It’s difficult to put together a simple answer when I’m asked about the job of a system administrator. Every aspect of the system can fall within the realm of a system administrator. Entire books have been written about just the software side, and for most system administrators, hardware, networks, and even programming fall into their laps.
I work for the largest developer of online broker software in Germany. In addition to the software, we also run the data centers for several online brokers. I am responsible for monitoring the systems and providing reports on several levels, performance and many other things. I am expected to understand how our software works with all of its various components, how they work with third party products; as well as the workings of the network, firewalls, Solaris, Linux, Windows 2000 and XP, perl, shell scripting, and so forth.
There is very little here on my site that does not directly relate to my job as a system administrator. For the most part, you need to be a jack of all trades. Although Linux has come a long way in the last few years and you no longer need to be a “guru” to get it to work, knowing how to administer your system allows you to go beyond what is delivered to you out of the box.
In this chapter, we are just going to go through the basics. We won’t necessarily be talking about individual steps or processes used by the administrator, but rather about functional areas. With this, I hope to be able to give you enough background to use the programs and utilities that the system provides for you.