Unfortunately, most of the other employees do not perform most of the day-to-day tasks of a system administrator. The common user only remembers the admin anyway if something doesn’t work. However, the fact that there is more to keeping the shop running than restarting a server occasionally seems incomprehensible to some.
For several years I have been writing on this page about the tasks of a system administrator and some of the obstacles that are sometimes put in his way. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to report on what I consider to be the most critical tasks:
1. The DNS server
The most crucial component in Active Directory is and remains the DNS server. More than 80% of Windows network problems can be traced to the Domain Name System (DNS). For this reason, every admin should know how to use the DNS server and the most important tools with which it can be managed.
If you have no experience with the DNS server, I can recommend my article Setting up a DNS server. There I describe the installation and configuration of the DNS server.
2. The DHCP server
The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol – DHCP for short – is not quite as crucial as DNS. This protocol allows servers and clients to be supplied and configured with the most critical network information. The main use of DHCP is to provide clients with IP addresses and information about DNS servers and routing. However, specifying time servers or the next SIP proxy for VoIP telephony can also be one of the tasks of a DHCP server.
As with the DNS server, I have also written instructions here that describe how to set up a DHCP server.
3. File Server – Manage network drives
A system administrator’s most common tasks include all file server-related tasks. Employees produce data in the form of files and directories. Access to this must be regulated because not every employee can access all files. Access to the network drives is usually configured via group policies. The NTFS permissions can, for example, be managed at the group level via the Active Directory.
However, external tools are often used for this purpose, which can also be used for data audits (e.g., Varonis). It doesn’t matter how the admin manages data access. Unauthorized access to confidential information can cost an admin his job – careless handling of the subject is therefore prohibited.
Unfortunately, the protection of company data is very neglected in many companies. Of course, you can also overdo it with this topic, but specific basic protection and its compliance should be part of the daily tasks of a system administrator. The following points should not be missing:
- Users should only be given the right to do their daily work. If tasks are omitted or the employee leaves, existing authorizations must also be removed.
- Remote access should only occur via encrypted connections and only permanently permitted to users who need it.
- Block access to removable media
- Encryption of notebooks and backup media
- Use professional firewalls (a Fritz! Box is not one of them).
This topic could be continued indefinitely. Every company has to decide for itself what security measures to take. However, it is one of the tasks of a system administrator to draw the attention of the business/company management to possible dangers.
5. Client administration – The daily madness
IT administration could be so beautiful if it weren’t for the users. Jokes aside – of course, we are also responsible for ensuring that the employees of a company can carry out their daily work tasks. It is not uncommon for worlds to collide here. It is all the more important to continue your education here and at least to know the most critical applications of your company.
My environment’s most common administrative tasks concern the Microsoft Office application Outlook. Connection to Exchange or POP3 accounts, installation of AddOns, etc.
In addition to the client applications, the admin must, of course, also regularly provide the clients and servers with updates. In addition to Microsoft updates, this includes function and security updates from third-party software. PDF readers, browsers, and other small tools are often neglected.
6. Backup, backup, backup
There must be nothing more important than always (!) having an up-to-date backup of all critical systems and data. It’s practically every admin’s life insurance policy. Therefore, adhering to the backup strategy should be one of the top tasks of a system administrator. It doesn’t matter which software solution is used. It is essential that I can back up all systems and restore them (quickly) if necessary.
Unfortunately, the backup on external media, which can/should be kept outside the company, is often forgotten. This does not necessarily have to be done on physical data carriers (tape, hard drive) but can also be used as a backup in the cloud or a network storage device connected online (NAS*) mapped.
7. Training – Stay up to date
Admittedly, a very general point – but no less important than the rest. It is fast-moving, and the pace is not slowing down. It is, therefore, important to always stay up to date and at least to be up to date with the systems you use yourself.
Although not every server can be equipped with the latest operating system, new versions often offer completely new possibilities. A good example is the core installations and containers of Windows Server. It is not uncommon for several existing systems to be merged or replaced by such innovations. If you close your eyes here, you will be left behind quickly.
As far as client applications are concerned, the pace is perhaps not relatively as high, but here too, updates and upgrades should be taken into account to maintain compatibility with customers and suppliers.
As already written, the tasks of a system administrator are very diverse and can hardly be classified according to their importance (except for the topic “backup”). In this article, I have described seven often everyday tasks from the point of view of a system house admin.
However, the tasks of an internal administrator should be similar to those. Depending on the company’s size, the points listed can describe entire positions and be dealt with in much more detail. I am aware of that 😉