how to become a good system administrator

really like what you are doing

you wan’t to make money? you think IT sounds cool, even if you don’t know what it means? You have a iPhone, so you’re 1337? Perfect requirements to become an it-specialist … NOT . Actually there exist a lot of people outside who would call themselves it specialists who fit quite well into this pattern, but obviously they are not. The problem is that all knowlegde comes from repetition and failure (and mostly repetition of the failures 😉 ) and this can be boring and disappointing. But to get real knowledge you have to go through this process. So be curious and really like exploring the system and playing around with stuff, this will bring you very far. Don’t look at others, perhaps some gain more, perhaps some work less, but in the end you have the knowledge and this satisfaction lasts. And if you have some über-guy at work and think you will never know as much as him: He puts his pants on one leg at a time, too.

  1. really like experimenting and exploring computer systems and software. If you don’t. No matter, but perhaps you should take another less technical emphasis (it-support, it-sales, etc.).
  2. be open for the new. Often you will be asked to do some new task you don’t have the necessary knowledge for. A lot of people just reject such tasks, which makes sense if you are overloaded with work. If you have some free time try to do the stuff through learning the necessary skills. Learning with a specific task or real life application for me always was way easier than just learning in theory
  3. if you have some time left over at work look for some interesting stuff which is used or could be used in the company. Of course you can also read general information, but personally I learn best when I can try my new earned knowlegde on a reallife project. Often you find some stuff to improve or you can finally document this or that.

Where to start?

So you are motivated and want to start yesterday with learning, but you really don’t know what you should do. There are so many topic, so many stuff. What will you need? Basically everything can be of good use, as the field is very wide in IT, so you best start just with something you like. Here is a basic skill list, you can pick some stuff.

Hardware Knowledge

  • Buy the components and build your own self configured PC, know what the components do
  • Setup your own network, use a switch, crimp some cables by your own

Basic System Knowledge

  • Basic Linux/Unix Administration: set up your own linux server (you can do it easily with a virtual machine these days), play around with basic commands, read a good basic linux book and DO THE PRACTICAL EXERCISES
  • try to build your own kernel (you can start with the config of your distribution-kernel, normally found under /boot/kernel-name.config)
  • try to compile some program under linux, for example the videolan-player or something else
  • learn to use SSH
  • get used to the run-level autostart system
  • Basic Windows Active Directory Setup: Learn how to set up a Domain-Controller with server-saved profiles, DNS, Shares
  • use group policies to install a printer and mount the shared-Directory on the windows clients

Services

  • Set up a apache-Webserver with PHP-Support
  • Set up a DNS Server (e.g. bind)
  • Set up a FTP Server (e.g. vsftpd)
  • Set up a Mail Server (e.g. postfix + dovecot)

Programming

  • Learn Bash-Skripting
  • Aquire at least some basic Perl-Knowledge (as it is one of the most popular languages among administrators)
  • Learn Perl or PHP or Python or Ruby, etc. , it should be a scripting language, because this is easier for most administrative tasks
  • Solve Problems regarding your daily work, for example a simple Backup-Skript, etc.
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