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The new challenges system administrators face in the new normal

by jcp

By Ilia Sotnikov, Security Strategist & VP of User Experience at Netwrix

Despite the numerous hardships of the pandemic, many professionals have been fortunate enough to smoothly transition into full-time remote working. As the world was at a standstill, many businesses were, therefore, able to continue operating as usual. While most colleagues were able to easily adjust to this change, system administrators (sysadmins) were working behind the scenes to ensure that operations could continue and that employees were as supported as possible working from their homes. Since then, the traditional role of a sysadmin has likely changed for good.

New attack every week

Among those businesses in UK that have reported breaches or attacks, around a quarter experience them at least once a week. A recent study showed that it’s harder for organisations to ensure the safety and security of their remote office during the pandemic. In fact, the combined challenges of fending off cyberthreats while managing remote networks have been a major area of concern for sysadmins.

Many sysadmin departments are lacking basic resources such as additional IT personnel, cybersecurity training and education, and remote cybersecurity capabilities. These resources are the foundation to improve cybersecurity and to continue with remote work safely. For example, fewer businesses are now deploying security monitoring tools (35%, vs. 40% last year) or undertaking any form of user monitoring (32% vs. 38%). Such savings can lead to much greater financial losses and even business disruption. Business decision-makers should seriously consider what they can do to better support their sysadmin teams.

The number of remote employees has grown from 0 to 100%

With the onset of the pandemic, many businesses were forced to transfer up to 100% of their employees to a remote mode. The tireless work that sysadmins teams have undertaken is the key driving force to make the sudden remote work transition possible. When a work from home was first enforced in March 2020, sysadmins had to think quickly about gathering the resources to enable remote work capabilities for their fellow employees. Additionally, they had to figure out how to sustain this infrastructure with as minimal network and system disruptions as possible over an unforeseen period of time. It is with their hard work and quick thinking that numerous businesses were able (and still are!) to continue operating throughout the pandemic.

73% of sysadmins say that basic internet etiquette will simplify their work

Such a sudden remote work transition turned out to be associated with the need to teach some employees the basics of internet etiquette from scratch. According to sysadmins, there are some small changes that everyone can make to their internet habits. These slight efforts help to protect corporate networks and make remedial work much easier for sysadmin teams:

  • Avoid opening suspicious emails, attachments, and website links;
  • Keep written passwords far out of view from computer webcams;
  • Stay away from online shopping on professional electronic devices;
  • Learn to reset their own passwords before calling for sysadmins for help;

As small as it may seem, these changes help mitigate risks within network environments, especially as employees are accessing corporate data from their home networks, personal devices, or public Wi-Fi.

56% of sysadmins in the UK work more than they did pre-pandemic

Like many others during this period, sysadmins have had to regularly work overtime since remote working en masse first began. A report from Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that 70% of professionals who began working from home during the pandemic admitted to working during the weekends, with 45% claiming to work additional hours throughout the week. Trying to keep up with the rush of new demands has been widespread, with a recent Netwrix study revealing that more than half (55%) sysadmins work over 40 hours per week, and 15% work for more than 60 hours weekly.

With such a vital role in holding together all IT teams, colleagues, and co-workers, the hard work that goes into the role of a sysadmin can be easy to overlook. The behind the scenes role that our sysadmins undertake on a regular basis deserves more appreciation and gratitude from all key stakeholders. The seamless performance of a corporation’s IT infrastructure is a testament to these individuals’ hard work and dedication.

Going forward, organisations and team members have to remember to follow the rules that sysadmins lay out for them. Stop clicking on suspicious links, think twice before an online action, and understand that every small issue you mitigate is helping a sysadmin along the way.

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