Monday, 15 October 2007

Musings on System Administration

I was reading an article discussing forensic preparation for computer systems. Some of the
stuff in there I knew the general theory of, but not the specifics of how to perform. As I
thought about it, it occurred to me that Systems Administration is such a vast field. There
is no way I can know all of this stuff. I made a list of the software and operating systems

I currently manage. They include:
- Windows Server 2003, Standard and Enterprise
- Exchange 2003
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Windows 2000
- Ubuntu Linux
- OpenSuSE Linux
- Mac OSX (10.3 and 10.4)
- Solaris 8
- SQL 2005
- Various specialised software for the transport industry

I have specific knowledge on some of this, broad knowledge on all of it, and always think "There's so much I *don't* know". It gets a bit down heartening sometimes. For one thing - I
have no clue about SQL 2005 and I need to make it work with another bit of software. All
complicated and nothing straightforward. Irritating doesn't begin to explain it. As to the
Microsoft Software - because of it's prevalence throughout the world, there is a lot of
online information available. Likewise with Linux - it's incredibly rare to encounter a problem someone else hasn't already come up against.

So how to function within such an environment? Understanding I think is the key. The more
you understand about the process, the easier it is to figure things out. To my reckoning, understanding the "why" of how things work makes the job of learning new things fast to fix
problems much easier. For beginning sysadmins it's probably the most important thing. That
and curiosity. I'm always interested in learning about new things and trying new stuff out. Having sufficient hardware to indulge in this obsession doesn't hurt either. If you can't have all new stuff - second hand stuff is a good way to play.

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