What Is a Linux® System Administrator?

Gabriele Sturmer
Gabriele Sturmer
Man holding computer
Man holding computer

A Linux® system administrator is someone responsible for configuring and managing the computer systems throughout an organization, primarily those organizations running a Linux® operating system. He usually has extensive experience in computer hardware, software, operating systems, programming, security and networking. Some common responsibilities include troubleshooting technical problems for users, making scripts and programs, setting up devices, installing programs and services, configuring user accounts and managing filesystems. Those who work at companies that run websites may be responsible for setting up the websites, creating online applications and implementing database technologies. Other tasks include securing data, coming up with a data backup plan and monitoring system logs.

The primary responsibilities of a Linux® system administrator are to provide ongoing technical support and manage the technology used in the organization. Some common tasks include fixing network problems, setting up devices, creating scripts that can automate common jobs, installing software updates, reading event logs and managing running tasks. Managing accounts is another necessary task and can include setting up new-user accounts, changing passwords, implementing account rules, fixing permissions issues and setting disk quotas. System administrators also work with a computer's file systems by managing hard disks, creating and deleting partitions, mounting or unmounting filesystems, configuring storage options and preventing data corruption.

Installing and configuring various services and systems also are responsibilities of a Linux® system administrator, especially those who work with web servers. Some tasks include installing components for a company website, designing and administrating databases, managing the website's server hardware and software, coding web applications and working with virtualization. The administrator also needs to configure services on regular workstations and may work with configuration management software that automatically can apply a set of changes to multiple computers at once. Some workstation system services include those related to email, communications and windowing systems.

A Linux® system administrator also must consider system and network security and be prepared for recovery in the case of a natural disaster or technical problem. He monitors system security by using various programs and by reading an operating system's event logs, which detail the various events that occur during a system's operation. Preparing for the possibility of data loss or corruption, a system administrator creates backups, verifies the data in them and works with other information security professionals to come up with a functional disaster recovery plan. The uses of encryption and firewalls can help improve information security, so the system administrator also is responsible for appropriately configuring these.

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