Friday, July 25, 2014

What do system administrators do all day?

This article is originally posted on SimplerCloud's blog here.

Today (25 July 2014) is System Administrator Appreciation Day, which is an event to show appreciation for the work of system administrators (or sysadmins) and other IT workers. It is celebrated on the last Friday of July every year, since the year 2000.

As a hardened, 15-year veteran system and network administrator, I know first hand about the many tasks a system administrator needs to do, the skill sets and knowledge he needs to learn, and with the daunting tasks and long hours he has to keep. Yet sometimes, normal users would not know their system administrators as well as the system administrators know their users. And that is why System Administrator Day is an awesome day that everyone should celebrate.

Treat your system administrator today, because 25 July is World System Administrator Appreciation Day

Treat your system administrator today, because 25 July is World System Administrator Appreciation Day

What do system administrators do, and why do we need to appreciate their work? According to Wikipedia‘s definition, a system administrator is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers, such as servers.

In layman’s terms, system administrators manage all the servers, network equipment and any other IT infrastructure for an organisation. In many companies, those system administrators are part of the organisation’s IT team or department. They are the one who setup the network within the organisation, installing mail servers, file servers and many other servers required by the organisation, installing all the required applications to support the organisation’s business, applying operating system updates, patches and configuration changes, among others. They are responsible to ensure that all the services are running.

For example, system administrators are responsible to ensure that Internet connection in the office is working, the mail server is running and processing emails tht are sent and received by all staff within the organisation. Without these basic operations, you will not be able to do anything which requires Internet connection, such as surfing the web or checking your emails. And even if your Internet connection is working, you won’t be able to send/receive emails if your organisation’s mail server is down.

System administrators are indispensable to managers (Source:
Sysadmins make managers look good, but managers often misunderstand them (Source:

There are different types of system administrators based on their roles and responsibilities. A bigger company might have different system administrators having different roles, but for smaller company, most of the different roles might be shared by just a few system administrators, or even one single person. Some of the different types of system administrators are:
  • Server administrator – maintains the operating system of the servers, and to some extent, the applications as well, such as the mail services, the web services, etc. He is also in-charge of troubleshooting any hardware, operating system or application related problems.
  • Network administrator – maintains the network infrastructure, such as the routers and switches, and troubleshoot network-related problems.
  • Database administrator (DBA) – maintains the database system used by organisation. In bigger organisation which uses bigger and more complex databases, there is a DBA which specifically responsible for this role. In smaller organisation, this role would normally be shared by the server administrator.

Unlike many other professions like pilots, medical doctors, etc, there is no single path of training to become a system administrator. While most system administrators have a degree in computer science, information technology or any other similar fields, anyone can actually become a system administrator by self learning and, in most cases, on-the-job training. There are some training and certifications intended to specific IT fields such as Microsoft training and certification for Microsoft-based systems and applications such as Microsoft Windows and SQL, Cisco training and certification for Cisco network, etc.

Most system administrators are always on-call, since they have system and network infrastructure which needs to run 24×7. That said, a system administrator can get paged or called at 3am in the morning when a mail server goes down, or when the Internet connection suddenly stops working. But the most important thing is that they are the one who ensure that all servers are functioning, the network is running and healthy, all the time.

That’s why good system administrators are often overworked and very much in demand, and, nowadays, crucial to the success of Internet app, web application and cloud-based companies.

“It’s not magic, it’s talent and sweat.”

That’s why, way back in the year 2000, a system administrator named Ted Kekatos suggested a yearly day event when everyone can appreciate the work of system administrators by – for example – giving them cake and ice cream and throwing a small party or celebration. This has become an annual event, celebrated every year on the last Friday of July. Today marks the 14th year we are celebrating System Administrator Appreciation Day.

Good system administrators never stop learning, and combine multiple skillsets to perform many different and unending tasks.   I wish all system administrators everywhere a very happy System Administrator’s Day.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Templates: CloudLinux, SUSE Linux and Dokku PaaS

This article is originally posted on SimplerCloud's blog here.

In the past couple of weeks, we have added some new operating systems and applications into the OS templates line-up: CloudLinux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Dokku PaaS template for Ubuntu.



CloudLinux is a CentOS/RHEL-based operating system which is built and suitable for shared hosting environment. It provides isolation between users to avoid the “bad neighbour effect” where one user might be consuming a lot of the server’s resources such as CPU, memory or I/O, affecting the performance of other sites hosted on the same server. This, in turn, will improve the stability of the overall server.

CloudLinux also has some other features, such as CageFS, which provides virtualised per-user file system that uniquely encapsulates each user, preventing users from seeing each other and viewing sensitive information, thus improving security. Some other features of CloudLinux include MySQL Governor, SecureLinks and PHP Selector.

To select CloudLinux OS template, choose “CloudLinux 6.4 (64-bit) (excluding license)” from the list of OS templates when you make your servelet order. CloudLinux is not an open source operating system, you will need to purchase the license separately. More information about CloudLinux operating system can be found on their website.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server


SUSE Linux Enterprise server is a Linux-based operating system built by SUSE, specialised to deliver mission-critical IT services efficiently and cost effectively. Similar to CloudLinux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is not free, and you would need to purchase the license separately.

Take note that the vm_initialize script to initialize the data disk doesn’t work on SUSE Linux, so you would need to initialize the data-disk manually by following the instruction in our knowledge-base article here.

To select the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server template, please choose “SUSE Linux ES 11 SP3 (64-bit”) from the list of OS templates when making your servelet order. More information about SUSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system can be found on their website.

Dokku PaaS

Dokku is a mini-Heroku powered by Docker and written in less than 100 lines of bash. Once it’s set up on your servelet, you can push Heroku-compatible applications to it via Git. This is suitable for developers who like to use Heroku as their PaaS (Platform as a Service), and this will provide your own, single-host version of Heroku running on your servelet. We are using Ubuntu 12.04.3 LTS operating system for the Dokku PaaS template.

To have the Dokku pre-installed on your Ubuntu servelet, please select “Ubuntu 12.04.3 (64-bit) + Dokku” from the list of OS templates when ordering your servelet. You would need to configure Dokku after the servelet is provisioned by following the instructions on our knowledge-base article here.

More information about Dokku can be found on their website here and on the author’s blog here.