Azar concedes that experience and attitude can sometimes use some backup in the form of diagnostics software. Like most experienced sys admins, he is skilled at locating problems through trial and error based on the symptoms being observed. Through time and effort, he is able to eventually fix the problem through a series of parts swapping and troubleshooting. Diagnostics software can streamline the process by checking the various devices to narrow down the source of trouble.
“I use diagnostic software to test memory hard drives and other components,” said Azar. “It helps isolate where the actual problems lie.”
Manufacturers often provide diagnostic tools for their products. For a broader toolset that spans multiple devices, however, several tools are available. Micro 2000’s Universal Diagnostic Toolkit (UDT), for example, combines Micro-Scope Diagnostic Software, which reports malfunctioning hardware components, and POST-Probe card to diagnose a machine that will not start at all. It identifies which part of the computer is preventing it from booting up. UDT provides a report with specific details about the malfunctioning or underperforming component. Once identified, more extensive testing and diagnostics can be run to determine if the component should be replaced or fixed. The software is easy to use, and no special training or knowledge is required.
“Using UDT provides a better and more accurate diagnostic with faster results, saving an enormous amount of time and energy,” said Natividad. “This allows a sys admin to focus on more strategic IT projects.”
No matter the educational background, certificates earned, experience gained or diagnostic tools harnessed, there is one attribute that should be regarded as the make-break point of a successful sys admin career — patience. A patient attitude is an absolute must for large server rooms. After all, “little problems” sometimes have long and boring solutions.
“Someone who expects there to be a step-by-step fix for every problem written down in some binder on a shelf and a daily routine that doesn’t change would be terrible as a server room manager,” says Edmondson. “They need to believe that the needs of the user outweigh their own needs to beat the traffic, avoid change, work less, etc.”
Azar agrees with this assessment. The best sys admins, he says, never give up. To fix a problem, they are prepared to look anywhere.
“If they can’t sort it out, they call vendors, customer support, their associates, check on the Internet, whatever it takes to resolve the issue,” says Azar.