Scott Oertel

Jan 20, 2016

The System Administrator’s 2016 New Year Resolutions List

Many of us make resolutions at the beginning of each year, as a matter of tradition and self-improvement. Developers aren’t the only technologists that need resolutions to guide a new year. As a system administrator, you may find a never-ending list of updates, system checks, security patches, and performance benchmarking. Now is a fantastic time to implement new strategies into your career and day-to-day routine as a systems administrator to make your job more streamlined. At the end of the day (and hopefully at the end of the year), the goal is improvement. We’ve put together ten resolutions to think about as you get your plans in order for 2016.

The System Administrator’s 2016 New Year Resolutions List

Each of these resolutions is renewable and can be revisited each month:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor authentication is being used in many places. This second level of authentication typically asks for some kind of token (like a code sent directly to your phone), and it should be integrated wherever possible. Enabling two-factor authentication may require an update in toolset, but the added security is worth the effort. The SANS organization strongly advises the integration of this 2FA.
  • Fix all of those WHOIS, domain name registries, and DNS records. Records are important, yet it is very easy to lose track of the most current information. If addresses, personal, and contact information have changed, bring them up to date right away.
  • Start working on some projects to add efficiency to your world. Docker, Chef, Puppet, and other technologies are easy to integrate within your working environment. Launch a demo or lab to see how these technologies might provide solutions for things your department sorely needs.
  • Learn some language. Learn how to automate and build on your own, in your own environment. There are many languages and systems that are beneficial to a system administrator. Pick up a book, enroll in a course and start banging that keyboard! If you’re operating within a Windows environment, learning PowerShell can be immensely helpful. For system administrators on Unix/Linux, try Bash, Perl, Ruby, or Python.
  • Plan to get new certifications. Take an assessment of your career goals and the certifications you would like to get in the year ahead. Study up, take the tests, and then share when you learned.
  • Get Serious About Your Infrastructure. There are number of reasons you might decide to change the way you run your infrastructure, like high cost, lack of support, excessive alerts (in the middle of the night, of course), and even excessive downtime. The entire IT world is moving to hosting and cloud vs. internally-run infrastructure. You need to regain your peace of mind so that you can focus on more strategic aspects of your job and career. Find a host with 24/7/365 support and a solid SLA to eliminate headaches and worry.
    • Follow Codero’s guide for 7 features to look for in a hosting provider.
    • Find a company with a great reputation for support – and ways to contact them that work for your schedule (phone, chat, ticket, Skype, etc.).
    • Find a company that customers stay with for years. If they’re sticking around with a certain hosting company, there’s a reason why.
  • Boost your infrastructure’s security. Go above and beyond the patching and updating necessary to keep your environment minimally secure. Eliminate risk by integrating proactive security technologies and processes where they are needed.
    • Add DDoS protection to mitigate DDoS attacks of all forms and sizes.
    • Review your product revision levels.
    • Get to know updated options available to you.
    • Get to know alternative options for more complete protection.
  • Document NOW, Not Later. There are few things more painful than a poorly documented project. This leads to inefficiency and, in some cases, abandonment of the technology that was designed to be an improvement. Document everything about a project from its inception, and update it each day. You can use a variety of tools to accomplish this, like building a wiki (with MediaWiki, for example) or keeping updated documentation in your GIT repository. Add this step to your process and check and update your status daily.
  • Plan time, once per month, to ensure your infrastructure is patched and up-to-date. Many environments are woefully behind in patching. The beginning of the year is a great time to fix this oversight and create a planned maintenance schedule. Set up calendar reminders, and do not let the appointment slip.
  • Plan and run emergency drills once per month. Update your call list and your procedures so that everyone in your company knows what to do in a time of emergency. Also, make sure you test your communication and social media readiness. This ensures that management in your company has visibility and knows you’re able to handle the events you should plan for.
  • Take time to fully understand how your infrastructure truly works. It’s often the case that you’ve inherited the systems and infrastructure of the last guy who sat in your chair. Investigate how every element of your environment works, especially the stuff that you didn’t build yourself. You may find opportunities to fix security or inefficiencies, and then integrate new technologies within.

Whatever your plans for the New Year are, technology resolutions are a great way to get your work life on track with a fresh start. These kinds of resolutions are often incremental and depend on daily activities for you to stick to the goal ahead. Keep on top of these resolutions for a fruitful 2016!

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