A Gift for SysAdmin Day: Tips to Make Your Lives Easier

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A Gift for SysAdmin Day: Tips to Make Your Lives Easier

There's a "day" for just about anyone—even system administrators. July 28 is SysAdmin Day. If you're like most sysadmins, you've had a busy year. Between patching servers against WannaCry, calming your boss about the potential for more ransomware attacks and trying to get the face scanner working in Windows 10 PCs, these jobs aren't getting any easier. But at least you get some recognition this month. In lieu of a gift, you'd probably prefer for a day off, but here's our contribution to your peace of mind: seven tips to make a sysadmin's life easier and keep clients happy. This eWEEK slide show uses industry information from Sid Suri, vice president of IT Market Strategy at Atlassian.

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Want a Day Off? Build a Culture of Self-Service

IT pros have long tried to help people help themselves, and today's tools make that easier than ever. At Spotify, for example, the team set up a Genius Bar-type kiosk with an iPad for walk-up requests, where people can enter their own tickets when the IT staff is making the rounds. Atlassian built a chatbot that parses support questions and steers people to knowledge base articles that solve many of their problems. Only when the knowledge base can't help does IT step in.

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Use of Swarming Can Be a Big Help

Related to self-help, swarming is about creating topic areas online where people can find assistance. Suppose your WiFi goes down; you're going to get 55 different requests within minutes. Responding to each individually isn't effective. Instead, create an online room where users can read each other's posts and ask questions in a one-to-many format, while exchanging information. You can even apply this model to new service rollouts. Launching a new VPN? Every communication should include, "If you need help, go to this room." Swarming and crowd-sourcing have helped reduce support tickets at Atlassian by 50 percent.

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Stick to Your SLAs

This isn't as obvious as it sounds. Meeting service-level agreements isn't only about keeping promises, though that's important. SLAs also help you to prioritize work, so you're not constantly deciding what to tackle next. If you track SLAs closely, it's easy to see when your department needs to add headcount to deal with escalating work. If you're at a growing company, you'll need more hands to keep up with those tickets.

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Invest in Asset Tracking

You don't need to wait until you get big before investing in asset tracking; its benefits extend across the board. This is about more than keeping track of servers and PCs; ensuring machines are patched and up to date is more critical than ever for security reasons, and without a thorough inventory, you don't even know what devices are on your network. With everything properly logged and accounted for, you can be proactive about updates and maintenance. This will keep your users happy and save you headaches down the road by avoiding problems with rogue equipment.

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Ditch the Desk Phones

At Atlassian, the first thing you'll notice about its IT support team is that they don't have phones on their desks. They apply the same strategies they do with customers, beginning with prevention and self-help. The team uses chat, email and other ways that scale well to communicate internally. Want to update a printer? Read this document. Or file a ticket and you'll get a response when IT's available. A barrage of "read me now" emails or phone calls is counterproductive for a team trying to scale. The IT support team definitely doesn't want people calling with such basic questions because 95 percent will solve their own problem using the knowledge base.

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Sweat the Small Stuff

Great customer service means taking care of the little things. Anyone can reallocate a laptop, but did you delete the previous user's data? Taking care of the small stuff saves time later on. Every Monday at Atlassian, for example, a series of tickets is generated automatically for each conference room. The company's IT support team tests the WiFi and video connection and ensures that supplies are stocked and there's nothing wrong with the space. This way, it knows about problems before its users notice. Take care of the little things, and your approval ratings will soar.

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Don't Screw the Customer

There are a million ways you can let people down. Don't be the IT department that people complain about. Part of this is seeing jobs through to the end. At Atlassian, an IT ticket isn't closed until the person who filed it stops commenting on it. So if there's more to be said, it's all based on the satisfaction of the customer, not the IT team. Prioritize work so that people who are struggling most get the help they need quickly. Listen to your users, so that people get what they need, not what you think they want.

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