The Role of the Network Administrator

Duties, Roles & Responsibilities

What does a network administrator do? What roles and responsibilities come along with this position?

Sometimes referred to as a Systems Administrator, a Network administrator is responsible for keeping a company’s computer network in shape and running smoothly. This coordination of software and computers is important to the business operations of any company or organization.

The job of the Network Administrator can be broad or narrow depending on the company’s needs and complexity of the network. In general, the responsibilities of a Network Administrator include:

  • Designing and planning of the network
  • Installing the network, the computers and peripherals
  • Maintaining, repairing and upgrading the network and computers
  • Troubleshooting, diagnosing and fixing problems with the network, the hardware and software including providing preventative maintenance to prevent issues from arising
  • Monitoring the network and computer systems to provided improved performance

Skills & Communication

Since a Network Administrator is responsible for what happens behind the scenes, the network, software and hardware, and must also deal with the various teams and end users, a certain set of skills are required.

Critical and analytical thinking: This skill is a must as a Network Administrator must approach problems arising in a logical and consistent manner.

Time Management: Since the need to juggle several projects simultaneously, this skill is too important. The ability to look ahead while dealing with the present is vital for a smooth-running network.

People skills: Some refer this skill as interpersonal skills. Since a Network Administrator must deal with a diverse range of people, from end users to other technicians, it is important that communication is clear and understandable to all concerned.

Continued education: The field of technology is in a constant state of flux and change. It is important that a Network Administrator keep up on the latest changes and trends in technology. Failing to do so is a guaranteed route to failure as a Network Administrator.

Your 'Not-So-Typical' Day

Two days are never the same, and there is never a dull moment. Well, this is partially true. Though you may have a dull moment, rare as it can be, the part about two days never being the same is quite true.

The typical, normal day consists of fixing network problems as well as preventing problems, supporting both other team members as well as your end users. You can add to this the inevitable putting out fires that may arise from your end users while at the same time working on projects.

Some of these projects can be the creation of new programs or scripts to aid the network be more efficient or researching technology as well as brainstorming to come up with creative solutions for your company’s needs.

Setting Up A Network - What's Involved

There are basically four steps that must be completed to set-up and maintain a computer network.

Phase 1: The Network Design

The Network Design is the first phase in the life cycle of a network. This involves creating its design, but if you are a new Network Admin, this task will probably not be assigned to you. As the design of a network involves making decisions about the type of network that best suits the needs of your organization, it will most likely be assigned to a senior network architect who is familiar with both the network software and hardware.

Phase 2: Setting Up The Network

Here is when your role as the Network Administrator gets involved and where your responsibilities lay. You will be expected to perform these tasks unless your organization is large, with an adequate network structure already in place and with the assistance of perhaps a Junior Network Administrator.

Phase 3: Maintaing The Network

The third phase of network administration consists of ongoing tasks. These responsibilities are your primary duties to maintain the network. Your responsibilities can include, but not be exclusive to:

  • Adding new host machines.
  • Administering network security.
  • Administering network services, maintaining and/or configuring servers, Group Policy management and maintaining email services.
  • Troubleshooting and solving network problems.

Phase 4: Expanding The Network

If properly designed, a network will have allowances for its expansion. To begin, you can increase network size by adding new hosts and expanding network services by providing additional shared software, however a single network will expand to the point where it can no longer operate efficiently. This is when you have no alternative but to expand the network. You have a few options at this point. You can:

  • Set up a new network and connecting it to the existing network using a machine functioning as a router.
  • Configuring machines in your users' homes or in remote office sites and enabling these machines to connect via VPN.
  • Connecting your network to the Internet, thus enabling users on your network to retrieve information from other systems throughout the world again via VPN.
  • Configuring UUCP communications, enabling users to exchange files and electronic mail with remote machines.