Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Network Administrator

I hope to begin to put down some of my thoughts about network/software administration and running a business in this blog (maybe even unrelated stuff that comes up). I tried to put down ideas on my company website before I became aware of the concept of blogs. I had heard about them for a while but being busy keeping networks running I didn't realize they were exactly what I was looking for...a way to write down some of my thoughts if for no other reason than that some day I can go back and read over them to remember how brilliant I was before I became so stupid. That's maybe a subject for a future post or maybe I should find a good therapist of some sort to help. I hope to come up with something to say often (even if it does turn out to just be for me) but there will no doubt be a shake-down period of this whole process. Maybe I'll get better as I go or maybe just become more stupid. Here goes...

I have a vision of how networks should run. In the process of running my own business there have been times when I scanned throught the job listings in newspapers and now of course throught the Internet (some days it's like that). Many of them describe network administration jobs as On-Call available 24-7. Popular phrase. I can't help but look at that and wonder what is wrong at that place? When I was younger (oh so long ago) I remember the excitement of having a computer/server crash, rolling up my sleeves and saying, "well it's going to be a late night". There were times I was on the phone with tech support people until 2AM. Finally the job was complete except that come 7AM people were going to return to the office and want to work. I hopped that the system would cooperate but just to make sure I went home got 4 hours sleep, got up, took a shower and was back in the office to make sure it was ok. I suppose some times that has to be done. And I have to admit it was a little exciting.

Even in college I was not into cramming for tests. I did not do well staying up late at night to study for a test the next day. I tried it a few times and it didn't work well for me. So I adopted a method of scheduling out my studies and I did them when they were scheduled. When pre-test night came I ate a good dinner (school cafeteria style) relaxed and got to bed early. That is only partially true. Sometimes I would go find a group of students cramming for the same test and see if I could have any fun with them, then I went to bed. Usually it worked out pretty well.

Why can't network administration work like that? I like to create a regular maintenance schedule and set policies, as well as develop hardware and software standards. In addition to that I like to spend my time developing training programs for the employees to teach or "empower" them to use the programs they have on their desk to do the job they need to get done. There are more things than that of course such as trying to tie the IT goals to the Corporate Business plan so that the IT department is not just a Zen type area for Computer Geeks but actually a place that supports the Mission of the company. Whoa!!! So for me Network Administration is less about computers and circuits and more about people. Double-Whoa!!!

Is that too much to ask? Seems so. I have yet to find many customers where that works. It works for a while and I have had good success, but then something changes. People want to do whatever they wish, don't have time for training and when it all comes crashing down just want you to "fix it" no matter how late you have to stay up. If you can't stay up (because you are no longer young) then somebody who can is brought in. It's how I see it. I believe there is a better way. Maybe some day I'll hire a bunch of young guys to stay up late instead of me (guys who liked cramming for tests in all-nighters) and every once in a while I'll go find them and see if I can have some fun with them.

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