999 (335100) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066679)

Its not that there bad people. Most of them are pretty nice if you talk to them over lunch. The problem is they are so constrained by what they can do that they are very frustrating to work with. I must say they also hate working with me for the most part.

The problem is that I'm somewhat tech savy. The sys admin don't like anybody trying new things. Their management likes it even less. Do one little thing or install one little app and if you have problems your on your own. Doesn't matter if your laptop explodes, they'll blame it on VMWARE or whatever you happen to be running.

It wasn't always like this. In days of old the Sys Admin were local and reported into the same groups they supported. As such they knew what we were working on and would help out. Management would support this because it often lead to increased productivity or reliability. But at some point a bean counter decided we needed a corporate IT organization.

Once you decouple the support from the groups they support you end up with apathy and endless rules. Also to get the groups to try anything new you have to weave your way through a bureaucracy. You also end up with smaller and smaller IT groups because their contributions to the end product become harder and harder to trace. If a business unit needs to cut costs the first thing they look at is horizontal organizations outside their own structure. Its a lot easier to cut an outside IT guy than a developer working on a product.

Things look to be taking a turn for the worse. Some of our IT is now going to be out sourced. To me this is equivalent to saying I now fully support myself. I can just imagine trying to convince some contracted person in India that I really do need to have VMPlayer installed on my Windows laptop....

Re:I hate dealing with Sys Admin (4, Insightful)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066989)

This is spot on. I am that sysadmin you talk about. i work for a large software company - however, I was hired specifically to support one smaller office, as the IT group couldn't (or wouldn't) provide adequate support. Things were great for a while - I learned the quirks of this particular office, setup new systems and generally made the work environment better for those that work out of this office.

Thats when a new manager, and IT overlords stepped in. Now I have to do everything 'by the book', even when 'the book' doesn't mesh with what we are doing here at this satellites office. My life is now a hell of process, procedure, and meetings - and very little actual work is getting done.

What does this lead to? Developers going 'out of band' to get stuff done - purchasing hardware on credit cards, not using authorized apps, copying large files around the WAN when stuff should be local, etc. All because they can't get a slice of my time to help them with a correct solution.

Everyone here is frustrated - myself the most. I *want* to provide the best support I can, but I'm now hamstrung by process and management, whereas before (when the developers/local managers were happy) I wasn't.

I think most sysadmin jobs are going this route now, excepting the startups (and they will, as they grow). Sysadmins are a commodity now, they aren't viewed as adding value.

Re:I hate dealing with Sys Admin (3, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067425)

The problem is that I'm somewhat tech savy.

Yep, taht is the problem. That is right, you are the problem.

Do one little thing or install one little app and if you have problems your on your own.

This is generally because most places have rules against users installing apps on their own.

The problem is they are so constrained by what they can do that they are very frustrating to work with.

They are constrained by management and good administration. If you are frustrated that you can't do something, either you need to take it up with the people who set up the rules or you need to rethink what you are doing, because it is going against policy.

I can just imagine trying to convince some contracted person in India that I really do need to have VMPlayer installed on my Windows laptop.

It should not be hard if you do need it. You should be able to say "I can't do my job without it" and that should be that. If you can't do that, then you probably don't need it.

Re:I hate dealing with Sys Admin (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19068139)

But all I did was download an install this new screensaver, and now my email is acting funny. How could that be related?

Re:I hate dealing with Sys Admin (3, Insightful)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068435)

You've hit on a few of the key points in your post. However, let me address your complaint about sysadmins not liking people trying new things. In general, we admins LOVE new things! Take a look at all the gadgets around me or software installed on my workstations, and you'll see the truth in that.

However, there's also a supportability issue. If I have five users I'm responsible for, then I'll happily accept five different machines. If I have 30 users, then I don't want 30 different builds and application bundles. If I have 500 users (or even 100), then I cannot AFFORD to have variance between machines, if I'm expected to support them.

You want a program installed? If I'm going to install it, then I will have to make sure it won't interfere with the existing software, and then I have to keep track of the fact that your machine is different than anyone else's. If someone else wants a different program installed, same problem, squared. Alternatively, I can give you admin access to your workstation or laptop, but then I can't guarantee anything about that machine anymore, and can't support it.

The third alternative is to put in a formal request to have the software added to the official bundle, or at least put on an 'allowed/approved' list. That's the best solution, but also the most onerous, bureaucracy-laden, time-intensive one, as you well know.

Mostly, it's a matter of (a) scale, (b) supportability, and (c) accountability. If your system is strange and nonstandard then when it breaks it's easier to say, "it's " than explain the reasoning behind, "because you have installed, I can't help you."

I feel your pain, but there is some valid reason behind it.

Re:I hate dealing with Sys Admin (1)

Unique2 (325687) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069273)

"install one little app and if you have problems your on your own"

This is a pet hate of mine. Yes, it's one little app or card, but theres also 199 other little apps or cards that the other 199 users want supported. They are also all totally different and all absolute shit with drivers that keep crashing cause you bought it for next to nothing. All the while I've got my REAL job to do - you know - the one I'm paid for. I don't ask the sales guys to sell stuff on ebay for me, or accounts to balance my check book, why is it always ok to dump shit on IT?

Oh, and regardless of my little rant, I think I'm a good sysadmin, I honestly try to do the best I can for my colleagues given the finite money and time I have.

Is X really that bad? (3, Insightful)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066709)

Replace "X" with any profession, and the answer is the same: some are and some aren't. The professions with high barriers to entry (i.e. medicine) tend to root out some if not most of the incompetents or otherwise poorly qualified, but some will still slip through. The same is true of sysadmins. They obviously exist for reason -- maybe the article writer should ask, "What would a world without sysadmins look like?" For large organization, the answer is "chaos," and they would quickly re-implement the same positions now being mocked.

/. correlation ? (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066729)

A better question is: is there a correlation between good sysadmins and /. readers?

Re:/. correlation ? (2, Insightful)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069157)

Well, a good admin should have plenty of time to read /. because they have a smooth running system, with scripts set up to do repetative tasks, and are really only there to put out fires and work on ongoing projects.

Admin are only as bad as thier users (2, Insightful)

Marty200 (170963) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066781)

I used to be a sys admin for a medium sized company. Some people thought I was great, some people thought I was a jerk. If someone was nice to me and was willing to learn how to do the simple things them selves I was more than happy to help them. People who I had to show how to attach a file to an email seven times saw a less friendly side of me.

That being said, some admins are just jerks no matter how nice you are to them, and some users are unreasonable and demanding no matter how hard you work for them.

MG

Sysadmins are the greatest people ever... (5, Insightful)

Krinsath (1048838) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066817)

Pay no attention to the systems administrator part of my job title...it's just a standard honorific. >_>

Before I launch into this, it really seems like they define good and bad by their customer service skills, so that's what I'm addressing by "good" and "bad", not so much their technical knowledge.

In my experience, the problems with sysadmins tends to be that with the ones that lack the ability to understand the user. This is what people refer to as the "IT mindset" where the user is the enemy and is doing whatever they can to make IT's life more difficult. In some cases, this is very true. There ARE abusive users out there. However, most people simply want to do their job, and their job is NOT getting these machines to work right. Getting back to the "understanding the user" thing, I find a great many sysadmins have no empathy for how a user feels when their machine has gone down, and why would they? When has a sysadmin ever really felt the panic and/or frustration of having a machine crash and not having the first clue of how to fix it? We KNOW what we should do, and while we'll be annoyed at the extra work, we're (hopefully) never flailing around blindly...or if we are we're careful never to show signs of it. A user's machine goes down and they have no idea what to do. They panic, they worry, they don't think logically...they immediately run to the nearest person who they think can help them and oftentimes get the look of "Why should I?" or "Can't you see I'm busy right now?"

Again, that doesn't mean there aren't people who don't actively try to bypass what they SHOULD be doing to get the problem they caused looked at immediately because they think they're more important. However, I think the sysadmins that most people complain about are the ones who let the handful of lazy/abusive users jade their dealings with the ones who simply want to do their job and go home.

However, I find that the "bad" sysadmins are about as common as the truly abusive users. They stand out in your memory so it seems like there's a lot of them, but they're actually far from the rule. YMMV, of course. After all, in the course of a day three or four people might stop to hold open a door for you, but the one you remember at the end of the day is the idiot that cut you off on the highway. Human memory is a funny thing...

Re:Sysadmins are the greatest people ever... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19066931)

heh

I don't see the user as the enemy, I see idiot peers in my field as the enemy.

I Rate Him Highly! (1)

Eagleartoo (849045) | more than 6 years ago | (#19066857)

I am my own sysadmin. I LOVE my sysadmin! It's those pitiful other people in the office that wouldn't know firewire from usb. They're the ones who really suck.

Re:I Rate Him Highly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19067779)

I am my own sysadmin. I LOVE my sysadmin! It's those pitiful other people in the office that wouldn't know firewire from usb. They're the ones who really suck.


*Clicketyclickety clack smack*

Quadruple disk quota and eight hours of overtime credit for you!

- root

Admins are not the pimps, they're the heels (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067035)

Admins are literally wedged between workers and management.

You, as an admin, get orders from management how they envision the network security to be. You know it doesn't work that way and will only create an obstacle for the people you're to protect, but you will do it anyway. Because the guy you knew from the day shift one day took one such memo and trotted upstairs to the brass.

He hasn't been seen since.

So you do what you're ordered, block non-corporate mail accounts, block porn sites, block ebay, block... everything. This is usually when one of the middle managers complains that he can't go online anymore, which turns out as him being unable to access ebay anymore which he needs for ... umm ... his quarter years report (yahu, sure), and if it isn't reactivated IMMEDIATELY, you're in deep dung.

It escalates up to the top brass, you get said pile of manure onto your head for not cooperating with middle management and you now have to work out a plan how to block ebay without blocking it. Sounds impossible? I know that. You go upstairs and tell the brass. Can I have your stuff?

Then you head down to the cafeteria for some coffee. Coffee good. Coffee lifeblood. My precious. But you forgot your fake moustache and the noseglasses, so people immediately recognize you and start asking what's wrong and why they can't access gmail and gmx anymore. You explain the brass note. Which causes them to tell you in no uncertain terms what a weenie you are, because they need mails from a contractor that the corporate top security firewall won't let pass because they are deemed insecure attachments and how the hell they're now supposed to work.

Need I go on?

My sysadmin is the greatest! (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067141)

I just had to make this joke even though I'm not an IT person and the only 'nix box I have is my personal desktop

I have the greatest sysadmin in the world!

$ su -l
Enter password:

#

Why do you ask?

Are SysAdmins that bad? Depends on who you ask. (4, Insightful)

Ynsats (922697) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067159)

Several others have already said that SysAdmins are only as good as the rules and management that constrains them. Then again, there is the personality issue.

I am a SysAdmin myself like many on Slashdot. However, I do SysAdmin work on two different levels. At my day job, I manage gigantic enterprise class data systems with clustered servers for everything from distributed processing to my Oracle 10g RAC cluster. However, I also do work on the side in my spare time for small businesses and friends in the area. I do everything from some simple web development to distributed networks for file and application sharing. I've been given compliments and complaints but the compliments far outweigh the complains.

What I have heard most and that I like to hear is that people like to deal with me. They like to have me answer thier help desk calls because they know it will get fixed correctly and as fast as humanly possible. I like having that reputation and professional respect. Because of that, I don't have to fight with a user or management when I say I need time to figure out an issue or stand up a system. Does that make me a good SysAdmin? I dunno. I think it makes me a good employee. Then again, I get the same compliments from my small business customers and friends who would rather call me for help with their DSL account or a piece of troublesome software than any help line.

Given that, I think that a SysAdmin is an employee just like everyone else. Because of that, we shouldn't be venerated above others even though we are an employee with a special job. A SysAdmin allows other employees to be productive. If the SysAdmin isn't doing the job they have to do, then the company as a whole suffers. I suppose this is where the 'root is god' can get out of hand. When an entire company's infrastructure depends on the work of a few people, that's a high stress deal. Sometimes it gets to people. Bottom line though, we are all employees and just like the loud guy at the water cooler that nobody wants to hang around with, if we aren't profession and approachable like other employees, we are hurting ourselves. SysAdmins have to be computer geniuses, we have to be business oriented, we have to be people people and we have to be avaialable and approachable. It is not an easy task, believe me, I know! However, we all need to have a certain degree of professionalism when dealing with our customer base (users). We SysAdmins are our own downfall. The poor perception by the slobbering masses of users is our own fault. We can change it. While we do understand that our companies would not survive without us, it is not our place to make it so painfully obvious. The users don't care how great we think we are or even how great we are. They just want thier problems fixed quickly so they can get back to being how great they are. If we can just appease that desire from the users, I think that's what would make a good SysAdmin.

sysadmins aren't the problem... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19067161)

...users and management are. Think of you computer/network/infrastructure like a car. If you screw it up, do something stupid or crash it, you have to pay for it. Be it with, money, time, being w/ out a car, etc. Your mechanic fixes it, and you have learned a valuable lesson about next time, you don't wait 25k miles before changing your oil.


If you screw up your computer, you have no backlash, no negative repercussions, nothing to teach you not to do that again. Being a sysadmin now, and a power user before, I have to say this is the problem. People screw up, this is fine, problems arise, we fix them, that is our job. But when Joe user or Bob in management keeps doing the same stupid things, over and over w/ no negative repercussions, and it's your fault, and you have to fix it, and you can't do anything to them to teach them a lesson why NOT to do stupid shit, you stop caring.


Sysadmins are under appreciated, and expected to work miracles, w/ foolish users, you get the perception of a "Bad sysadmin". Want to fix the problems? Make Joe user who hosed his system for the 4th time this week, downloading a buncha crap and clicking on every virus he gets, do his job w/ out his computer. his deadlines are the same, but on our side, every time you screw up from the same mistake we've warned you about, our time to fix is going to double.

just my $.02

Sysadmins aren't on slashdot (1)

tulcod (1056476) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067269)

afaik, sysadmins are bad, generally. Though, every sysadmin on this site who responds to me is NOT a bad sysadmin. sysadmins are the low-levelled idiots who couldn't pass onto a study or even serious education. And yes, they ARE stupid. There's about 5 of them on my school. I installed a different keyboard layout, and because they took all the rights to unset it, they blamed me for doing so and HAD TO INSTALL A NEW COPY OF WINDOWS. DUDE! A DIFFERENT KEYBOARD LAYOUT. * cough * configuration panel * cough * but... no, they disabled the configuration panel "because of security issues". dude... have you ever wondered how i switched the layout? there is no such security on windows, as long as the registry is wide open for writing. but they didn't really know how they actually set it all (i guess they hired a company), so they couldn't access the control panel (* cough * administrator passwords should be written down * cough *). hm? server down? well... just wait a week, so that your salary goes up, then hire a company to fix it. "what's a server anyway"... i nmapped the server (got router ip using ipconfig /a). appeared to be a Cent OS box. it also ran an empty apache server. i asked a sysadmin what the apache did over there: "How do you know it's a decent OS?" (no typos) the guys in my school are plain idiots. they might know a little bit about what a motherboard is, or what the latest nvidia card is, but that's where it ends. oh, they also know how to order PC's at dell. the major amount of sysadmins are idiots, who are sysadmin because the suck even more at other jobs. the sysadmins reading this message are good. they are actually interested in PCs, which is a thing the sysadmins i know lack.

They are the same as everyone else... (1)

rbanzai (596355) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067509)

Of course they are not that bad. They are human beings, and like all human beings some will be good at their job and some won't. Some will be nice, some won't.

It's idiotic to classify them as some kind of vermin. We all have a job to do and how we do it is based on our individual traits, not the position.

Re:They are the same as everyone else... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19068843)

This is probably the only valuable statement in this thread, thanks to rbanzai for pointing it out.

There seems to be much hee-hawing about the job, and how much those in those positions are good/bad/undeserving/experienced/successfull/look good in a suit...

But then, who remembers why someone would pay a person to take on those tasks, to do that work.

Is it because..... maybe.... someone is trying to make money in their company, and they think they need a sys admin?

Nah, that can't be true, otherwise how can us sys admins enjoy the luxury of playing with new technology on the company dime for 80 hours a week and treat everyone, especially paying customers, as inferior? Well, it's only because we were so badly treated in the past we act this way.... how can we be blamed for something as business friendly as Retaliatory Management?

And the company is SO big and SO inhuman, we are justified in giving the minimum effort, and viewing everything the company as a means to serve us, the sys admin's, not the actual paying customers. Whoever they are......

Maybe once we all figure out that we are being paid, not because we are skilled, or experienced, or wear a smile, or took a pay cut, or need the ego boost, but because the company is trying to make money, then we many understand what we need to do to be a little bit better as an employee.
And part of that money goes to you. If you gain more skills, experience, learn to smile at the opportune times, forgoe the pay raise in exchange for other perks, or boost someone else's ego, then maybe you are actually trying to help the company. And maybe, that means more than what everyone else is has said about you, and could be trusted to do more for the company.
But then, I could be wrong...

Boutin's article. (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067615)

Boutin's article has five points:

Say hello. Even when you don't need something.
Don't question what he does all day
Fill out the stupid request form
Treat everything he does as a favor
Never forget he can read your email


What this boils down to is:

Treat him like a human being,
follow policy and procedure,
appreciate his work,
and don't talk about about him.


I guess people forget that SAs are people and employees too and that they work under constraints placed on them by upper management.

Proud to be BOfH ! (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067727)

Whiners! You expect me to do your work? I've got lots of my own dumped by mgmt.

IT is a service industry (3, Insightful)

stumblingmonkey (643474) | more than 6 years ago | (#19067865)

As a person who worked my way through school waiting tables and bartending, then dropping out in the *typical* SysAdmin fashion, I tend to liken my department's level of service to the level of service one would receive at a restaurant.

Heavily corporate restaurants make their customers sit through a whole song and dance about the restaurants offerings and their associated flair. Heavily corporate IT makes their customers (fellow employees or clients) wade through a song and dance about red tape and process.

Mom and Pop restaurants allow more freedom in day to day management of the customer experience, likewise startups do the same.

Greasy spoons with the head waitress who can run the floor and cook the food and do the dishes while balancing the books do it the head waitresses way...

You can draw the parallels anyway you like.

The real point is, as a SysAdmin, I try to keep in mind that me and my department are providing a service to our clients in whatever way, shape or form you want to define them. Without clients, while there may be considerably more time for Nethack and Slashdot posting, there would be no job.

Sysadmin Disease (== Control Freakery) (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068229)

An occupational hazard of being a system administrator is turning into a control freak. Or, alternatively, the occupation may tend to draw control freaks. In my experience, good admins have a basic attitude of "how can I solve your problem" or better yet "how can I make you happy in the long run". Bad admins, which seem to be the majority, have a basic (can I call it "Republican"?) stance of "if I can say no to you, I will", "if I haven't already decided that I'm providing it, you can't have it", and "if I don't know how to do it, it's impossible".

I've spent a number of years watching this on both sides. I seem to be relatively immune to this problem myself, but unfortunately I don't really want to be an admin. :-)

I think that probably the only real solution to this is counseling from above, together with a "three strikes and you're out" policy.

As a DBA and sys admin, I'd have to say... (4, Informative)

SadGeekHermit (1077125) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068259)

We are not "bad" at all. We are doing our jobs. What are our jobs? Our role is to keep our systems operational and secure.

Think of it in terms of roles.

Sys Admin: Protects and defends the infrastructure of your company. Prevents people from shooting themselves in the foot. Enforces good security policies. Identifies poorly performing software and forces its developers to improve it (or get shut down). Keeps your systems patched and ready. An iron fist in a velvet glove. An enigma wrapped in a mystery. A big, sexy man!

Programmer Type 1: Cooperative with sysadmin. Tries to write solid code. Doesn't break stuff. Often has a good rapport with sysadmin and finds, mysteriously, that his jobs get run on time, every time. Filled with the Tao.

Programmer Type 2: Bastard child of Peter Lorre and Marty Feldman (with the voice and the eyes). Doesn't care about correct practice, only what he can bang out in an hour. Takes ridiculous shortcuts, risks crashing servers and services. Source of all memory leaks. Tries to be clever and fails. Mortal enemy of all sysadmins and Type 1 programmers!

User: Whirling dervish of chaos in an otherwise orderly world. Between downloading P2P apps, questionable freeware, and trojan and adware corrupted hacks of popular programs, spends time inviting the wrath of the RIAA and MPAA by sharing his entire music collection from the main file server. Browses pr0n instead of working. Plays solitaire instead of working. Cries like a little girl every time he's forced to comply with official policy. Complains bitterly about those nasty sysadmins. Secretly wishes he was a pr0n star and has been stalking Shelly down in accounting. She'll mace him in the cafeteria later on in the week.

SysAdmin/SysOP... (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 6 years ago | (#19068829)

Blah, it's a fun job...it's ALWAYS challenging whether new problems/technologies arise and you get to figure out how to integrate them with the old...or it's dealing with people who somehow ALWAYS seem to have(create?) problems for themselves and thus you.

Those challenges are what I like about it...sure beats the hell out of working at Starbucks begging for tips with a cup that has a piece of paper with chicken scratch writing that says, "Tips Appreciated" on it.

I vary depending on the user(s) (2, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069367)

There are some users that I'm sure would comment that I am extremely friendly and helpful. Actually, probably quite a lot of my users, as I do enjoy interacting with them and discussion various issues (partly to be social, partly to avoid recurrence).

The people that might find me antisocial are:
  • The ones that assume lunchtime is Q&A period: I generally avoid on-site lunches for this reason. I like to eat too, and I like to relax/read during my break. If it's 12:05pm, and I've got a book in my hand and a sandwich partly in my mouth... I will not be friendly when it comes to answering questions, especially if they're annoying non-work-related (home) ones.
  • With the above. When you've watched me work through lunch and it's not 1:30/2:30 and I've not yet eaten or had a break... it should not be particularly surprising that I don't want to check out your "little issue" when I'm done
  • Do-it yourselfers: Staff that display a certain amount of technical knowledge combined with restraint are great! If a user can fix minor problems for himself and others then that makes my job easier. If the same user accidentally makes a mistake, no biggie. However, the users that are gutting their computers, installing unauthorized/illegal software, and other such things... grrrr
  • Impatience: Everyone wants their stuff fixed first. Quite often one user will be (literally) breathing down my neck while I'm up to my elbows in another issue/machine. Patience and personal space are important things.
  • Circumvention: We have a "ticket" system. We have a huge amount of users/systems. For non-emergencies (server down Vs "My printer defaults are wrong") it does not help to circumvent the situation by calling me directly. It is less helpful to call my supervisor. This causes other people to be PO'ed at me for being diverted from their (usually equally if not more important), legitimate tickets. It makes me PO'ed at you. It also means I have no ticket to close indicating all is done, and no tickets letting management track that I've actually been working.
  • Following instructions, and being a little independent: There are the occasional users that need to be told constantly how to deal with a particular scenario. They aren't stupid, as they demonstrate an intricate knowledge of their own domain, but somehow manage to forget simply instructions on how to fix annoying issues. For example, if the server has been down (lengthy power outage, or more recent at one site, drive replacement), reboot your machine before calling for help and requiring a 30 minute drive. (some site are up to a 2h15m drive).

See, the above make me seem pretty grumpy, right? But the truth is that most days are fairly pleasant for both myself and (judging from feedback) for my "clients." However, there are always a few people that can magically manage to rain on a sunny day. Secretaries are often both the best and the worst. Some are obviously in their job because of wonderful PR skills, and manage to be extremely friendly, and, more refreshingly, honest (they can admit when they have messed something up, or don't know how something works). They also often have candies on their desks :-)

But trust me, anyone can have a bad mood after being 2-3h late for lunch and when running a full day without breaks.

Food (4, Informative)

wetfeetl33t (935949) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069607)

From TFA:
How do I get my sysadmin to do anything?

Very simple.
Cookies, brownies, pizza, etc. I've worked as a sysadmin, so I know all sysadmins like the ones with the little dark chocolate chunks in them.

Somewhat Simple. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069817)

Good sysadmins seem to have time to fix problems that occure, keep up on normal maintenance, aploigize if the make a mistake and quickly fix it, fair with the users, open to new ideas and strays away from following a technology idology but uses the sciencetific method to do the best approach for the requirements.

Bad Sysadmins are going crazy just to keep the place running. Always to busy to fix problem that occure get back logged on normal maintenance, find excuses for the problems and because it "wasn't his fault" doesn't jump to fix the problem, thinks the users are stupid idiotes, Emotionally connected to the systems he installed a decade ago, followed a technology idology and uses this idology to fix the requrements (like forcing Linux onto a bunch of CAD Engineers, which causes them to loose many features that has saved them time in the past)

In short for almost any job that you do, you are a bad employee/boss if you use the excuse "I Don't have time for that." if you were a good employee then you could manage your time better, and if you feel that to much is being demmanded on you then you normally and politly find a way to get more time to do the work or requrest more resources.

SYSADMIN = OPERATOR? (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 6 years ago | (#19069843)

I notice the summary above references the BOFH. Here again we see SysAdmin confused with Operator. This is one of the problems, most people view SysAdmin as some sort of Operator. In a Data Center the Operators are low-paid monkeys who can push a few buttons and dial a phone, but most importantly are willing to WORK ANY SHIFT! I used to work as an Operator, it sucks after a year and I wouldn't go back to rotating into graveyard shift. The problem is in most organizations they view SysAdmin as a higher-paid version of that. You are doing typically some very complex work, still have to answer your pager at 3AM or on vacation, and have bosses who can't understand why any given problem can't be resolved in about 5 minutes. Everyone in the organization thinks they are smarter than you, and bring you answers that you have to implement. I can't tell you how many times I've been handed a bunch of hardware and told "we bought this without consulting you, but here make it work!" The problem has as much to do with the perception of SysAdmin by YOU, as it does with the Sysadmin. Organizations generally treat us like garbage, so that's what they get. Some good quotes from alt.sysadmin.recovery here: http://home.xnet.com/~raven/Sysadmin/ASR.Quotes.ht ml [xnet.com]
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