Cardinal Rules of System Administration


The key to becoming a successful system administrator is knowing how to properly perform your daily tasks while holding yourself to a set of cardinal rules that help keep your systems running smoothly and your users happy. These rules have been useful through the decades of systems administration, and we hope they help you keep your cool when the going gets hot.

Don’t do anything you can’t fix

Whenever you make changes you should always be prepared to undo your work no matter how simple or complex the changes may be.  You can always leave bread crumbs on the path your changes are taking in case you need to back track and see where you went wrong if an issue arises. Make backup copies of files you are editing, make note of any issues you run into, apply your changes to a test system and be sure these changes are successful before moving on.

Be mindful of when you make changes

After making changes it is best to let things settle and ensure things are working properly before you leave for the weekend or go on holiday. Being able to closely monitor your systems is beneficial; should any problems occur you will be able to identify the problem and how to fix it promptly.

Be proactive

As a system administrator, you should be prepared for any problems that may arise. Try to think about the things that can go wrong and check to see what you can do to prevent these issues. Thinking defensively could save you a lot of pain. Spend your spare moments verifying your systems are working as they should.

Keep your users up-to-date

Ensure your users are always up to date and know what to expect and when. Clear, concise communication helps them to have confidence in you and to trust the services you provide.

Continuing education

Technology is constantly evolving, and if you aren’t moving forward then you’re falling behind. Learning new skills will allow you to take on new responsibilities and stay ahead of the competition.  If you are having trouble deciding which skills to pick up, ask yourself a few questions. What skills are in high demand? How much time can you put towards continuing education? What skills do others have that you don’t, and how do you measure up to your competition?

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