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Ask HN: Tips on Sysadmin Job

Recently I got a promotion at my job. I was working with another guy in a small company with an even smaller IT department. That guy was fired and I got the position to be the only sysadmin at the moment. I never had any experience working and managing the whole IT infrastructure, because the company has 4 campuses around the city. I'm kinda confused on how to manage everything, my background is with information security and it's going to be a big challenge for me because it's my first job.

69 points64 comments12 days ago
by 30012 days ago

Here's what to do in the first few weeks:

1. Require not 1, but 2 people, for hire, right now. It will take a long time until it gets approved, HR does their thing, and you (or someone else) hire people to help you.

2. Document, as fast as you can, all of the assets in your environment. Don't waste time on looking for software. Plain text or spreadsheet will do for start.

3. Identify the most important assets (servers, network devices, etc) - and try to understand what are your priorities for each. For example, availability for your frontend servers. Confidentiality and integrity for your server storing PII. Based on this, you'll understand what are your biggest risks. Would it be a business disaster if your website is down for few hours? Likely not. What about if the PII is compromised and you get huge fines and be in the news? More likely.

4. Find out who has the access to the most important assets, and cut off anyone who doesn't really need it.

5. Establish some sort of monitoring for the most important assets.

by ed_elliott_asc12 days ago

6. Any critical assets - verify you can restore and get working offsite with 0 access to the current network

by bierjunge12 days ago

7. Have a backup strategy

7.5 Test your backup strategy every now and then (nothing is more painful than data loss and dysfunctional backups)

8. "All users lie, there is no exception". Sad but true, get used to it.

9. Automate your infrastructure. If something goes down, just recreate it with Chef/Ansible/Terraform/etc.

[edit: added no.9]

by 0xFFFE12 days ago

10. Rotate all the passwords immediately since the other guy has left the organization and have a password policy in place.

11. Understand the reason the other guy was fired make sure you are not the one holding the bag.

12. Have a issue tracking system in place, you will thank yourself later.

13. Have a change management policy in place.

14. Before you make any change full understand the consequences and have a tested plan to get back to a known good state.

by DnDGrognard12 days ago

I would add 15 start keeping a physical log book to document changes.

Dependant on what you have to look after you might want more than one book.

by Ologn12 days ago

Also, backups are kind of thankless - no one ever puts backup maintenance on your schedule, but if a machine goes down everyone expects you have a backup from three weeks ago and that they can retrieve all the data from it. You also have to poll people as to what needs to be backed up. You need to do test recoveries. Some backups should be offsite, and the policy around that should be communicated to managers.

by geofft12 days ago

I agree with the rest of this, but I'm not sure about 4. If you're new to a system, you don't have a good sense of who "really needs" access, and in particular you don't have a good sense of all the terrible, awful, dangerous things that are nonetheless delivering business value.

Maybe person X built system A, and is now working on system B, but remembers a lot of details - keeping their access to system A can help you recover in an emergency. Maybe someone wrote a monitoring job (or worse, a deployment job) that runs as themselves. Maybe someone has read-only access to a system and is using it to ask occasional good questions to the team that actually runs the system. Maybe team C has a formal API but it doesn't work well so person Y informally got access to C's database and it's making system D able to run at all, and it would take a few months of effort to fix the API that's supposed to be there between C and D.

And, more frustratingly but no less impactful - maybe there's a senior person who likes still having access to system E, and making them mad will cause political problems for you and impose burdens when you you try to make any other changes, which gets in the way of your ability to solve all the other problems that you need to solve.

Your priority in the short term is to keep the business running, not to improve things. Insider threats are real, but they are much rarer than all the other reasons your business could get in trouble. If you don't have a good understanding of your tech debt and why the tech debt exists and how quickly it can be paid off, focus on that first.

by metajon12 days ago

A possible corollary to 2: Don't forget to document incidents as you go. You'll learn a lot in these situations and you may find resources that are handy / work for you along the way.

Keep a text file, or OneNote or whatever, open while working an incident. Don't overthink it, don't over-complicate it.

by withinboredom12 days ago

I use InkDrop for these kinds of things. It’s dead simple, and syncs everywhere. I don’t care about formatting and love that I can use simple markdown. It’s perfect to jot some notes down on a phone and open them later on a computer — more importantly, it’s not tied to a certain OS and it’s cheap.

by Ologn12 days ago

> Establish some sort of monitoring for the most important assets.

You need this to know if your web sites, servers and services are running, and to be emailed or contacted when not. I am used to Nagios. I understand there is a Nagios fork, Icinga, which I know little about. Some people use Graphite, which I also know little about.

You can also have it check for disks running out, high CPU loads, inodes running out, heavy I/O etc.

Also, you can email etc. alerts, or pay for a company like Amelia to monitor a dashboard and page/call people at night if a server is down, or to even do some simple scripted remediation attempts.

by DocTomoe12 days ago

6. Get certified. Sysadmin positions often are in the hot seat, the first to take the beating when the shit hits the fan (if that's what happened to your predecessor, it will happen to you), and a certification often helps landing a new job more than "assumed past experienced" will when it's time to pass the HR sniff test.

7. Eventually, in 5-7 years, become a consultant, either in a consultancy, or freelance.

by Intermernet12 days ago

Okay, 3 rules for sysadmin positions:

- The most important rule is that your recovery from backup procedure is working properly. - The second most important rule is that your backups are working properly. - The (distant) third most important rule is to always individually backup any text file you edit before you edit it.

Seriously. These are the most important rules.

Other pro-tips are to test any changes to remote access (SSH most importantly) before you close the session that you made the changes in. Also, schedule restore from system backup and restart before you make any potentially crippling changes to the system configuration. If the changes work then you can cancel the restore / restart. If the changes cripple the system it will (if you've followed rules one and two above) recover itself. Finally, if you can afford it, try to run at least one dev / test instance of each critical system. You can make changes, point a few test clients at the new instance, make sure it's working, then either make the changes to the prod system, or do the dev / prod swap-over.

The actual ways to achieve these rules varies depending on OS mix, hardware, cloud providers (if any), use of certain tech (are you using virtualization? Are you using containers? Are you using some form of orchestration tooling? etc.) and many other things.

The first two rules mentioned above, and the order in which they're mentioned, are by far the most important rules in sysadmin. Ignore them at your own peril ;-)

Good luck. Keep a level head, don't panic, and test your backups!

by Enginerrrd12 days ago

>Other pro-tips are to test any changes to remote access (SSH most importantly) before you close the session that you made the changes in.

To add to this.... Don't change things like routing tables or server network device / firewall configurations without physically being on site with the thing you're changing.

by iso163112 days ago

Have an out of band connection, have the system rollback automatically

by loriverkutya12 days ago

This is not a promotion, this is making you to do something you have no experience with and making you do the job what the fired person done besides yours. Also being responsible for the whole IT infrastructure alone is definitely what I would not do without any experience.

If that’s how the company handles this, I would start to look for a new job immediately.

by endymi0n12 days ago

While there's certainly something that rings a warning bell here, let me present a counter-opinion: The biggest strides in my career have been the ones where I had to stretch the farthest. It always felt scary as hell, but with a bit of "fake it until you make it", these phases served me as massive boosters for learning, career and personal development. I didn't have too many indications to read if the culture over there is okay, but if it isn't shitty and you manage to get some support and allies higher up, filling the position properly and saving that company's ass might pay off very well for you despite the stress involved. YMMV.

by loriverkutya12 days ago

The indication of the culture for me is pretty clear from the followings:

- no indication in the post that they going to hire a new person

- If your company IT infra is down, you are probably dead in the water, leaving it to be managed by a single person who does not have any IT infra management experience is a pretty bad business decision

- No indication in the post that the person offered any training or anything

- my experience with 1 person responsible for IT support/management/sysadmin jobs are that they are 24/7, which leads to burnout and mental health issues

by throwaway98439312 days ago

I agree that it sounds like a tire fire. But he can also leave whenever he wants. So until it becomes too stressful, he's actually got something of an opportunity to learn a huge amount in a small time by trial and error. It's not like they're going to fire him for any mistakes at this point! He can always quit when he gets sick of it, but until then, it seems like a great (though challenging, of course) opportunity. And he'll have a great story to tell in his next job interviews: "how I was put in the hot seat and saved the day"

by rewgs12 days ago

Absolutely agreed.

by evercast12 days ago

Precisely this. If the management is willing to put an unexperienced person at the steering wheel of the company's IT infrastructure, it is a clear red flag. This is not to depreciate OP's talents. Instead, it sounds like the management has no idea what they are doing. Start looking for another place.

by denton-scratch12 days ago

You now have a shitty job!

I enjoy sysadmin, partly because of the variety of problems you are called-on to solve. But the fact is, if you do the job well, and everything works well, nobody gives you any credit. When things go wrong everybody will be looking at you, and if you haven't fixed it within 20 minutes, then you must be incompetent.

So you're the only sysadmin in a multi-campus company? As someone noted up-thread, you can't do it alone. At least, you need someone on each site that can act as remote hands for you, even if that's not their main job. And you need people to delegate grunt work to - repetitive stuff, like building workstations for new hires. That's IT, but it's not sysadmin.

Get some interesting hardware to take home and play with. Stuff like smart switches and firewall boxes (the same gear your employer uses).

GNU/Linux has much better networking tools than Windows; if you're in a Windows shop, get a laptop with Linux on it.

Whenever you do a manual job you've never done before, let part of the job be automating it, so you never have to do it by hand again. Let the automation scripts be the documentation.

Learn to be pessimistic (a common sysadmin trait). If you have bad news, don't ever sugar-coat it. Things might not be as bad as you thought, in which case your reputation is improved. But what people don't want to hear is that the job takes two hours; and then find after two hours that it's a two-day job.

If you can get yourself a full-time assistant/colleague, work as a pair when you can. It reduces stress a lot if you have someone checking your work as you do it (and your decisions). And you end up with two people knowing the systems, not just one.

Get a hardback A4 notebook, and record everything you do.

In theory, you have a lot of power (c.f. BOFH).

http://bofharchive.com/

You know stuff others don't, and you have superuser powers everywhere. Don't abuse it. Be as helpful as you can. People will be nice to you if they know they might need your help one day. The BOFH was a tyrant, and I don't think he'd get far in a modern business (the BOFH worked in a university IT department, and was God; a sysadmin in a modern business can't behave like the BOFH).*

by DnDGrognard12 days ago

Re Laptop make sure you have one that has a serial port and all the custom cables to plug into the switches / routers etc. (possibly having a second laptop for redundancy)

And seconding the physical logbook.

by what_is_orcas12 days ago

Why the physical logbook?

+2
by denton-scratch12 days ago

The reason I used a physical logbook is that if you use software, you have to have the software and the logfile on-hand all the time. You can keep them both on a stick, of course; but you still need the right OS/FS drivers etc. Also, your screen and keyboard may be connected to a machine that's crashed, or being repaired.

And it's easier to scribble a line in a physical logbook than to crank-up some editor, open the logfile, append an entry, save the file etc. If you're going to log absolutely everything, then adding an entry needs to be as easy as signing your name.

You could rely on your laptop; but laptops break and crash. a physical notebook is crashproof, drop-proof, and can even survive being dropped in a puddle. And short of pencils and erasers, it's intrinsically an append-only medium (except that you can still annotate old entries).

Maybe an electronic logbook works for you; I found that my logs were more comprehensive and generally easier to use if I kept them on paper. I got through about two notebooks a year; I used a stack of old ones to elevate my monitor (phone directories are hard to come by these days).

by daedlanth12 days ago

This is excellent advice right here.

by cmaggiulli12 days ago

If he received a new job title and a salary increase it’s a promotion

by yk12 days ago

Run!

Or at least go to your manager and make very clear that it is simply not possible to provide anything like 24/7 incident response when you are alone. That is the kind of conversation, where it is just better to get fired rather than not getting your point across.

The basic structure of the admin job is, that there is always more to do and it is very easy to burn out. There is always more to do, it is always important, but trying to chase some ideal of a perfect system will just exhaust you. Furthermore, it is not a big problem to check your monitoring before going to bed or a few times on the weekend, but that limits your rest periods to a few hours at best, you no longer get a full weekend, and that will grind you down over time. So, manage your time and sanity, and importantly also manage the expectations of your boss and co workers, there is only so much you can do when you're alone.

by me_me_me12 days ago

Advice I heard from lab manager with 15yrs on job.

1. When everything works everyone is happy and nobody pays you any attention.

2. When something is not working you will get shit from everyone for 'not doing your job'.

You will not be able to completely avoid 2. So your only chance to balance the scales is by showing your hard work when in case 1.

That means auto generating graphs of network resources, disk space, creating trend reports with actionable recommendations to our manager/boss.

This way they have visibility into IT world instead of it being magic that just works. It also involves them when making decisions no matter how small.

This of course is job security measure and you need to do your job first. Goodluck.

by 2830428340923412 days ago

Initial thoughts of 20 year veteran:

- Create a single-source-of-truth you can automate against. Do that now. Use ansible to fetch and create an overview of what your landscape actually is running: which software, which versions. Find out what is going EOL, as this will bite you soon enough.

- don't automate anything else until you understand the full context of what you are automating. Automation is abstraction, and you don't know yet what to abstract.

- When you do automate, start with writing tests. https://testinfra.readthedocs.io/en/latest/ is quick win to ensure all your systems have certain configuration, can reach certain ports, have closed other ports.

- Once you have tests in place you can start creating ansible playbooks for changes, as changes _will_ happen.

by yabones12 days ago

Thanks for testinfra, awesome link. Integration with Jenkins and/or Nagios makes this super useful for remediation.

by hardwaresofton12 days ago

It seems no one suggested this but maybe you could try getting in touch with the person who got fired? Buy them the beverage of their choice and figure out what happened (and if you’re next in X years) let them know the pickle you’re in (and that you don’t blame them of course), and ask for some tips if they are willing to give you some.

You worked together, surely there was some rapport there?

by shireboy12 days ago

I’m a dev who got sucked into some ops/sysadmin work. Not a whole department, but I think my advice would still apply. The most effective thing I did was a custom script to test everything I was responsible for and send me a nice formatted email w the results. I’m not talking about canned email from Helpdesk or network monitor, but tests like “is the backup file modified date the expected value”, “is disk space on X at least N% free”, “are Z services up”? All in a single email, every morning. I wrote mine in powershell, but you do you.

If something bad happens, add a test for it to that email. It’s not an end all, but helps be proactive and keep pulse of things you are on the hook for. Real-time alerts etc can be useful, but also a lot of noise.

Also a kanban board like Trello or Notion has been useful

by linusb12 days ago

Op here ~~ Thank you all for the advice, I've been reading all of your comments and my heart and mind feels more light now. I would like to share some skills I do have:

Programming background in C and python, also bash and powershell programming.

Knowledge of networking and computers in general( I know how to fix hardware in general and know how to deal with Linux and Windows)

My background is in InfoSec, so I Know how to create scripts in general, analyse and mitigate vulnerabilities.

It's my first job, so I'm really anxious on how to do stuff, because I have some theoretical knowledge but never did it in a company, I always did it at home working on some personal labs.

Thank you again, I really appreciate your comments. Love you all

by DocTomoe12 days ago

Be extremely aware that you may have picked up lingo and thought patterns in infosec that mean different things and act differently in your new position. Threats now no longer just mean "russian hacker guy", it also means "Tracy from accounts managed to pour her probiotic smoothie over the laptop's keyboard, and that machine has the only copy of this months employees compensation, they need the file in two hours, or noone's getting paid! If it fails, we'll tell them it's the sysadmin's fault", and "Why is it suddenly 70 degrees celsius and rising in the server room?".

by throwaway98439312 days ago

You sound like me when I started 20 years ago. You're gonna do fine. Probably better than many other experienced sysadmins, in some respects!

by Ciantic12 days ago

Sysadmin of four campuses sounds like a job that requires more than one sysadmin. Being a sysadmin is pretty much like herding the sheep, it's 24/7 job.

Something breaks in christmas eve, you have to fix it. Something breaks in the friday evening you have to fix it. This is a job that needs multiple people in long run usually.

by mnw21cam12 days ago

My advice would be prioritisation. In decreasing order: 1. Make sure intruders can't misuse your data/resources. 2. Make sure your data doesn't accidentally go missing or get corrupted. 3. Make sure the the resources are sufficiently set up for other people to get their jobs done.

So, with a security background you have the most important of these already. The next most important is handled with backups. Then the rest is less critical.

Next, you need to decide whether the system as it currently stands is basically working but needs little adjustments, or needs redesigning from scratch. Take a few months of observations before you decide this.

Document the issues that you deal with. Make notes on the nature of the problem, the priority, the expected effort required to deal with it, what happened, how much effort it actually took. An issue tracker is a good way to do this, and I'd recommend using one even if it's a small company.

by dsr_12 days ago

The components of this job may or may not include:

- desktop (human!) support

- networking inside buildings

- networking between buildings

- server maintenance

- OS administration

- authentication systems

- local services (DNS and NTP are the most important, but your end users will think of file sharing and printing as most important)

- external services

- security (information, yes, but possibly physical systems, too)

- backups (nobody cares about backups, they only care about restores)

Figure out which of these are currently running, then which are your responsibility. Document everything, and save copies as automatically as possible - you have four sites? You want five copies. One in each location and one in a secure off-site location.

Make lists. Review them in the morning and before you go home.

Get a copy of Limoncelli and Hogan's book, The Practice of Systems Administration, and the follow-up Time Managment for Systems Administrators. Expense them.

Later, figure out costs.

Good luck.

by sciurus12 days ago

> Get a copy of Limoncelli and Hogan's book, The Practice of Systems Administration

Seconding this. Here's a link to the latest edition.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0321919165/ref=dp_ob_neva_mob...

by throwaway98439312 days ago

I haven't read this but the description seems very comprehensive!

After he's got his sea legs, I would also get books on how to implement ITSM. IT Service Management is the most straightforward codified way to run an IT department or set of IT services. Learn about Change Management, Incident Management, Disaster Recovery, Availability/Reliability/Redundancy. Learning about any legal regulations/laws that relate to IT. Then eventually dive into SRE, Lean, DevOps, Agile (but far down the road, not immediately).

by vnuk12 days ago

As your first move I'd suggest start pushing managment for a new hire. Four locations and only one person managing them? That doesn't sound feasible in the long run and it's definitely not fair to you.

by j_not_j12 days ago

My 32-years of experience suggests:

1. Don't do anything that you cannot undo. Like, copy the /etc/passwd before running vi on it. Or yelling at a user. Or upgrading software or operating system -- have backups.

2. Have the trust and authority of your manager. This needs to be negotiated in advance. Warn management of your steep learning curve and warn them to expect outages. Ensure you can tell users to wait because you have a priority list established with your manager. Remind users, if necessary, that they are not your manager.

3. Make a note, even if just by counting, every user request. For 100 users you might expect 50 to 200 requests per month. Be sure management sees this report. It is evidence to support additional hiring.

4. Learn customer service skills. Be able to stay completely calm in the face of the CEO screaming in your face. This requires a lot of "emotional IQ" and probably training and coaching. If you can achieve this level of zen-consciousness just 80% of the time you win.

All the other advice posted here also applies. The trick is to adapt the advice to the situation you face, and, when you make a mistake, quickly reverse course.

Good luck!

by yabones12 days ago

Just want to say, good luck OP. I was in your position about 3 years ago, though with a smaller company at the time. It was the hardest, most stressful experience in my career so far but I've come out the other side with immeasurably greater confidence and skills. This will be the most brutal learning experience of your life. But, if you need to throw in the towel, there's no shame in that at all.

by bayindirh12 days ago

A lot of good advice is already thrown around. Let me add another tip:

Always do smoke testing. After setting up a system, and it starts working, reboot once. No preparation, nothing. Just reboot out of the blue.

If the system boots and works as normal, you're done. If not, fix the problems and retry.

Will save a lot of headaches down the line.

Also, document all your procedures. Everything. To something tidy & local. Something like TiddlyWiki or a tool of your choice.

by trabant0012 days ago

Start top down: ask what has the most business value and take care of that first. You will not be able to do everything an experienced sysadmin will do, so you need to prioritize to the extreme. Only deal with important stuff.

The most technical aspect: don't lose or destroy the data! Downtime is fine, losing data is catastrophic.

Grow a thick skin or move on. You will be the target of complaints. A lot.

by roamerz12 days ago

Understand and document what you are responsible for including storage,hosts,networking.

Document the dependancies of apps on the above.

Verify backups and that they are backing up the right information and that they are immutable until their lifecycle is complete.

Verify your critical infrastructure has two power sources. Most equipment have two power supplies and I make sure they are independently powered. (UPS and line/generator). Do not rely on just UPS because it will fail you.

Make sure your datacenter has redundant A/C. Cooling failure will kill you as certainly as power failure just more slowly.

Know your facilities contacts especially the after hours emergency numbers and make sure they are current.

Know your IT support contacts. Sysadmins are somewhat jack of all trades master of none. Call the masters and use them when needed. No shame at all in that.

Don’t be a dick. Relationships are important.

Above that go out of your way help people even if it’s not in your wheelhouse.

Be aware of your long term stress level and well being. Your responsibility is to your people and you can’t do that effectively if your are not mentally able.

Communicate with your boss and make sure you are getting the support and tools you need to do your job. If you need it ask for it.

KISS - Don’t be sucked into complexity where it’s not warranted. Simpler is more reliable than complex if you don’t understand the complex.

Don’t automate unless you completely understand the process you are automating and all the dependancies.

Don’t offhand just trust vendors or their promises. Verify.

Pay extra for good hardware.

Read HN

In no particular order.

by hullsean12 days ago

I’ve been doing the above as a consultant for a couple of decades. Here’s what I see:

o As others have said it’s a lot. That said it sounds like management trusts uou. More than hiring someone off the street to take the reigns. This means there is room to breathe and room to fail a little bit.

o Talk to all biz units to learn what services they rely on. Thus will not be 1:1 with servers and applications as you see them. But it’s an important starting point.

o Inventory all the systems that you can see/find.

o identify backups, DR and put together a list of your concerns. Document this and share with management. This will give you cover.

o develop your own priority list. Be prepared for management to give you a different set of priorities. You will need to learn skills of push back and compromise.

o learn to reach “good enough” in the short term. If you try to fix everything elegantly and perfectly other problems will wait longer.

by lordnacho12 days ago

So you're the only person in charge? Ask for stuff that people in charge have: more money, and staff.

I'm not saying this because I think you need more money and staff, you haven't mentioned either.

The reason you need to do this is to check what kind of organization you're working for. Do they value your presence? If they don't make a move on either of these issues, you know the answer and you can leave immediately. The job market is white hot right now, you don't need them. Either they're dumb and they don't realize they need you, or they're cheap and they think they can get you cheaply. They could also be reasonable and act like it.

Basically it's poker and you've got a decent hand.

Oh yeah, and don't let them do the "we're working on it" thing. Immediate raise, and some kind of job ad in a public place, now.

by codingdave12 days ago

Is this a corporate job, or do you work for a school district or some other kind of entity?

I ask because much of the advice here is assuming the corporate world - and if that is true, it is all mostly valid advice. But what you are describing is fairly typical for IT in small government environments (schools, libraries, etc.)

So I'll give a little advice in case you are not in a corporate world -- let your boss know you are in a bit over your head and need some help with learning and training to fill in knowledge gaps. In non-corporate orgs, this is completely normal - the IT folks there work what they know, and ask for help when they don't know. They also tend to network with each other - maybe the guy who runs the library in the next county over has some different skills, and you can cross-train each other, etc.

by geocrasher12 days ago

I'd be questioning why somebody without the proper qualifications was promoted to such a position. Have you heard of the Peter Principal? If not, go look it up. That's not a slight.

I once got "promoted" by way of the superior admin being let go. He'd set up the place so well that it maintained itself (to a point) and when he had a medical event that took him out a few weeks, things ran so well that they figured he wasn't needed anymore.

They stuck me in his position, which I was not ready for. Things got bad for me, and they tried to make it look like I was the bad guy when I quit a few months later.

Perhaps your circumstances are different, but you need to be 100% sure they're investing in you, not setting you up to be the fall guy.

by emreb12 days ago

What a great opportunity to learn on the job! Here are my few tips: 1 - Do not shy away from asking for help 2 - Google everything, and never be satisfied with the first answer you see 3 - Try to automate everything you find yourself doing for the 3rd time in a month.

by majkinetor12 days ago

There is only one tip for you: if you are not programming, you are going to suck.

I have never met very good sysadmin which wasn't programmer at one point.

I am not talking about hard core programming involving serious patterns, DI, migrations etc. But most of the time, you should be writing good, resilient, scripts in more serious shell language such as PowerShell. If you don't do that, your actions are not reproducible and thus your output is prone to interpretations (i.e. it sucks). Plus, there is no such thing in enterprise as one-time-tasks - if you don't script your task you will have to manually repeat it sooner or later and that is extremely inefficient and error prone.

by andresgaitan12 days ago

3 year Linux Sysadmin, here my 2c:

Buy ASAP both "UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook" and "Practice of System and Network Administration".

UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook -> Will give you the necessary tech skills and concepts. This is a sysadmin bootcamp.

Practice of System and Network Administration -> Will show you how to the job right. This is more like 'how to manage' an operations team.

Each book is massive and will take you 1 month to read. I suggest you start with UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook.

by computershit12 days ago

Adding to the list of what's already been said:

1. Passwords / Secrets management. Ensure there are no shared accounts in use, no credentials or passwords on the company wiki. Implement adoption of a password manager (LastPass if commercial, BitWarden if you can selfhost) for team and individual secrets.

2. Identify all public-facing endpoints and do an initial once over on the software that's backing them and any vulnerabilities (especially if they have anything Atlassian in their stack).

by technion12 days ago

- What's your ticket system like? If people can just drop by your desk and ask about their printer that's something you'll want to change

- I know with your security background when Bob in accounts demands a domain admin password you won't just give it to him. But who has your back on that? Will he cry to the CEO who in turn will ask you to please do your job and give it to him? Get some relevant policies reviewed and signed off.

by readingnews12 days ago

I have been an IT sysadmin or data center admin or sysadmin+sysadmin manager for almost 30 years. I have worked at small places and huge campuses... I will throw my $0.02 in, which may not be worth 1-bit.

You said: > my background is with information security and it's going to be a big challenge for me because it's my first job.

I see a lot of good advice for people who kinda-sorta know what they are doing. You did not say if this was a linux-based job or a windows-based job. This makes a small difference. If this was a windows-only shop, my advice would change slightly (e.g. Do you understand windows automated deployment with a system like SCCM or whatever you have in-house? Do you know powershell? From your comment, I think the answer is "no".) If this was a linux-only shop, again my advice would change (Do you know how to write any code in any language? From your comment, again, I think the answer is "no".)

You say you are confused about how to manage everything, I am assuming you do not mean "I have a huge pile of IT inventory" and what you mean is "I have 200+ different pieces of software/applications running, how to keep track of all of them, their status, upgrades, needs, etc."

Every sysadmin I ever worked with that was worth their weight was at one time a programmer, CS major or CS graduate. I do not know if you have the time to learn programming in this position, so I would ask the following question:

Is it your desire to be a sysadmin as a career or do you want to do Info Sec as a career?

If you want to be a sysadmin, you need to learn some programming. Pick something that fits in with what kind of shop you are in (win/linux/mixed). If you do not want to be a sysadmin, figure out only how to keep the ship afloat, and start looking for an InfoSec job. You will eventually dislike the sysadmin position. It takes a special kind of person to automate everything they do, and build things only to tear them apart later (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S01672...).

Most people in here have given great advice, but IMHO I am not sure if it fits in with your skill level. I do not mean any insult, but I knew InfoSec people who were expert sysadmins, and others who knew nothing about the job.

by malicebird10 days ago

When you do inventory, check for everything that has an expiration. Domains, SSLs, 3rd party software licenses/services...anything that can cause an outage because something wasn't paid or expired.

by quartesixte12 days ago

We don’t happen to work at the same place do we. . . ?

by haolez12 days ago

The first thing is to ask for a staff to be hired. You need to use the momentum of your own hiring to get this new staff approved.

by artie_effim12 days ago

Codify an incident response plan - nothing beats a playbook vs chicken-with-no-head response.

by iJohnDoe12 days ago

Keep in my mind that HN has a healthy mix of developers. Thankfully HN is more diverse today and represents more people in the tech industry than just developers.

Keep the above in mind with any responses here. Most developers hate sysadmin and don’t believe they have a place in any company. They think the infrastructure is just a Linksys device and a cheap NAS. No need for sysadmin. Yes, my response is cantankerous, but also hits the situation pretty accurately in a lot of orgs.