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How do I sysadmin?

seasleepyseasleepy Registered User regular
edited August 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
Hopefully this makes some sort of sense being it's 5 AM now and I'm still semi-awake for no reason whatsoever.

As I've been applying for jobs (and getting no bites), I'm realizing there's a big hole in my learnings, and it needs to get remedied. It's not sexy at all, but the general office "computer guy" (or "computer lady" as the case may be) is pretty much exactly what I want to do, and it's what I have done in the past, as the junior member of a two-person team.
I'm very confident in my support skills and I've got tons of experience there, I've got a fair amount of experience in user/desktop admin, but I get to the server admin side of things and, while I can fake it decently for a while, I'm pretty much flailing.

On the Windows side: I have basically zero experience with Windows Server of any flavor and the same with Exchange, and I don't really have free range of anything running either. Can you guys recommend resources for learning about them?
Relatedly, if I'm going to be going about all this studying up on them, should I get an MS certification of some sort? I have a degree in CS, so I never thought I needed them to be perfectly honest, but... if I'm going to be doing the reading anyway, maybe I should just get the piece of paper. (Yow, the tests are expensive -- I'd never priced them out before.)

On the *nix side: I run Linux on my personal desktop and have for years, but I haven't played too much with things that are more critical for office life (how to set up/look after a mailserver, what logs to monitor for errors/warnings, etc). Obviously, as I run Linux, getting hands-on with pretty much anything isn't a problem for this side. Again, any recommendations for reading or playing around with?

Generally: Is there a good "best practices for sysadmins"-type document running around (and/or a "reasonable practices for sysadmins" ;-))? Any other more generalized resources to recommend?

Thanks for help!

Steam | Nintendo: seasleepy | PSN: seasleepy1
seasleepy on

Posts

  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    You should probably narrow down whether you want to be a UNIX sysadmin or Windows sysadmin. In my work, I've generally not found people who try and do both. This might be because the UNIX guys hate the Windows method, and the Windows guys are either rail-roaded into using Windows by their office environment, or actually prefer it (I usually think those guys are just incompetent TBH).

    I've worked in a sysadmin team as a web programmer, with casual Mac support, but everyone else on the team were Unix/Mac admins, so I knew all the stuff they did and how they got there.

    Basically, the best way to learn is to do. I never saw any of them refer to a "best practices" book (but I am sure they must exist), it's more about doing the best practice for whatever sub-goal you're trying to achieve. Sysadmins wear many different hats during the day: they might be doing desktop support, database admin, web server configuration, backup schedule designing... You have books and web site/mailing list support for all those tasks, and they each have a best practice.

    The only generalised things that spring to mind:
    - Get a ticketing system (such as RT): without a ticketing system, regardless of how much user contact you have, you will be making your life very difficult. Make sure that users always use the ticketing system; flat-out refuse to acknowledge bug reports filed any other way (particularly vocally).

    - Users don't always know what is best for them. There will be times when you just have to tell them to suck it up and stick to your guns, however unpopular it might be. Some sysadmins take this too far and lose all ability for tact: these are the sysadmins that cause people to hate IT departments. Don't be that guy. Always listen, always explain, always change your plans if it seems pertinent, but sometimes you will know you are right and you will have to fight for it.

    - Your backup schedule is your job. You fuck that up, and it really doesn't matter what else you did, you're fired.

    - General ethical things. Just obvious stuff. Like don't read other people's email. Don't open their files unless you have a good reason or prior authorisation. I personally never read proxy access logs either: it's the user's job on the line if they're screwing around during the day, so let them go for it. I know that some managers demand you watch people though.

    - Log everything, but only for a couple of days. You'll need those logs when things are going screwy, but nothing more than that. Delete or archive them as a cron job.

    - Don't forget what you legally need to keep copies of.

    That's all that comes to mind.

    But yeah, current thing to do is just learn by doing. Set up a server. Go through the standard things you need to set up one-by-one: firewall, web server, file sharing, network drive mounting, backups... Put it online in a DMZ so you can see how well you're doing. If your box gets owned, then you get to see where you went wrong in your security policy, and see how well your backup schedule let's you restore back :)

    I certainly didn't have any certifications, and I don't think they mean all that much to a sysadmin TBH. Like I said, sysadmins wear a lot of hats, you don't need to specialise so deeply.

    Lewisham on
  • DiscoZombieDiscoZombie Registered User
    edited August 2008
    well, I'm not a sysadmin, so I can only offer general job market advice (and it looks like Lewisham already has the actual sysadmin side of the equation covered). How many years of experience do you have being an IT person? It seems like a longshot to shoot for a senior sysadmin position, and even if you did study up on all the necessary skillz, you'd really have to sell yourself well to get hired as the primary sysadmin for a company - though I guess you're looking at smaller companies, which are probably less picky (and also probably pay less).

    DiscoZombie on
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Get to know Sarbanes-Oxley.

    MKR on
  • dlpwillywonkadlpwillywonka Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    MKR wrote: »
    Get to know Sarbanes-Oxley.

    Only important if the company he's wanting to work for is publicly held. But if it is public than yea very important.

    Do you have a degree is my first question? If so what in? If not, get computer certificatications such as the CompTIA tests, the MCSE, or the RHCE for Linux. I'm not sure right now what certs are available to Unix. I know they're out there just forget the names right now.

    Another thing to do is find a temp services and tell them emphatically that you're a techie, that you want to do any job that's tech related. You may get some crappy jobs while waiting for them to find something, but when they do, you work your magic at the company and if you're good they'll want to hire you either by whispering for you to quit the Temp service or calling the temp service to hire you. Depends on how shady the are.
    Experience on you resume is what alot of companies look for. Even a college grad won't always know what they're doing when they get on the job so real world experience is more useful alot of times and less expensive.

    And are you sure you want this job?

    dlpwillywonka on
    Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
    Carl Sagan
  • edited August 2008
    Threadjack! (not really)

    I've been pondering posting this question for a bit, and this thread is the perfect excuse. I'm sure some of you sysadmin windows networks, what do you use for monitoring tools? My boss recently did the 'Oh yeah, your job now includes monitoring the servers.' thing, so I'm curious what y'all may have come to enjoy using. Our network is pretty standard, a few 2003 servers with ISA, SQL and several other three and four letter acronyms.

    deke55555 on
  • dlpwillywonkadlpwillywonka Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    deke55555 wrote: »
    My boss recently did the 'Oh yeah, your job now includes monitoring the servers.' thing, so I'm curious what y'all may have come to enjoy using. Our network is pretty standard, a few 2003 servers with ISA, SQL and several other three and four letter acronyms.

    Ask for a raise.

    My sysadmin buddy says to go with Nagios(wiki) That's all I got, I'm not a sysadmin myself, but it is free as in beer and has a majority of addons for tweaking.

    dlpwillywonka on
    Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
    Carl Sagan
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Grab Zabbix if you want to monitor Linux servers.

    MKR on
  • edited August 2008
    Ask for a raise.

    My sysadmin buddy says to go with Nagios(wiki) That's all I got, I'm not a sysadmin myself, but it is free as in beer and has a majority of addons for tweaking.

    Cool. Thanks. As for the raise, I got a 'Mebbe Later'.

    deke55555 on
  • dlpwillywonkadlpwillywonka Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    deke55555 wrote: »
    Ask for a raise.

    My sysadmin buddy says to go with Nagios(wiki) That's all I got, I'm not a sysadmin myself, but it is free as in beer and has a majority of addons for tweaking.

    Cool. Thanks. As for the raise, I got a 'Mebbe Later'.

    Remind him once you get the monitoring software running, remind him every 2 weeks. Remind him till it happens. :p

    dlpwillywonka on
    Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
    Carl Sagan
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