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  • #2259293

    Feeling overwhelmed…


    by thamilton ·

    This is my first sysadmin job and for the last 6 months (my first 6 months) I have been feeling extremely overwhelmed. I am the only IT person here and I am responsible for everything! Im fortunate to have landed such a great job but it is very difficult for me to focus on one thing at a time. Im getting my BA in Information Systems Security but at the same time I actually enjoy working with people and helping them.

    As a budding sysadmin, how can I make my days more productive as an admin but still be available as the sole support role?

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  • Author
    • #3229841


      by jamesrl ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      You can’gt do everything at once. You have to focus on a few tasks at a time and give them full attention.

      First off, you probably can divide your tasks into 2 types – projects (one time unique deliverables) and maintenance(ongoing activities).

      Figure out how much time you need to keep the ship floating (maintenance) and how much you can afford to spend on projects. Then book specific time to work on projects, the rest being maintenance.

      Prioritise the maintenance tasks. Know what demands immediate attention, what can wait for days or weeks. Do not let things interrupt your project time unless its an emergency.

      Then prioritize your projects. What you need to look for is “low hanging fruit”. What can you do that has the biggest impact for the smallest effort – do that first. Look for things that help eliminate/reduce/automate some of your maintenance work.

      Thats only a start.

      Hope that helps.


    • #3229820

      In addition To James’ excellent advice

      by tonythetiger ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      You might consider enlisting the aid of some of the more savvy users to help with some of the less savvy users. On a volunteer basis, of course.

    • #3229718

      My 2 cents worth

      by av . ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      I’m a one person sysadmin for about 50 users and can relate to your overwhelmed feeling. I felt like that in the beginning. I wasn’t prepared for the unique challenges a one person IT department faces.

      I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and have learned that your Admin work has to come first unless it is a dire emergency. The first thing I do every morning is check all logs, etc. Then I work on my most important projects. If users need me during this time, I offer to help them with their problem after I finish my Admin work, unless it is an emergency.

      User support is tricky in a one person office. Everyone has their own IT agenda, and you are always part of it. It can take up all your time if you let it. Be firm. I always try to do remote or telephone support first. If you have to go to their desk to help, don’t sit down. You’re there to teach them, not do it for them.

      • #3283787

        Yep, and here are more ideas

        by mdhealy ·

        In reply to My 2 cents worth

        I agree with AmericanVoter about prioritization and remote support, and with a previous poster about enlisting other staff as volunteers to help with basic support. Here are more suggestions:

        1. If you don’t have remote-access software such as VNC or Timbuktu installed on your clients’ computers, you should consider installing it. At my workplace we use this a LOT, and it’s a great timesaver: for administering a server remotely, for fixing a user’s problem, and especially for demonstrating something to a user. Having the user watch you do the steps by remote control can be MUCH more helpful than trying to explain over the phone!

        2. There are probably questions you get asked again and again, so you should assemble some FAQ documents and put them somewhere on the internal web site.

        3. There are programs that let you capture a video clip of something you do on screen, then record an audio sound track; we find this VERY helpful in training users. We record a video with narration of how to do some task, and make that available on an intranet site. Then when a user asks how to do that task, we can simply point him or her at the video demonstration.

        4. Sometimes a formal training session is the best way of getting people up to speed.

        • #3228368

          NetSupport saved me!

          by hyposave ·

          In reply to Yep, and here are more ideas

          I was in a similar situation as you are. I worked as a sysadmin for a school, and ever since I convinced the school administration to install NetSupport my work has been a breeze. Its got silent deployment features and very powerful remote control ability. It lets the users send help request to me, and most of the time I don;t even need to leave my desk.

      • #3209022

        I’m in the same situation, but worse

        by cpierson88 ·

        In reply to My 2 cents worth

        I admire that you’ve been doing this for 10 years. I, too, working for a consultant company and is assigned to one of their client to become that client’s one man IT. I am dealing with 90+ workstations for public use (it’s a library) and 50+ for staff use plus all the servers, firebox and others. I’ve been working there for a little bit over two years and feel that I’m ready to retire from this place or 200% ready for other admin job with much less responsibility and more rewards.

    • #3201691

      General thoughts on IT Mgmt

      by jp_the_it_guy ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      I’ve been doing this for a few years, and though my current situtation is different than most (we have 2x as many servers as we do users) here’s some things that I think will help just about anyone.

      1. Know what your business is. For example, I interned for a home builder years ago. The department manager asked me what we did, and I said keep the computers working. He replied that no, we sell homes and in order to sell home, we have to keep the computers working. Most important lesson in I.T.: I.T. is a means to the business’s end. Make sure you understand what is necessary to make the business function. This should help prioritize tasks as well.

      2. Report weekly – Create a weekly report. Make the target audience your immediate supervisor, and their immediate supervisor. Since they are likely to be non-technical, a significant amount of the report is explaining why the technical thing are important. Make sure that you have at least three major sections, and break each one up into smaller sections:

      A. Operations Recap – Summarize the current state of the technology, report on any significant events (>2hrs of your attention could be an indicator of significance) from the past week. This must include the status of the backups and focus of ongoing maintenance activities, the most non-glamourous parts of the job.

      B. Strategic Notes – This is a “parking lot” in which to record you strategic throughts about technology and notes from any training or conferences that you go to. This section can be nearly blank most weeks. It is good to have designated time for this and to have a channel by which to funnel some of these thoughts & considerations to the owners.

      C. Prioritized task list – This should be an ordered list of what you are working on, both maintenance & projects. I use it so that my boss can adjust my priorities, if necessary. I also split it up into four sections: Hot, Warm, Cold, and Closed. Warm and Cold items are longer term task that won’t get moved up to Hot until I’m ready to focus on them. The hot tasks are the 7 to 12 things that I will definitely spend time on in the comming week. The closed one is where I’ve recorded resolutions and can denote progress.

      3. Manage yourself – The weekly report is a tool which can be very helpful for keeping focus. Closing your email for a few hours out of the day can also be helpful. Schedule specific blocks of time for doing things, such as: 8-9, check backups/batch process results, review task list (pick 3 to close out); 9-10, check emails; 11-noon, visit users & work on desktop issues; 1-4, user issues, meetings, project work; 4-5, document work done, plan for tomorrow.

      That weekly report can really transform the way you work as you spend 2 to 3 hours a week (4 to 5 initially) thinking about what you have been doing and prioritizing your activities for the next week. After a couple of months, you’ll be able to complete them within a couple of hours. After 6 months or so, you will really start to see the investment paying off as you have captured your productivity on paper. When it is time for you review, you’ll have a very compelling case for the value that you are providing to the organizion.

      • #3201630

        Great replies

        by thamilton ·

        In reply to General thoughts on IT Mgmt

        Thx everyone! I really appreciate all of the replies. I know that if I can just a few hours to myself each day, I can prioritise and organize my days much better. Thx again!

      • #3231033

        Very good, JP

        by av . ·

        In reply to General thoughts on IT Mgmt

        This is sage advice for sure. Especially the part where you’ve captured your productivity on paper and can prove your value.

      • #3199700

        Weekly report

        by Anonymous ·

        In reply to General thoughts on IT Mgmt

        I don’t suppose there is any way you could provide a sample of your weekly report? I would Love to see some examples. I have wanted to do something like that, but don’t even know where to begin as far as organizaiton and content.

        • #3199674

          Another option…

          by rknrlkid ·

          In reply to Weekly report

          Here is another trick until we can find out what is on his weekly report. I went to an “effectiveness” seminar once, and they taught to use the Outlook “To Do” list to keep track of what you do on a daily basis. Your daily to do list will document what you are doing.

        • #3199583

          Yes, I’ll post something

          by jp_the_it_guy ·

          In reply to Weekly report

          I appreciate the request and completely understand where you are coming from. I, myself, sometimes have difficulty creating something for a manager from scratch, usually because we have different results in mind.

          In my particular case, I report to the majority owner and CEO of the company, who is decidedly non-technical. Since I live, and mostly work, 100 miles from the base office (remember, very many server, very few users), he kept complaining that he didn’t know what I was working on. To address that complaint, I started to “manage upward” by composing the weekly report. He no longer complains that he doesn’t know what I’m working on, but I also don’t think that he reads past the first page of the report. That’s fine, the first page is an executive summary along with the listing of recent/planned expenditures and my “Hot” items.

          When I complete this week’s report, I will scrub it (extensively) and post a generic version.

          The report is a Word document and I make use of headings to keep the formating pleasant and quickly move between sections. Each week, I copy the previous week’s document and start updating and adding new content. It took about a month for me to arrive at this current version, which of course is tailored to my audience and our use of technology.

        • #3284745

          Weekly Report-Model

          by mjgunther ·

          In reply to Yes, I’ll post something

          I’ve had to do quarterly reports, for which I kept notes on a daily basis: Narrow strip of paper, labeled by half-hours in the first column, the second column for jotting a brief reminder of the specific work, with a third column (keyed) for the project name or general category of work (support, training, research, config/testing, etc.). It really helped as a daily diary when it came time to compile those quarterly reports.

          Because I did a fair amount of running around, I found it more practical to jot down what I was doing on paper rather than electronically (in Outlook Tasks, as someone else suggested). Whatever works best for you. [I set up the daily list on a landscape page, repeated it 3 across, then gang-cut the sheets after printing. At the end of a month, I stapled that month’s sheets together.]

          It also showed in which categories I was *actually* spending time. (“You said this job would be 1/5 support, but I’ve been spending 15-20 hours a week on support for the past two months.”)

          JP_The_IT_Guy, I am *really* looking forward to seeing your weekly report template/model!

      • #3199625

        Another way to prioritize

        by grant@rb ·

        In reply to General thoughts on IT Mgmt

        You are your own boss and you decide what you want to do. Then there is the person who is your boss and tells you what to do. At the top is the person who signs your paycheck. Who do you want to keep happy?

        Set up your own calendar and set up what you need to meet with other(s) about on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

        Then, instead of you jumping through the hoop to meet everyone else’s schedule, you can establish some time frames of your own so that you are managing your job.

        This would be looked upon favorably by the boss. The boss knows that you are meeting with Sally on Project B at 1:30PM on Tuesday and you will be meeting with bob on Project C at 8:30AM Wednesday…etc.

      • #3284819

        Sample Weekly Report

        by jp_the_it_guy ·

        In reply to General thoughts on IT Mgmt

        Here is a sample, heavily scrubbed. My boss, like all good small business owners, keeps a very close watch on the expenditures. We have had some interesting operational issues with a few of our vendors, though most of the details have been filtered out.

        Let me know if you have any questions about the report. It looks better in Word with formatted headings & such. -JP


        Infrastructure Operations

        Vendor A has responded to some of the technical questions from the incident on 8/7. They are working on getting a response to the remaining questions from VENDOR S. Load2 failed on 8/23 on the small servers due to problems on the Vendor R network.
        I have reached a major stopping point on both the Weights spreadsheet and the calendar access. Our contractor has reviewed the past three years of results and found 18 suspect companies.

        Strategic Considerations

        The developers and I would like to add a write cache chip on each of the three small servers. I have begun to consider the requirements for the next employee in the technology operations group.

        ? Recommending ~1,000 for monitoring software solution.
        ? Recommending ~$400 for a NAS device and software for an office backup solution.
        ? Recommending $300 / server write cache upgrade for the three small servers.
        ? Recommending $3,100 for a 48 port switch to upgrade 24 port switch.

        Task and Project Lists ? Hot Items

        1. VENDOR A /VENDOR S incident follow-up
        2. Shared Calendars
        3. Weights
        4. Operations Manual
        5. August Scheduled Maintenance
        6. Install / Configure ACT!
        7. Access for gateway program on small server 3
        8. Monitoring software evaluation
        9. Contractor Update



        The backups have functioned very well this past week. The Vendor C weekly database full backups have completed successfully for August. There will be some additional full backups taken from individual databases after the developers complete updates to the databases. This is to keep the daily differential backup sizes from getting too large and paying unnecessarily more on the Vendor C backup bills.

        Production Environment

        There were a couple of brief problems with operations this week. On 8/21, there was roughly a 10 minute outage at the end of the day caused by connection issues with Vendor S. The backup feed was quickly enabled. A couple of days later, for about an hour on 8/23, one item was stagnate. Vendor A associated this with network problems that Vendor R was having at that time.

        On the whole, the production systems continue to perform well. In light of the recent issues, one of the developers has started a discussion about possible changes and improvements to the programs.

        Follow-up on 8/7 Incident

        We had the second follow up call with Vendor A this week regarding the incident on August 7th and on August 21st. The call included GP and CM, both with Vendor A, and one of our developers.

        The conversation started with our developer asking about stagnate data. It turns out that Vendor R was having a problem with their feed that day. (We saw this affect our overnight download from Vendor R.) Here are the other items that were discussed:

        1. Do you have any information on the connection drop on 8/21

        Was not an application issue. We need to open a case with Vendor S on the matter and then Vendor A can follow up on that case number.

        2. What is the timeout setting on the firewall and how low can it be set?

        They are still waiting for a response from VENDOR S on this.

        3. What is the status of the heartbeat monitoring?

        They are still waiting for a response from VENDOR S on this.

        4. What is the ETA on restoring the automatic fail-over functionality between Vendor S?s primary and secondary sites?

        Currently about 6 months.

        The next phone call is scheduled for next Wednesday afternoon.

        Load2 Failure on small servers

        The 8/23 overnight load2 failed on all three small servers. We suspect that this is because of the problems on the Vendor R network as mentioned above.

        August 2006 Scheduled Maintenance

        A scheduled maintenance has been added for 8/24 to perform the firmware updates on the two servers at our backup site. A USB drive with the firmware update software has been sent to the hosting facility. On 8/24, in coordination with the hosting facility I will update the firmware and then the operating system drivers on the two servers. This will complete the scheduled maintenance tasks for August.

        Calendar Access for Management

        Still need to confirm that management has access to the calendars.

        Weights Document

        The 2.5 version of the Weights spreadsheet was completed this week. All of the data is now pulled from a pivot table within the sheet. Also, the formulas run from left to right and shading is used to indicate which columns are calculated and which are referenced on other sheets. The documentation for how to acquire the source data is complete for all of the data sources on which I have sufficient information. Management should complete the review by Friday, 8/23, and I will be able to mark this project as completed.

        Operations Documentation

        This has taken a back seat to review, updates and documentation of the weights process. The next priority will be to document the business continuity scenarios for the core daily deliverables.

        Contractor?s Progress

        Our contractor is continuing with the review of the companies in the historical report. He has identified 18 companies whose domicile is not the US. They range from Canadian and Chinese companies, to ones that have obviously moved off-shore likely for tax reasons. I have augmented his list by adding a column that lists with information from Vendor R.

        Unfortunately, due to system outages at his day job, the contractor will not be able to make much progress this weekend. He indicated that their systems were not quite as reliable as ours.

        Office Environment

        Software Licensing

        I will complete the ACT installation when all of the sales staff on in the office.. This will require configuration changes on several workstations. They will have access to a share folder as well as to the ACT database. From this central location we will backup the data to a NAS device.

        Data Backups

        There is now some data at the office, primarily within ACT, that would be costly to loose. By placing a simple NAS device on the network, we can have a central location for data backup. It can sit in the server / network closet and be a bit more secure. The biggest risk with these types of devices is that they are very portable and can easily walk away so I will place it in the network closet. A 300 GB Buffalo Tech LinkStation Pro costs ~$275. Retrospect is a good backup software program and the professional edition, which should be sufficient for the requirements, is only ~$95.



        Possible Purchases

        In consultation with the developers, they agree with me on spending $300 per server to add 128 MB battery-backed write cache to the three small servers? data array controllers. This is expected to have a noticeable improvement on their speed.

        To address the port issues at the primary site and the switch speed issue at the secondary site, it is recommended that a ProCurve 2848 48-port 10/100/1000 managed switch be purchased for $3,100. This switch will replace the current ProCurve 2824 switch at the primary site. That switch will then be moved to the secondary site to replace the current 10/100 unmanaged switch. This is not an urgent purchase.



        I have started to define the requirements for the second hire in the Technology Infrastructure department. (One of the first needs is to determine a better name for the department.) The required technical skills are very ordinary: Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2000, Active Directory, TCP/IP, Microsoft implementation of IPSec, Windows XP. Defining the soft skills, however is much more challenging. What we need is someone that could run the technology without me there. I?m looking for a lieutenant, or maybe a junior partner. He will be perhaps the most key employee in the development of our department.



        1. Monitoring software: ~$1,000
        2. NAS device ($275) & software ($95) for office backup solution.
        3. Battery-backed write cache for each of the three small servers: $300 each.
        4. 48 port network switch for Houston: $3,100.
        5. LiteSpeed SQL Backup software (for all three small servers): $5,400
        6. Reporting server reporting software, software & price TBD.
        7. We are at capacity in terms of power ports at the primary site. To add any devices with only one power supply will require an additional Automatic Source Transfer Switch for $500.


        Hot Items

        These items are urgent and import and are the first to receive attention on a daily basis

        1. VENDOR A /VENDOR S follow-up ? Follow-up on incidents on 8/7 and 8/21.
        2. Group Calendars ? Follow up with management testing.
        3. Weights ? It is nearly complete, except for review by management.
        4. Operations Manual ? Disaster recovery scenarios are next.
        5. August Scheduled Maintenance ? HP firmware updates on secondary site on 8/24.
        6. Gateway on small server 3 ? The request has to be made through Vendor R.
        7. Install / Configure ACT! ? Need to add rest of sales department.
        8. Monitoring ? Installing final solution to test.
        9. Link upgrade ? Vendor R is reviewing the link utilization for us.
        10. Contractor Update ? Making progress reviewing companies in historical report.
        11. VPN Functionality ? Waiting for response from Vendor W on scheduling.

        Warm Items

        These items are important, but less urgent, and receive attention after the ?hot? items have been addressed.

        1. Additional Infrastructure Staffing ? Determine additional staffing requirements.
        2. Implement Domain Isolation ? Dependant upon network and server documentation.
        3. SQL Maintenance Scripts ?Schedule pruning on small servers.

        Cool Items

        These items are longer term, or of a more strategic nature.

        1. Office Server ? Install server for local backup, file sharing, and central management.
        2. New Office ? This is likely to become a Hot Item this fall.
        3. Secondary Cellular Provider ? Establish service with a second cellular provider. Select for data packages and use voice services as failover.
        4. Implement ITIL Methodologies ? This is the current vogue in IT management. More information here:
        5. Infrastructure 2.0 ? My goal is to have a proposal by May of 2007.

        Closed Items

        These items have been addressed or are no longer of concern.


        • #3284705

          Thank you for posting Model Weekly Report

          by mjgunther ·

          In reply to Sample Weekly Report

          JP ?

          Thanks so much for posting your model weekly report. It looks great. And I don?t want your job.

          BTW. It?s nice to see someone in IT who knows the difference between ?effect? and ?affect?. Though I notice you and I both have trouble with ?lose? and ?loose? .

          It?s a dandy report, with very intelligent topic divisions. It should serve any one-person-show (or middle manager) as an excellent template. Best of luck in your search for a lieutenant.

        • #3284919

          Yep, need to re-read Strunk & White

          by jp_the_it_guy ·

          In reply to Thank you for posting Model Weekly Report

          I’ve got most of the common homophones down, but lose & loose still eludes me. I ended up correcting a few other typos from the original when going through it again.

          Thanks for the comments. It to a couple of months to get the topic divisions in the current state. As for composing the report, basically I go back through my notes, calendar & email for the past week and try to sum up the areas where I spend most of my time and that are the most critical to ongoing operations. I try to make the narrative of each section engaging enough so that the owner will make it to the end. When I’ve completed the body, I go up to the top and get the summary straight. The hard part is making the summary fit all on one page, which I believe is essential.

          I actually love my job. I’m building a department. The technical part is challenging enough to keep me interested. The work that my company does is inspriring. Nobody’s ever done what were doing.

          Now if I could only get our vendors to be more reliable & responsive…

        • #3283470

          Very , very useful example

          by cewallace ·

          In reply to Sample Weekly Report

          I want to be like JP_The_IT_Guy.

        • #3283302

          you’re the best! ;)

          by Anonymous ·

          In reply to Sample Weekly Report

          Thanks for taking the time to share this. It was very enlightening for me. I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge and insight.

          Thanks again.

        • #3199969

          Nice and to the Point

          by michael ramm ·

          In reply to Sample Weekly Report

          Thanks JP for the sample report. It will help me to develop a similar report for my boss(es). I am a 1-man IT Dept for a local municipality so I have the added feature of reporting to our City Council, as well.

          I am toying with looking into ITIL. Do you think that it is worthwhile for a small IT department like ours?

          Thanks for all of the advice on this thread.

        • #3199888

          Thoughts on ITIL & SMBs

          by jp_the_it_guy ·

          In reply to Nice and to the Point

          I don’t envy you having to report to the city council. Your constant challenge will be to help them to understand the relative importance of the different things that you tell them.

          For example, so many non-IT people think it is enough to keep hackers out of their network. The simple truth is that the most dangerous individuals with respect to the network are the legitimate users. They are already inside the network and often not policed or even thought about.

          On the ITIL thing, it is creaping up in my priority list. I have done some preliminary reading and have a very cursory understanding of what it is. For the most part, it will be overkill for my environment. However, I do think that it is very valuable for one important reason, a common language to discuss IT processes.

          As ITIL gains a foothold in the US, we are going to find that more and more techs will talk about technology management using ITIL-speak. This is a very good thing because there will be a common understand of the terms, their relation to each other and their connotation within a discussion of technology management. The sooner I can pepper my reports with the terms, and develop that common language with the non-IT parts of my business, the easier it will be to communicate with them in general, and to relate to external technology resources in particular.

          There is one book that I HIGHLY recommend. That is “The Visible Ops Handbook”. I just got it last week and I’m on my second reading of it. It is only 66 pages long (plus apendicies) and gives very simple, actionable steps for managing technology. It is going to be required reading of everyone in our company that works at all with the technology management.

          The steps are:
          1. Stop making changes outside of scheduled maintenance windows
          2. Document the environment
          3. Create a repeatable build process.
          4. Use metrics to manage.

          For us, we instituted step 1 when we went into full production mode this past May. My current focus is step 2, and I already have some of the parts in place for steps 3 & 4.

          In my opinion, we have a well run network, but I would still only give it a B- overall. Well be to a B+ by the end of the this year and A+ by the end of next year.

          I like ITIL, and especially the Visible Ops. It has saved me from recreating the wheel in creating my department. It is so much easier to implement than to create. In relation to my experience & understanding of IT, Visible Ops is spot on.

    • #3199817

      Do you have an issue logging system?

      by welshbilly ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      Where you can log all user support issues, projects etc. This way you can produce reports that were mentioned in an earlier post and also justify your time if need be. It can be useful for yourself to establish on going problems and to be proactive rather than fire fighting all of the time. Also you can establish common trends, need of user training and something to refer back to.

      I think if you invest some time in establishing some of the points in these posts you will reap the benfits later on.

      Also have you thought about creating a knowledge base for your users. Common questions you recieve could be recorded with answers the user can follow. It will take time to educate users of this tool, but is worth it once they get used to it.

      Not only will you be organised, proactive but also easily able to inform your bosses of issues/common problems and projects you are working on. It is always good to let your managers know what is going on as then they will be able to back you up if they are asked questions themselves.

    • #3199796

      My advice

      by dechevarria ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      All though all the advice you have received is good advice here’s what worked for me.

      I am an IT Department of 1 supporting about 10 servers and 65 or so users. I have arranged my work day so that I arrive about 7 each morning earlier when I critical IT Tasks on the servers. This is about 1 – 2 hours earlier than most of the people I support. This gives me the time to complete admin jobs, organize and prepare for the day. Also my users are aware that my day ends at 3 and if they need me I’m on call.

      You’d be surprised how well this arrangement works. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes work project installations on the weekends and early morning hours, but on average this works out well for everyone.

      I also keep a White Board with all pending projects and cross them off when finished. This way my boss can see at glance what I’m working on.

      • #3282288

        Your best chance

        by riotsquirrl ·

        In reply to My advice

        If you’re the sole admin, this also gives you a chance to discover and possibly correct systems problems that occurred overnight before most of the staff arrives. I’m not an early riser, so I feel your pain if you don’t like dechevarria’s suggestion, but you’ll probably end up staying late to finish your admin tasks otherwise.

    • #3199782


      by mavmin2 ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      Friend, any new job is going to be overwhelming. You are one person and one person can only do so much in one day. Try to be three people and do three day’s work in one day and you will be burned out and fippling burgers at Burger King or in the cardiac ward.

      It will all start to come together at some point and you will think you are in Nirvana. If not, look for another job if they are making unreasonable demands.

      • #3199761

        Same Boat

        by dumphrey ·

        In reply to Normal

        I’m IN the same boat. This is my first sys admin job, and I am supporting 2 small buisnesses. Total of 8 servers, 90 users, and one PBX/Telco Switch hybrid from hell. All of the advise here is very good. I will be implementing weekly reports satrting tomorrow. Also, let me add the following: my company paid top dollar for huge support contracts, and you can be sure I will be using them. Its comforting to know there IS help when you need it.

    • #3199626

      Thank you for your post

      by lori ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      I want to thank you for your post. And thank you to all of the people who replied. Your advice will be helpful to me as well. It is good to know that I am not the only one in this saturation.

      I am the first IT person this company has had. I worked into it from another job at the same company. I thought when I got to give up my none IT functions 8 months ago the overwhelmed feeling would go away. I was wrong. In the last 8 months we have gone from one Windows server and one UNIX server to six Windows servers and one UNIX server. I have completed one software upgrade, in the middle of one, and have one to go before the end of the year. Our phone system got hit my lighting and I have gotten to learn and support VoIP. I only have 38 users to support, but I work in the type of industry where people say until retirement. 80% of my users were hired 20 years ago and lets just say that the were not hired for their computer skills.

      I think about quitting on a daily bases, but keep thinking of all of the experience I am getting and I keep hoping things will get better

      I just needed to vent, thank you.

      • #3283906

        Non IT function hell

        by it toast ·

        In reply to Thank you for your post

        Echoing Lori’s sentiment…..I keep having Non-IT functions added to my plate, to the point where I’m finally done with it, and done with IT. Our company, driven by politics and personal agendas, has wrung all the joy out of my job. I attempt to secure our infrastructure despite employees who blatantly disregard our selectively-enforced “computer usage policies”. I run the direct-mail engine, do marketing presentations etc. The sad reality is it seems to be like that in lots of IT shops. I wonder how my successor will react to the IT “job description” when they interview. My guess is all that BS work will be concealed from the recruitment ad….or the candidates will pass on the job.

        • #3283833

          Thank-you sarb and ox…

          by Anonymous ·

          In reply to Non IT function hell

          I echo your sentiment.
          I am a geek and proud of it, My First computer was a Timex Sinclair ZX80, with the 16K crash pack. I bult a speech synthesiser for my C128 when I was in 8th grade (I lived in an ID town, pop. 3000 – I think that included the cows).
          I Fell into IT, because I loved helping people use technology to be more effective.

          Any more it seems all my time is spent Filling out paperwork, deemed important by some group of politicians and auditors. And some of the stuff they expect makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

        • #3205787

          Tell me about it.

          by kylegeldmaker ·

          In reply to Non IT function hell

          I know exactly what you mean. I was hired as the Systems Administrator for my new company. I am in a similar boat as Lori, the users for this company have been here since day one. Most of the people here have worked for this company in this location for 30 + years. The sheer age of the users should tell you what I have to deal with. I have about 30 users, 2 servers, one domain controller, and 10 lab machines. I have had my hands full doing a full inventory on our assets, I had to propose, design and implement this system as there was no previous attempt at asset control. My company is one of the top 200 manufacturing companies in the world, it’s only logical that they not have any discernable way of tracking their multi million dollar network assets. As if my hand aren’t full enough, they tell me I need to start helping out with our QA dept becuase they are behind. I said OK, I will see what I can do. I helped out, got them caught up and went back to my other million projects. Soon after I get work that I need to start calibrating and certifying our gauges and other QA/SPC equipment. Well this stuff kinda snowballed over the course of a month or so and in an inch by inch fashion I am now the Systems Administrator/Statistical Process Control Coordinator…. WHAT? Talk about a huge jump in job funtion. For those of you who are familiar with Sixth Simga Process (Green, Yellow and Black Belt) you can understand how a lowly systems administrator would be the last person you want controlling your process control. I have no clue what the heck I am doing when it comes to this stuff. Although, most of it is simple everytime there is a problem I spend about a day with my face in a book reading about what could cause these spikes in statistical process. How dreadful!
          I do the work of 4 people. I have thought about quitting and trying to find a more focused admin position, but there is alot of room for personal experience here. Because I am the sole support person here, except for a know-it-all electrician aptly named Kaboom, I get lots and lots of experience in different areas. In lots of ways I have learned more about being a good admin from actually controlling the whole department. I do everything for our systems as well as the process control. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like being “important”.

          Anyway, sorry for the long response. I felt it relavent to the post from IT Toast about adding at free will to the Sys Admin’s job function.

    • #3283835


      by ibanezoo ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      Thats about how it goes nowdays. I have only 3 other people to work with and we support 800 – 900 people in a cut-throat business. Running %110 almost 24/7. But oh well, pays the bills… and you get to learn alot, usually.

    • #3283747

      don’t take any advice

      by bluron ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      from any management people. when it comes to IT they are clueless. better to do what you are doing now, asking help from fellow IT. this ones for you Tony

    • #3283726

      We all have at some time!

      by justin fielding ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      I think we have all felt overwhelmed at times–the role of a SysAdmin is a difficult one. I have been reading the book ‘Time Management for system administrators’ and it has some good advice which may help you out.

    • #3283705

      Been there, done that….

      by dhubbard1500 ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      Thamilton…. it is quite common, though not right for a single IT prof to be the “chief-cook-and-bottle-washer”. I can’t tell, but I suspect I have you by several decades! Six months is an almost acceptable breaking period.Some of the best advice I ever received was “if it don’t look like a duck, and don’t walk like a duck, and don’t quack like a duck… it’s probably not a duck!”.

      Be your own judge. Early burn-out is common, and unfortunate. You probably have the feeling that you’ve been asked to do so much, with so little, you’re now expected to do everything with nothing!

      To address the last question, trying to be the sole support person for ANY job is generally futile. Use your admin skills and influence to draw others into the day-to-day support. You’d be surprised what a little flattery will get you. Most others are more than willing to assist… to help… to be the teacher. An old term is to “train-the-trainer”. Think about it…


    • #3209012

      lots of options

      by jtoppi ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      It depends on what kind of system you are administrating. There are some things which work for some systems, but not others. If you find yourself working repititive tasks, write scripts to minimize the work. If you have users repeatidly asking you the same questions create a site on the network with useful help documents, and bookmark it on all the machines web browsers. Use more automated tools to perform software rollouts. If your environment is very heterogenous and automated rollouts will not work, try to use resources as intelligently as possible to make rollouts easier, or better yet where ever possible set up systems as web-applications to make rollouts as simple as writing a memo (with the URL of the system).

      There are always simple real world(as opposed to IT only solutions) solutions. If you work for an hourly wage and/or wish to impress the boss, work extra hours (lots i mean like 65+, most bosses actually take note of this). If the amount of work is truly too much, ask for additional hired hands.


      You could also send users/client my way if you are overwhelmed with their requests:

    • #3205703

      Organize Kid…its good for the sole..and your career..

      by trader boy ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      If you have Server 2003, you also have Share Point Services free….. Use this puppy to Organize your Admin life..Look into…1st to set up portals to organize your admin work groupings…then use it to set up an internal Intranet for your users….let them use this vehicle to put information here to communicate to each other…reduces email big time…set up links for everything…for each one of your service areas…go to google…search on share point services..not portal (that one is not free)..the share point services is free…use it..get your stuff organized and your users organized…this will provide a vehicle for server storage of important data and get it backed up daily…you are only a very few days away from an environment which will make your life better mananaged and you will only be bound by the extent of your creativeness…it will not hurt your career path a bit…Enjoy this I.T. Profession…you will soon be living in the neighborhood with Doctors and Lawyers…go for it!!

    • #3205697

      Tough but rewarding

      by jj_itguy ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      I have been an IT lone-ranger for most of my career. I now have a couple of full time staff that had to be earned with lots of “noticed” overtime and demonstrated need (as well as an increased budget to be able to afford them, of course).

      I have found being the lone-ranger, while challenging at times, to be very rewarding with diverse work loads that never let you get bored. While I love developing code for some application, I could not do that solely year after year. One day my focus may be on network issues and the next could be database, telecom, user support, training, whatever.

      It is of course is dependant on the management and what expectations they have of you, but if the expectations are realistic and mgmt understands your limitations (your only one person) and they see you are giving 100%+ it is a great situation.

      And best of all, you have TechRepublic and many other high quality tech sites to lend a hand!!

      editted: sorry forgot to answer the question:

      There are some very high quality comments to this post and one good addition I can make that has worked for me is:

      Spend some of your time at work when most people aren’t there. Come in early or work late, work through “normal” lunch and take yours at an alternate time.
      If that is not possible, soft schedule emergency interruption only time. Let people know you are going to set aside 2 hours of your day for focussing on projects where interruption whould be limited to emergencies. They can still email and you can scan incoming emails for urgency. I say soft schedule, because if someone still stops by during this time you just go ahead and talk to them and not be rude. I have seen people do this and be very rude to anyone who stops by during that time with a non-emergency. That is not good.
      Also let people know the benefits of your scheduled project time. (something they are waiting for will be completed quicker).
      Do not shut your door where the people can’t see what you are doing. I learned this starts unwarranted speculation. If you don’t have a window where people can see you, leave your door open but put up a nice sign as a reminder of the scheduled time for working on projects.
      Most people will repsect this and even feel good that you are taking this step.

    • #3282408

      Learn to say No

      by zynyxx ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      I haven’t read all the other reply’s to your posting, but the biggest thing I have learned over the last few years is to say NO. Or at least be realistic about when I can get to helping someone.

    • #3283358


      by qrazydutch ·

      In reply to Feeling overwhelmed…

      before you burn out…get your boss to OK at least 1 hour uninterrupted time (this will let you catch up on whatever). SCHEDULE YOUR SERVER TIME. Set a fixed time for server maintenance. At least 2 hours a week. Usually Saturdays or Sundays (we work weekends, name of the game). Stick to this, take the server down, whether it needs it or not. Ensure you run your checkdisk or disk reorg or your backup and restore or your COOP test (if you dont, you better start). Divide your day in “logical chunks”. Learn to say, thanks for your concern, please email me with all the details, and KEEP WALKING. Also you cannot please everyone, so if you try, you will please no one. Brief your boss daily (another way to get some R & R), either stand up QUICK FIVE MINUTES or per EMAIL. Report all bad news immediately, you are not the savior of the organization. backup BACKUP BACKUP……….teach your users to back their important files. Ensure you have a LINUX KNOPPIX rescue disk for data recovery. DONT TELL THE USER. Let them sweat for a day or so, let the word get out about data loss. Then play the hero. Teaches the organization to BACKUP..Enough?

      Also, be kind to yourself, schedule a walk, 1/2 hour a day. If users insist to talk, invite them along, call it your free consultation walk…

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