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System Administrator (SA)

Definition - What does System Administrator (SA) mean?

A system administrator (SA) is responsible for managing, overseeing and maintaining a multiuser computing environment, such as a local area network (LAN). SA responsibilities vary, depending on an organization's requirements. SAs should possess strong technical knowledge and skills, as well as expertise in personnel management.

A SA is also known as a systems administrator, sys admin or sysadmin. A small organization may have only one SA on staff, while an enterprise usually has a full SA team.

Techopedia explains System Administrator (SA)

SA responsibilities include:

  • Installing, maintaining and troubleshooting workstations, servers, OSs, software applications and other computing systems
  • Creating user accounts and assigning user permissions
  • Setting up system-wide software
  • Executing anti-virus mechanisms
  • Creating backup and retrieval policies and assigning bulk storage
  • Creating file systems
  • Monitoring network communication
  • Updating systems upon release of new OSs or software
  • Implementing computer, network and security policies for system and network users.
  • Strategic planning for service and system outages
  • Light programming or scripting
  • System-related project management
  • User training and management
  • High-level technical knowledge and technical support experience
  • Hardware and software system security, such as protection against hardware theft and abuse, malware/spyware and unauthorized use of systems and components, including firewall and intrusion detection system(IDS) maintenance

SAs must have effective problem solving skills. For example, if a system fails, the SA is responsible for diagnosing issue(s) and pursuing corrective action.

Most SAs have degrees in related fields, like IT, computer engineering, information management and computer science. Some technical training programs offer degrees or specialized SA certifications, such as Microsoft (MCP, MCSA, MCSE), Red Hat (RHCE, RHCSS) and Cisco (CCNA, CCIE). Not all SAs follow linear training paths. In fact, a growing number of professional SAs are self-taught through practical computing experience and open-source software training programs.

In large organizations, SAs may work with system architects, engineers and designers. Although SAs do not necessarily perform these functions, their experience often mirrors skills in these areas. In small organizations, demarcations between SA and other technical roles are loosely defined.

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