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Sysadmins: Your best tale of woe wins a PRIZE

Hey users, it's Sysadmin Day next month. We want cake

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Competition I'd like to share with you the plight of a good friend of mine. He's a systems administrator for a mid-sized American accounting firm. His story isn't particularly remarkable, but all the more important because of it.

Bob has a bachelor's in computer science, and a lot more experience than I'd normally expect someone clutching their newly-minted university degree to have. Bob put himself through school working as a junior systems administrator, and has sort of stuck to the job since.

Bob is now a Windows server admin charged also with fixing the phone system and poking the routers when they blow up. As the server guy, he is responsible for the out-of-hours maintenance. Documentation is also his responsibility lap; a project that he puts a great deal of effort into, but which never quite gets finished.

Corporate belt tightening being what it is, the arrival of additional work is no longer accompanied by additional bodies. Instead, departments get reorganised and now Bob has to do "that little bit more".

Bob's new "logistics" assignment is a nice way of saying he is now also responsible for cleaning the phone room. Bob is now a janitor. The new "service desk" task means that he has inherited the role of first responder on the corporate ticket system. Our friend Bob is now asked to keep the users happy in real time and also has to stay late to fix the servers when they need fixing. In between crises, there is an increasing push to create documentation for everything from the Hyper-V servers to Exchange that allow common tasks to be delegated to end users in a branch office.

Bob doesn't get much sleep anymore.

Every now and again Bob pops onto IRC with tales of some cabling nightmare he's encountered, an EBKAC or some bit of glorious faceplanting on behalf of the folks higher up the food chain. The chance to get it all off his chest seems to help poor Bob; it knits together the tattered fragments of his sanity long enough to resume the daily grind of whacking moles. While it goes without saying that sysadmins have to be adaptable, each and every one of us has at times felt underappreciated, burnt out and underresourced. We've all been where Bob is, and we've the horror stories about cabling, applications, vendors and pointy haired bosses to prove it. (There may possibly be a few user stories in there, who knows.)

July 27th is Systems Administrator's day. Those of you who aren't sysadmins have a month to find a way to thank those who keep the internet running. Cake is appreciated, and coffee is always nice. A coastal villa is a handy substitute, if you've the time.

For those of you who are sysadmins, take the time to vent in the comments below. If you've got a real doozy – and you're based in the US – then submit it to Solar Winds' Systems Administrator's day contest (rules here*). There's an iPad, a Thinkgeek gift card and an original piece of artwork depicting your story up for grabs. Oh, and apparently I'm one of the judges. So there's that. Since I'm ineligible, I'm counting on you lot to keep the contest properly supplied with a soul-rending collection of sysadmin nightmares. Good luck to you all. ®

* One of these is that entrants have to be US residents

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