You call them when you forgot your password or when your screen freezes up. They answer when mysterious error codes appear. Information technology experts troubleshoot computer problems and keep the work flowing. However, information technology has many specialties beyond troubleshooting. Titles can be a bit confusing or seem broad or similar. Programmers, engineers, and website designers all work through networks—but what do network administrators do?
Network administrators, sometimes referred to as systems administrators, are responsible for all segments of an organization’s hardware and software—all the technology that keeps a business, university, research institution, or data center running smoothly. Although each organization defines the network administrator’s responsibilities according to their own needs, most network administrator jobs include a combination of many of these tasks:
- Installing, connecting, and troubleshooting a network’s hardware and software
- Monitoring network performance
- Ensuring network security
- Adding and authorizing users and devices, including assigning passwords, IP addresses, and permissions
- Training network users
- Troubleshooting problems in hardware and software
- Performing necessary upgrades
Planning and Organizing Networks
Network administrators are key personnel when an organization is planning to install a new network, expand a network, or create an entirely new network infrastructure. One of the most important things network administrators do is to work with architects and designers to ensure that any new buildings or additions consider network user needs, capacity, and future expansion. This means helping to conceive of how an efficient structured cabling system might work within and between buildings to provide network connections to everyone who works on-site and remotely.
Network administrators select vendors and equipment. In addition, they are often responsible for creating and updating network documentation that provides a roadmap for future or additional administrators to understand and maintain the network.
Network administrators often supervise teams of computer support specialists. Administrators must keep a “high altitude” view of the entire network and how it is performing. Therefore, they typically delegate day-to-day troubleshooting for users to a support team. Administrators are responsible for staying up to date on necessary hardware and software upgrades, technical innovations that impact network performance, and ever-evolving network security threats.
Network administrators usually have a BA or even advanced degrees in computer science, information science, computer or systems engineering, or a similar field.