Although the specifics of being a system administrator may change from platform to platform, there are underlying themes that do not. It is these themes that make up the philosophy of system administration.
Here are those themes:
Communicate as much as possible
Know your resources
Know your users
Know your business
Security cannot be an afterthought
Expect the unexpected
Let us look at each of these themes in more detail.
Most system administrators are outnumbered — either by their users, their systems, or both. In many cases, automation is the only way to keep up. In general, anything done more than once should be looked at as a possible candidate for automation.
Here are some commonly automated tasks:
Free disk space checking and reporting
System performance data collection
User account maintenance (creation, deletion, etc.)
Business-specific functions (pushing new data to a Web server, running monthly/quarterly/yearly reports, etc.)
This list is by no means complete; the functions automated by system administrators are only limited by an administrator's willingness to write the necessary scripts. In this case, being lazy (and making the computer do more of the mundane work) is actually a good thing.
Automation also gives your users the extra benefit of greater predictability and consistency of service.
Keep in mind that if you have a task that should be automated, it is likely that you are not the first to have that need. Here is where the benefits of open source software really shine — you may be able to leverage someone else's work to automate the very thing that is currently eating up your time. So always make sure you search the Web before writing anything more complex than a small Perl script.