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What a beginner should know/learn for sysadmin job?

In my work I don't have many work issues, so I decided to build a VMware infrastructure in my laptop and start learning system adminstration.

How can I gain experience in that way?


locked by voretaq7 Feb 7 '12 at 21:30

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marked as duplicate by sysadmin1138 Feb 7 '12 at 21:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Since you built a small virtual "lab" if you will on your machine I would recommend 2 things:

  1. Start with the online virtual labs at MS for both IT Pros and System Developers here:

  1. Emulate what you learn at the MS virtual labs in your own test environment, creating a domain and adding servers to it that perform various roles.

I would personally start with a Windows 2003 environment (if you are wanting to go the MS IT Pro route) and add a few Win2008 servers as well in the mix. That will help you be "current" and still ensure that you can support most of what is still out there.

Finally, I'd recommend reading books if you are a reader. Books I'd recommend for general knowledge are:

This is an excellent resource for beginners to understand TCP/IP, fundamental networking skills like subnetting, vlans, routing, etc. Regardless of if you use Cisco equipment or not

This book is simply amazing...way in depth but a worthy read to fully understand wireless, which is very important nowadays

One of the best books I've ever read. Excellent, excellent, excellent

I found this one to be more of a refresher for me, but I've had friends new to sysadmin stuff that found it a wealth of knowledge. Great information and a ton of great ideas and concepts. A worthy read

Hope that helps!


All but one of those on my shelf already, and many more. +1 Pretty much any of the O'Reilly books from the system administration line are useful as well, such as Network Warrior. – Justin Scott Jun 4 '09 at 21:09

Learning system administration is a process of experiences. More or less these experiences come from production level systems. With that said to gain some form of experience in a Lab/Test environment is good but not real world. I would suggest continue with the Test environment, make up scenarios from issues that come up here on server fault and try and find solutions. To be good a good sysadmin you have to be resourceful at finding answers on how to fix the problem, why the problem happened, and how to make sure the problem doesn't come back.


The only real way to learn sysadmin skills is to play with things. Set up mail servers, dns servers, webservers, anything you can. The more you experiment with things, the more you'll learn.


Learn how to deal with ticketing systems, spend insane amounts of time on conference calls, and manage your life very, very, very effectively.

Communications skills are as important as anything technical, if not more so. Conservatively speaking, 60% of my time is spent explaining and documenting and 40% doing work.

My first suggestion would be to join a FLOSS Operating system community, like the Fedora, OpenSolaris, or Ubuntu Community. Just hang around and read for a while, get to know some people and then work with who you like. You could even lend a hand to non-infrastructure related projects (that rely on infrastructure) like Docs, Packaging, etc. This will give you a good start on dealing with the sort of communication that you'd deal with, with the same ticketing systems, full blown fires, and issues you'd deal with. You might even find it leading to work somewhere where things are going on.


The first thing to learn is automation and remote access.

I suggest you find a few cheap old computers and set them up in a network, then figure out how to automate everything and do it remotely. Roll-out, upgrades, backup, bugfixes etc.

Then start setting up servers: file, mail, DNS, web. Then set up multiple servers and load-balance them.


Find someone (friend, co-worker) who needs something done or can at least act like a customer. Because until you have someone else making demands of your time needing their problem(s) fixed or their project(s) implemented, you won't get the understanding of what a sysadmin may spend a good part of their day doing.


Funny, I recently wrote an article about this on my blog (Getting Started in Information Technology is Easy).


The first step is to want to, and you've definitely got that covered. Reaching out to the community is more than most people do, and will give you a lot more perspective and insight than those people who don't.

Systems administration might be more accurately thought of as the care and feeding of data. We're essentially data wranglers, and most of our time is spent moving it around or making sure it's available to the people who need it. To that end, I suggest that you become very comfortable with moving files around a network using things like rsync, cURL, and scp, and making files available to various services like HTTP, FTP, Samba, NFS and the like.

I also suggest that you practice backing up your data and restoring it. Bacula and Amanda are good enterprise-ready free backup solutions, so take advantage of that. I believe that both (I know Amanda does) can deal with virtual tape libraries, where you have a disk image that acts like a tape, and software that acts like a tape changer. It's important to learn how to deal with that, because almost all large backup solutions use that concept. Having a viable backup solution is the art of saying "what if..." and having answers.

Overall, you're doing great. The only thing that I can think of that you'd need to know that you aren't virtualizing is networking equipment, and you can fake that by using routing simulators or even picking up virtual machines.

Good luck, and come back with more questions!


Production experience is what counts.

It's fine to have a test environment on your laptop, or wherever, but you really need to get your hands dirty on systems that people use every day.