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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ****. 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.

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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.

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Non IT function ****

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.

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Thank-you sarb and ox...

by shardeth-15902278 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.

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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.

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