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A day in the life of a SysAdmin

A day in the life of a SysAdmin

There’s no shortage of “Insert Day” celebrations in your 2020 calendar. Here at PaperCut, the big one for us is Sysadmin Day – the most wonderful time of the year!

Not only is PaperCut founded by former sysadmin Chris Dance, but you’ll find many ex-IT heroes in our development and support teams. Not to mention our sysadmins across our London, Portland, and Melbourne teams.

This Sysadmin Day feels more special than most. The IT department is a cornerstone in every workplace. They’re often humble teams with an overwhelming amount of responsibilities. 

Currently, due to COVID-19, many a sysadmin is working from home. IT is a demanding job at the best of times, but in the middle of a global pandemic? Turning it off and on again is a bit hard when you’re working remotely.

So this year, we went that little extra mile to celebrate. We reached out to one of the thousands of sysadmins PaperCut is privileged to support, Todd Black, systems administrator for the University of Queensland here in Australia. 

Todd had a chat with us about a typical day in the life of a sysadmin, the wins and challenges of his job, and the most bizarre tasks he has come across during his tenure.

PAPERCUT: “When/how did you become a sysadmin? Was it your dream from a young age?

TODD: “I got my degree in 1995 and moved to Brisbane in 1997 to take up a desktop support/sysadmin role at the University of Queensland. I have held various IT roles there ever since. 

“It was never my “dream” to become a sysadmin but I always had a keen interest in electronics and computers.”

“Let’s walk through a typical day in your life as a sysadmin. How does it begin?” 

“My role is almost entirely printing and PaperCut, so the day starts by logging into the PaperCut console to check everything is okay. 

“From there I log into the job ticket system to see what jobs have come in overnight and start prioritizing work for the day. 

“The Faculties and Centres all work independently of each other so there is always MFDs being added or removed to deal with, virtual queues to setup, and general printer troubleshooting.”

Middle of the day now, what’s happening?

“Working with many teams in my IT organization, including networks, infrastructure, identity, projects, relationship managers, and desktop support. 

“We have just completed a migration of our print servers and PaperCut to a new data center. I decided to migrate in stages as we have 970 printers, 285 devices, and 5000 active users as well as a mixed environment of Windows, Mac, Linux, and BYOD. 

“So right now I am tidying up after that. I am also testing PaperCut 20 on the test server and troubleshooting why Scan to Onedrive has stopped working…”

“Okay, end of the day, what’s that look like?”

“Getting local desktop guys to test the changes I have made to fix some printing problems, and reading a vendor’s statement of works for upgrading our billing and toner ordering system. 

“Also dealing with more printers that need some attention after the migration.”

“What are your biggest challenges as a sysadmin?”

“Keeping up to date with technology and avoiding the, ‘Because I’ve always done it that way,’ mentality.”

Todd Black, SysAdmin for The University of Queensland
A happy SysAdmin is a happy printing environment, and vice versa: Todd Black, SysAdmin for The University of Queensland

“What are the biggest wins?

“Anytime you can automate something. 

“We made a printer creation script that takes a name, IP, model, and a few tags we use and created the AD Group, creates the printer, sets several defaults, and writes the tags to the printer object in PaperCut. 

“While doing this manually isn’t hard, being able to run it from within PowerShell or get it to read a CSV to create a number of printers at once saves a lot of time

“Secure print release and virtual print queues are also changing the way we operate and saving a lot of money. 

“Before we implemented them you’d go into a print room and find stacks of paper piled high everywhere from unclaimed print jobs. 

“Now it’s completely different.”

“Complete this sentence: I wish there were better ways to …

“…deal with PDFs that block the print queue!”

“How has your role as a sysadmin evolved and changed over the years?”

“When I started we were running all the services for the department off one UNIX box in the corner of the office. We also did desktop support so we knew everything that was going on for our area. 

“Now everything is offsite (including us), or in the cloud, and we have become specialized. 

“I in no way miss doing desktop support though!”

“What’s the most unusual task you’ve ever completed?

“I have a few that spring to mind…. 

“Troubleshooting a network outage in a building and tracing it to the fiber link out of the building where we found a possum had chewed through the fiber optic cable. 

“Troubleshooting another building network outage to trace it to a guy who had taken his work laptop home, installed Linux himself, and had enabled a DHCP server, which was intercepting the DHCP requests from the desktops and replying with IP, DNS, and gateway addresses that wouldn’t work.”

Migrate 900 printers in a mixed environment and you too will have a 1000 yard stare…

“What’s one thing you’d love the world to know about sysadmins?

“We don’t always have all the answers to your questions on the spot, but we will find them out.”

“Have a crack at your take on the world’s most accurate sysadmin job description in 50-100 words…

“Do you like electrons? We have many things with electrons flowing through them. You need to know how to manage all of them.”

Thank you ❤️ 

PaperCut would like to thank Todd for having a chat with us. We extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to sysadmins the world over, who are still putting out tech fires in the middle of COVID-19.

From our sysadmins to you, Happy Sysadmin Day one and all!

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