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"New" System Administrator Advice

Posted on 2012-04-05
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Last Modified: 2012-06-21
As a newly hired Jr. System Administrator, What are some of the most important things I should know or understand when it comes to supporting roughly 300-500 users?

What knowledge should I have?
Which best practice should I have set in place?
How should I handle if I made or make a mistake?
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Question by:TechBain
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Expert Comment

by:ZShaver
ID: 37814778
If you fix something today and something unrelated breaks tomorrow, the user will blame whatever you did. you know, because event A preceded event B, event A must have caused event B. It's the classic post hoc fallacy.
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Accepted Solution

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John Hurst earned 500 total points
ID: 37814818
As a junior administrator, you are likely responsible for setup, installation and support of operating system and applications along with some beginning server roles. Correct me if this is not true.

So you need to understand the basics of all modern operating systems: XP, Vista and Windows 7. You need to understand the basics of Office 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2010. You need to understand the various Adobe versions. And so on.

So you need to keep current with all this stuff. I do not know what they give you, but my own work machine is a Windows 7 Pro 64-bit machine with Office 2010 and on it I keep (via VMware), Vista Business 64-bit, XP Pro 32-bit, Windows 2000, Windows 98, Office 2007, Office 2003, Office XP and Office 2000. This way, when a question comes up, if I cannot remember with precision, I can bring up the appropriate machine. This avoids errors on my part.

You need to subscribe to various technical lists like Information Week and ZDNet. I am not a slave to these lists, but they are often good for saying what updates are coming along and other happenings. I can ignore much of it, but it comes in and I read the headlines. That keeps me informed.

Best practices:  I have a good memory, wide experience, and a highly linear mind. That gets me through most things and I make up methods that work for me.
(a) In terms of setup and server best practices, ask the senior people near you and work with them.
(b) Document what you do, scan it, and keep records.

Make no mistake about this:  The main difference between me and you is that I have made a lot more mistakes than you. This is inevitable. Another thing I can do well is admit mistakes and learn from them.

This is a huge are and what can be documented in a single question is but a minuscule amount of what you need.

.... Thinkpads_User
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 37814889
> As a newly hired Jr. System Administrator, What are some of the most important
> things I should know or understand when it comes to supporting roughly 300-500 users?
First, that you know what you need to know or you wouldn't have gotten the job.  Now KEEP LEARNING.

> What knowledge should I have?
As I said and put another way - the knowledge you already have.  Or you wouldn't have gotten the job.

> Which best practice should I have set in place?
For what?  For your responsibilities?  What are the responsibilities as defined by your employer. Jr. Systems Admin is an incredibly vague title especially when you haven't specified if you're managing Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac, and what you're in charge of managing like user accounts?  images?  backups?  And then we'd need to know how important things are to your company - bottom line - WE cannot answer this for you - YOU have to discuss how to best do your job with your employer.  What we MIGHT be able to help you is if you describe what your responsibilities are and what / how they want you to fulfill them and we MAY be able to suggest ways to improve upon them.  But without FAR more information, there's NO WAY anyone can give you the answer I think you're looking for.

> How should I handle if I made or make a mistake?
Report that you made the mistake and LEARN from it.  Figure out what you did wrong and how you can prevent it from happening again.  Perhaps the mistake is not because of you but because of a lack of resources or proper training.  You get fired for lying and covering things up once they are found out. So don't do it.  If you have an unreasonably boss, then you may not be able to ever please them even when you learn from your mistakes... but if you have an understanding boss, they have put you in a position to succeed - YOU succeeding makes them seem like a better boss.
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Author Comment

by:TechBain
ID: 37814894
@Thinkpads_User

You were right about my role, that is exactly what I am assigned to do.

With the information that you have given me on the things I should have knowledge on, It's safe for me to say that so far, I am on the right track.  I actually use "Virtual Box" instead of VMware and I have windows 2003 server, ubuntu, xp, vista and 7 installed.

I will take your advice with subscribing to sites you mentioned.

What I do like the most about your response is the answer to my "Best Practice" question.
It was hands down just GREAT advice.

When it comes to admitting and learning from mistakes we are exactly the same, so as much as I do not look forward to making them, I understand the fact that they will happen and all I can do is my best to make sure it never happens again.

Thank you very much for your time and your crystal clear answers.  It meant a lot to me.
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Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 37814897
I work for myself, and I get lots of calls from people, so I was happy to describe how I work.

... Thinkpads_User
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Author Closing Comment

by:TechBain
ID: 37814903
Provided a clear and understandable answer. Doesn't get any better than that.
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Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 37814909
Thank you and I was very happy to help you on this one. ... Thinkpads_User
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