Sysadmin Profession Overview: How it differs from a DevOps engineer?

By PlaysDev
Published: Apr 19, 2024

System administrators are responsible for solving technical problems that arise during the work process and help staff install and configure software. Their role is critical to the smooth operation of a company’s information infrastructure, and they often act as a key link between the technical requirements and business needs of the organization.

Due to the overlap of some of the knowledge and skills of a DevOps engineer and a systems administrator, these terms are often considered synonymous. Let’s figure out who a sysadmin is and why a system administrator is not an engineer.

System administrator definition

A system administrator is an IT department specialist responsible for ensuring the reliable and efficient operation of computer systems and networks in the organization. Usually he is involved in maintaining networks, servers and PCs, installing and configuring software. His area of responsibility may also include ensuring data security and defense against external threats.

What types of system administrators are there?

There are several types of system administrators, each of which oversees a specific aspect of system operations: network administrators, security administrators, database administrators, and server administrators.

A network administrator specializes in designing, installing, configuring, and maintaining computer networks. He is responsible for ensuring network connectivity and reliability, configuring network equipment (routers, switches, firewalls), and resolving problems related to network connectivity and network access.

In general, a system administrator is more focused on working with operating systems and software, while a network administrator focuses on setting up and ensuring the reliability of a company’s network infrastructure.

However, in some organizations both roles may be combined into one, especially in smaller companies or teams where a specialist is required to work with both computers and data communications.

Thus, a system administrator is a collective concept that describes the various areas of responsibility of a specialist: networks, servers and PCs, databases, data security.

Tasks and responsibilities of a system administrator

What should a system administrator know and be able to do? To summarize, the essence of the profession can be expressed as the following – to ensure the uninterrupted operation of computer systems and networks in the company. To implement this, a good system administrator must be able to:

  1. Install, configure and maintain operating systems such as Windows Server, Linux or Unix, MacOS;
  2. Work with virtualization, such as (VMware vSphere, Hyper-v, VMWare WorkStation, VirtualBox);
  3. Have knowledge in the field of network technologies (TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP, VPN), as well as be able to configure and maintain network equipment, such as routers and switches;
  4. Install and configure peripheral equipment (printers, MFPs);
  5. Ensure the security of information, which is why the system administrator must be familiar with authentication methods, data encryption, and also be able to use software tools for monitoring and detecting threats, such as IDS/IPS systems;
  6. Their tasks also include data backup and disaster recovery using backup tools such as Veeam Backup & Replication or Backup Exec.

Also, in the responsibilities of a system administrator, you can often find items on setting up and maintaining accounting programs and other office tools. In other words, system administrators are often expected to have experience in administration of corporate internal resources.

What’s the difference between System Administrator and Devops Engineer?

DevOps and systems administrator are two different roles, but they share some common features because of which they are often considered the same profession. This is mainly because in modern organizations the boundaries between roles are blurred. DevOps engineers can perform some of the responsibilities that were previously associated with system administrators, and vice versa. For example, both can work with configuration files, automate processes and ensure information security.

A DevOps engineer is focused on automating the processes of software development, testing, deployment and monitoring. He creates tools and platforms to accelerate the development and delivery cycle of software products, introducing continuous delivery and continuous deployment methodologies. DevOps engineers work with configuration files, scripts, version control and automation systems such as Ansible, Puppet, Chef, Jenkins, Docker and Kubernetes. And also with a code repository (Git/BitBucket).

A DevOps engineer is a specialist responsible for designing and building the infrastructure of the required environments, continuous integration, delivery and deployment of applications in accordance with customer requirements, as well as ensuring effective communication with the product team and the customer.

A system administrator, on the other hand, is focused on ensuring the reliable and secure operation of computer systems and networks in a particular organization. He is involved in the installation, configuration and maintenance of hardware and software, data backup and recovery, information security, and user support. System administrators have experience working with various systems monitoring and management tools, which is why they can often be confused or equated with DevOps engineers.

A DevOps specialist, unlike a system administrator, works closely with the development department and knows languages like Bash, Python, C#.

While some of the responsibilities of a system administrator may overlap with some aspects of DevOps work, the main difference is that DevOps is more focused on software development and process automation, while a system administrator is focused on running infrastructure and supporting users.

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