June 18, 2013, 1:42 PM —
Image credit: Thinkstock
A lone admin recently drew attention to the power the humble system administrator wields when he made front page international news by leaking details about PRISM, an NSA electronic surveillance program. Of course, you probably already know that sys admins are the lifelines between your keyboard and productivity, so the last thing you want to do is get on their bad side. By avoiding these 9 faux pas, you can help keep your sys admin happy and your systems humming along:
1. You bypass the help desk system: If you think it's easier to pop by your admin's desk to ask for something than to open a ticket, think again. Maria Webster currently works as an engineer but admits that she's no fan of folks who don't open a ticket and flag her down as she walks by. "Oh, the dreaded, 'hey, do you have a minute?'," she says. Systems analyst Eric Geissinger explains, "By doing this, there is no record of the requested change, and I'm interrupted doing work for someone who has gone though the proper channels."
2. You're vague: "We still need a good report of a problem in order to start fixing it," says former sys admin John Van Ostrand. "Even a user who has been through the process many times, over many years, still doesn't seem to expect the same questions or still can't answer them in sufficient detail. What were you trying to do? What were you doing just prior to the problem? What did you do? What was the result?" Sys admin Amy Rich agrees, adding, "'The internet is down.' Can you tell me what the actual problem you personally have experienced is (and any troubleshooting that you've done on your own) instead of speculating?"
3. You abuse your rights:"I work as a sys admin, and most of my work is in cooperation with developers," says Jussi Kekkonen. "Usually my grievances stem from people wanting or having rights without understanding what they're doing. Hint: Running stuff as root isn't a fix."
4. You do not upgrade: Van Ostrand says his biggest peeve doesn't happen often, but it still happens. "It's when a customer doesn't take recommendations to upgrade hardware, and it subsequently fails," he says, adding, "It forces us to work harder than needed to find a path to get data off the dead system and onto the new system. The RAID card might be from an obsolete slot, the tape drive might use an obsolete adapter, and I've seen systems recently that didn't have networking capabilities in the operating system. So now it's urgent that we get them back up, and the task is much more complex than it should have been."
5. You make urgent, last-minute requests: "My biggest pet peeve is always manufactured last-minute, on-fire, emergency requests we had to drop everything and scramble to resolve, when it became clear the team making the request knew of the need weeks or months before and didn't bother communicating to the sys admin until the last minute," says Kyle Rankin, sys admin and author of DevOps Troubleshooting: Linux Server Best Practices.
6. You waste your admin's time: "I'm no sysadmin, but I'm pretty sure being the person who needs their password reset, not once, but twice, makes sys admin blood boil," says Deb Nicholson, a community outreach director.
"Oh, boy, the stories I could tell," says Linc Fessenden, an IT Production Operations Manager. "User wants their Junk folder restored in their email because they 'keep' emails in there. Users who constantly drag or move their folder structures 'accidentally' and need them found ... Users want their CD removed from their CD drive. Actually, [it was] a 5.25 floppy drive. Don't ask how they jammed it in there."
7. You test code on production systems: "Really? You want to run code for the first time on a production system?" says sys admin Kurt von Finck. "This is why we have staging and pre-flight systems. No, you're not getting gcc on front-facing servers. Really."
8. You make personal requests: "Hey, I've got that old Windows 98 laptop at home," offers sys admin Charly Kühnast as an example. "Can you fix it up so my six-year-old can play Far Cry 3 on it?" If you're having problems with your personal computer, take care of it on your personal time.
9. You take your admin for granted: "Not getting the slightest recognition when everything works, but being excessively blamed when something fails," is one of former sys admin Joe Brockmeier's peeves. Your systems don't stay up on their own. Have you thanked your admin lately?
What else do users do to drive their admins crazy? Let us know about them in the comments.