Chapter 1. The Philosophy of System Administration

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:

Let us look at each of these themes in more detail.

1.1. Automate Everything

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:

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.