The network administrator is one of the less obscure job roles
you'll see in today's IT world. It's familiar to many of us, partly
because having a network administrator has been central throughout
the entire PC era (personal computer, not political correctness),
as infrastructures and environments changed radically.
So what does a network administrator do? One easy observation is
that the network administrator’s job is very different now than it
was years ago. Beyond that, though, it takes some digging to look
at exactly how network administrators work in this day and age.
In the old days, the days of hardware environments, network
administration was mainly about stringing workstations together.
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You had physical computers, and you had servers. The network
administrator would talk a lot about basic topologies whether the
network used a star topology, or a ring topology with a token, or a
linear bus you get the picture. The network administrator connected
the various pieces, by cabling, or later, by wireless connection,
and the network was born.
Network administrators still work on local area networks (LAN) and
wide area networks (WAN). However, an array of dazzling innovations
in technology has really changed the way environments work.
First there's the software defined wide area network (SDWAN) one
level of abstraction of the traditional network systems that
network administrators managed. Then there's the cloud, and the
rise of software as a service (SaaS), which eventually led to
These days, network administrators are often asked to contemplate a
technology stack where the network environment is more distributed
then the simple hardware systems of the prior age. That means they
really have to wear a number of hats.
The role of a network administrator is vast,” said Jorge Rojas,
Partner at Tektonic Inc. Dec. 12, describing some of this change
and how it affects the corporate role. In addition to managing the
network, creating users, resetting passwords etc., there are many
other things that have to be considered: implementing best
practices in the network, creating group policies in Active
Directory- here, the list can get very long, password policy,
network drives mapping, network printer mapping…….Most times, a
Network Administrator has to be a jack of all trades, making it
difficult for the individual to get the job done properly.”
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Rojas also had words for the part of the industry that he feels
does not support the NA on the ground.
In most smaller organizations,” he says, they are not provided by
the employer with the proper tools to do the job.”
There are clues in public job postings that show the requirement
that the network administrator master other auxiliary kinds of
technologies beyond traditional networking.
For example, when we looked at some government job ads for network
administrators, key qualifications included a Cisco CCNA, which
makes abundant sense in the traditional model.
However, going into the private sector, we saw requests for skills
with VMware, and even Docker. The reason has to do, again, with
Connecting the Dots
Networking with virtual machines and containers is different from
the traditional approach.
Essentially, network administrators are still responsible for
connecting the dots. They have to put together the architecture of
nodes and switches, whether that's an entirely hardware-driven
structure, or whether their employer company or government agency
has moved beyond into the world of virtual machines and containers.
In that sense, employers often want network administrators to have
a lot of those soft skills that they also look for in developers,
engineers and architects they want the good communication skills,
the team-building skills, the ability to report well, the ability
to do math and understand algorithms.
To some extent, there's still a focus on traditional network
administration, where some calls for working on the more
virtualized and ab