Although the specifics of being a system administrator may
change from platform to platform, there are underlying themes that
do not. These themes make up the philosophy of system
The following sections explore each theme 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 examined 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 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 system administrator 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 manual procedure 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.