A Day in the Life of Kent Row…IT Admin AKA Super Hero

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If you Google “IT administrator job description” most say “you’ll be responsible for maintaining the IT network, servers and security systems.”

Sounds simple enough. They then go on to explain that “if an IT network fails, the impact on the day-to-day running of the business can be significant, sometimes catastrophic.” So, no pressure then.

“To ensure this doesn’t happen, you'll be responsible for investigating and diagnosing network problems, collecting IT usage stats and  making recommendations for improving the company's IT systems.”  Oh, that’s all?

“On a day-to-day basis, you might be called upon to help colleagues with more basic IT needs.” Well, that includes anything you could possibly think of in terms of IT…

Each of these responsibilities could be a full-time job in itself. It’s a worrying indication of how IT administrators are viewed and I’m determined to change that point of view.

Technology evolution is driving the IT admin role into a whole new arena. With so many employees now working in virtual teams, many business relationships absolutely depend on technology. And that’s not a bad thing, so long as they’re using the right technologies in the right ways. Many employees fear the inevitable digitisation of the traditional office environment. Often, it falls to the IT team to educate workers on the benefits that new working styles can bring, which is no easy feat.

Super heroes without super powers

I’ve seen numerous situations where I’ve had to rely on super sight to analyze systems, mind control to ensure calm in chaos and shape shifting so I can multitask as an office manager, IT trainer, security specialist and handyman, all while ensuring the IT infrastructure runs with military precision.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my anecdotes and horror stories to shed some light on the challenges IT admins face daily to elevate our importance and highlight the issues we have to address.

One of my earliest horror stories would be when, in the midst of the virtualization buzz, I installed ESX 3 for the first time. The older members of staff weren’t so keen, saying that, with 600 U of space, we’d never run out. Two years later, we’d consolidated down to half our space and dropped the empty racks from our cage lease. It was then that I learned the hard lesson about virtual machine sprawl, AKA a large amount of virtual machines on your network without proper IT management or control.

I assumed that, like with physical boxes, my IT team would be quick to throw away old virtual servers that were no longer in use. I didn’t realize that they would just shut them down and leave them on disk for months. Then came the Big Storm. The electricity was out for longer than the 30 minutes in the UPSs. When the power came back there was chaos as dozens of previously undead VMs, asleep but set to auto-start, all woke up with duplicate IPs and conflicting app connections to databases. Today’s IT admins run regular inventory reports and do capacity planning. Back then, we were all too scared of change to throw old resources away.

It’s clear things are evolving but it hasn’t been without nightmares, so here’s hoping greater visibility of the challenges and what our day truly entails will help both IT admins and their employers.

About the Author

Kent Row is a seasoned evangelist for IT admins. With a BSc in Computer Science and an MSc in Cloud Computing, he has spent over ten years managing networks and providing technical assistance for customers of SolarWinds’ core network portfolio, including the flagship Network Performance Manager (NPM). He tackles application updates, advises on rogue insiders, and trains staff in the latest cyber threats ­– defending all from phishing, malware, and slow systems whilst single-handedly strengthening passwords and IT security policies around the globe. 

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