Behind the Scenes: The Role of the Network Administrator

There’s no denying that we live in a digital world. All aspects of our lives, from work to play, depend on computer use. Most organizations and corporations operate sophisticated networks that connect users, streamline performance, and provide real time access to information. The role of the network administrator is to maintain these complex systems for peak performance. It is a rewarding career that relies on a strong technical background and is in high demand across the country. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for network administrators is growing at a rate of 28%, faster than average. This high growth percentage is expected to produce an employment change of 96,600 new jobs by 2020.

Network administrators have a variety of professional responsibilities that ensure the network is operating properly and potential problems are averted. The scope of these responsibilities are determined by the size of the organization and the network requirements. Administrators may be responsible for:

  • Equipment configuration A computer network is a complex system that requires each component works properly. When a new piece of hardware, a new software program, or an additional user is added to the system an administrator must reconfigure the network. This reconfiguration may require recabling, naming hardware, security system integration, and granting user rights.
  • Hardware upgrades It often seems like available technology changes overnight. It is essential that a network operate on the most current technology possible. An administrator has an active role in selecting and purchasing new hardware and lobbying for the most network-friendly equipment.
  • Software upgrades Organizations typically utilize one operating system and may rely on a variety of corresponding software programs. Over time, upgrades are made to operating systems and software programs to improve their function and user application. An administrator must determine whether the software improvements are beneficial to the organization and would warrant a software upgrade for the network. Careful planning for the upgrade is important to ensure a seamless transition to the new software. A network administrator must determine the migration path to upgrade the entire network without disrupting use.
  • Network security It is frightening to think that a complex computer network can be brought down by one small security breach. An administrator is responsible for maintaining firewalls, password requirements, spam and virus prevention systems, user databases, and authorized access levels. All of these tasks require constant vigilance to maintain a secure system. An administrator must be prepared to respond quickly to any breach in the network’s security.
  • Maximizing network performance The downfall of a complex network is often performance issues that lead to slow operating speeds. A slow network frustrates users and requires administrators to tweak the network in search of improved performance. Operating standards for network programs and data storage help to maximize network performance and maintain network speed.
  • Routine maintenance  Routine network maintenance will help prevent failures and will ensure a properly functioning system. Maintenance tasks include archiving data, repairing and replacing hardware, regular software back ups, freeing up drive space, and analyzing data for specific performance issues. If a problem is identified, an administrator must be able to quickly assess the problem and work to fix it. Any problem with the network can have a profound impact on users.
  • Employee training An administrator may be responsible for training users on how to operate hardware and software. This is either initial training for new technology or ongoing education. Administrators may employ small group or individual training to support network users. Hands-on training methods are important so users can take an active role in learning about the network.

Which part of a network administrator’s job is most appealing to you?

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