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This is a topic that may be rather political but it related to system administration still...how many people do you have supporting your users in your IT department? We have three people supporting something near 1500 systems and around 2400 people and a recent question was raised about why we have long times to get systems replaced, repaired, work orders fulfilled, etc. along with the system admin duties of maintaining the servers (mail, proxy, filters, VOIP, wireless, backup, etc.)

Does anyone have numbers on what the "best practices" average is of support people to employees in an organization?

EDIT:...from some of the answers that are appearing I'm starting to feel depressed...

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Obvious answer is obvious. You're extremely understaffed. I did software consulting for a state DOE and man teachers sure are dumb when it comes to computers and websites. I couldn't imagine being an IT person for them, I had enough dealing with their questions of why stuff breaks when they click all over the place or send files in wrong formats etc. –  Chris Marisic Sep 8 '09 at 15:45
    
Wow. Agreed with Chris above. We're VERY understaffed and we've got 12 of assorted talents and specialties supporting 70+ servers/network gear and about 900 "users". :) –  Greg Meehan Sep 8 '09 at 17:01
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You really should probably wiki this question. There won't really be any one correct answer. –  GregD Sep 8 '09 at 17:31
    
" We have three people supporting something near 1500 systems and around 2400 people and a recent question was raised about why we have long times to [...]" Dude, wait... what? Were the person(s) who asked this question able to keep a straight face? Maybe they should do stand-up at a night club. O_o –  Wesley Sep 17 '09 at 1:21
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I don't want to overstate things, but I would characterize that level of staffing as essentially impossible. I've seen as few as 50 Windows users per support tech. 300 per tech would be extremely difficult. 500 - 800 per tech is way out of line. –  Carl Campos Sep 17 '09 at 17:53

17 Answers 17

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I would say that the ratio is about right when things get done in a reasonable amount of time, where "reasonable" is defined by management. If you're the one managing the IT department there, you get to balance the budget for the department against the users who complain that things aren't getting done fast enough. If not, then someone else has apparently decided that the needs of your users isn't as important as keeping the books in the black.

But you want to know our ratio? I'm the single IT person in a company of 8 people, including 3 part timers. We have 11 servers. Our networking and server hosting is done entirely by a partner company. We're an ISP/VoIP telco with about 5000 users, plus who knows how many server hosting customers.

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There's probably no general answer. It depends on the environment that has to be maintained (Specialized servers? Fat or thin client? Special software that needs extra attention?), and on how much is outsourced (network infrastructure, sw installation, electrical wiring, helpdesk duties ...).

To give some ideas:

In my company, we have 3 IT people for a staff of about twenty, but that's because our IT people also work for our customers.

For purely inhouse IT, I've seen rations of 10 IT for 300 employees. 1:30 or 1:50 seems about right for general desktop and some light server administration (mail server, file server) plus a bit of help-desk work.

At any rate, 3 IT for 1500 users seems far too little, unless you outsource almost everything (or your users fix most problems themselves :-P).

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Fat clients, no thin clients, public school system in USA, cisco and some AD maintenance outsourced to consultants. In-house have AD, mail, spam, proxy, file, cafeteria POS, library catalog, administrative office, video surveillance, printer, student records, and backup servers along with some miscellanious (VOIP servers from Cisco, HVAC control system, some department-specific servers) to maintain, along with help desk calls and repairing/replacing/imaging clients and user maintenance and software install/configuration in 7 buildings around the county... –  Bart Silverstrim Sep 8 '09 at 13:45
    
Provided the information above I would say you are WAY over utilized. We currently are running a 1:35 ratio, in a samll shop that is heavily technical. We run all IT systems from top to bottom. However in a purely tech support type situation I remember running 1:300 ratios. Either way you are well above those ratios. –  geeklin Sep 8 '09 at 13:56
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It's not really IT per Users, it's IT manhours per Computer Use manhours. If you're users only use the computers/network about 1 hour per day, then you can support many more of them. Otherwise I agree about 1:35 to 1:50 is a good ratio. If you have 3 fulltime IT, then you should be supporting about 6000 hours of computer use per week. –  Chris S Apr 8 '10 at 15:15

We have three for a company of 10 people, but more importantly, about 30 servers.

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Are those dedicated IT personel? –  Highstead Sep 8 '09 at 14:04
    
We have three plus an intern for a company of 110, and I thought we were doing pretty good –  prestomation Sep 8 '09 at 14:09
    
I would say that's a pretty good number, 1 person per 10 servers. That's alot of hardware and software to maintain. –  Chris Marisic Sep 8 '09 at 15:43

We have around 2,300 members of staff, of which 1,800 use PC's on a regular basis. We also support over 400 servers.

We have 50 permenent members of staff in the "Operations" department who support the servers, desktops, data and voice links, databases etc. (of which 9 are managers or team leaders). Most of the major line-of-business application support is within a different department with over 100 staff.

And we're busy. Very busy.

Most of the user and business support stuff gets done on time but we struggle with project work both internal stuff like upgrades and supporting major business projects.

So yes, I'd say you're doing well.

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We have 2 IT-staff, my self and my director for about 50 people. The bulk of the "help-desk" stuff falls to me, which really isn't a big deal handling 50 people is working out well.

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I have seen 1:25 to 1:50 as the norm in the corporate world. For smaller companies - it tends towards the 1:25 ratio, and for larger companies towards 1:50. That includes all internal IT support staff (developers, managers, help desk, etc). It does NOT include people working on the revenue producing side (developers at software company).

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Our overall IT staff is about 65 people supporting 450 internal users, 12,000 external users, 500 servers & network-based devices (not including printers), and 1000 desktops.

Of the 65:

  • 8 are 100% management (non-technical)
  • 10 are leads who are roughly 2/3 supervisory/proj mgmt and 1/3 technical in their time-split. (technical plan-build & some daily operational support)
  • 15 are application developers and multimedia developers (technical & daily operational)
  • 8 are database programmers and ERP support (technical & daily operational)
  • 5 are business analysts and project coordinators (non-technical, mostly non-operational)
  • 19 remaining are Help Desk, desktop, business app, server, and network admins. (front-line, technical, & daily operational)
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As a consultant I have seen a broad variety of ratios: Usually 1:40 or better for small and mid-sized companys seems to work out just fine (larger projects and non-IT related work gets done too). In bigger companies (and I consider 1500 systems "bigger") there is usually a smaller ratio because the it staff benefits from standardized hardware and support-procedures. I've seen 1:100 and on a rare occasion 1:200 as ratio but none as radical as your 1:500... It could work with local (1st level) support or students/interns which solve all the small problems - but it's no surprise to me, that you have a very slow reaction time with a 1:500 ratio.

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At my company it's just me and I'm only a software developer with about 30 people total. It's been quite an experience to walk into being the domain admin aside from being a developer.

I walked into a fully setup network and we do alot of 3rd party hosting for software and our website so alot of that brunt work is shouldered by others. We buy our machines rolled from dell so I have very minimal work in setting up new clients.

At some point I really will need to get a network security team consultant to come look over everything because the security side is definitely my biggest weakness.

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I suspect you are understaffed because you're asking and you've got response time issues. It depends wildly on how you're counting IT people to users. Are you counting desktop support? Or just server administrators? 30 to 50 to 1 for all technology staff is pretty normal for what I've seen, but that includes DBAs, Support Desk, Networking, Network Security, Web folks, developers, etc...

Here we have a lot of very diverse servers running a bunch of sort of high maintence applications so we have 7 sysadmins, and 2 dbas, for about 320 servers. Which is probably a bit high. On the other hand our response times are great and we are very flexable about what we can provide for response to users. There are also 20k users, and probably 40 odd client services people to deal with them.

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There are three of us...one of whom is the director, in charge of the department and budget and such...and there are 2400 people using about 1500 computers. Students, mostly. Labs, classroom systems. We are in charge of keeping systems running including the servers and the desktops and user accounts. We step people through help remotely when possible, take phone calls, image systems and switch them out when there's system failures, try piecing parts together to get functional systems when necessary, etc...along with server maintenance and monitoring. –  Bart Silverstrim Sep 9 '09 at 1:15

3 admins to 1500 systems? I have some bad news for you. You are not supporting 1500 systems.

Your users are supporting their systems. You are supporting the servers, network infrastructure, and helping them out a bit with their systems.

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Is that intrinsically a bad thing? Assuming 1495 of these systems don't have viruses, and these people happen to be self sufficient, I don't see a problem. –  Justin Dearing Aug 7 '12 at 17:48

In terms of "full-time equivalents" :
All staff : 1,446
(split across 5 main offices, plus 30-40 other sites with some sort of regular staff presence. )
IT Dept : 46
(includes 4 vacant posts)

Of the 46 IT staff, 27 are what I'd term "general ops", i.e.

  • support desk
  • 2nd/3rd line support for network/hardware stuff
  • infrstracture stuff (backups, network maintenance, etc)

The other 19 staff are split between

  • project management
  • DBA's / specific application support
  • business analysts / data warehouse stuff

There's probably another 3 or 4 staff within the business who don't work in IT but who are essentially doing IT work 70%+ of the time. These staff can be viewed as either
a) a sinister "shadow" IT, working to undermine network security and promote bad practice.
b) chumps who deal with a lot of the more tedious support calls in person for a longer grade of pay.

Finally, there's another 3 or 4 consultants who are summoned whenever we've too much money in the budget and our stock of "old rope" is running dangerously low...

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1:250 but I don't recommend it

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Over here, about 40 employees; 1.5 FTE of those are IT staff. IT maintains about 40 servers and 50-60 workstations (some employees have more than one workstation .. software development house).

My previous company (also a software development house) had 150-ish employees and 4-ish IT staff which maintained as many workstations and lots of servers.

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Totally depends on the company and the business requirements. At my workplace we have 3 "Systems" employees out of about 20 staff total. However, we have an HPC cluster of around 80 nodes with all its supporting infrastructure, a second development cluster, and a new extension on the way in to Amazon's EC2. On top of that we have a bunch of application servers to support the software developers and scientists, and all the other standard office stuff.

We also deal with rapidly changing requirements and a pretty high rate of growth for the compute infrastructure, so while the ratio of staff to users is high, there is a lot to do.

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Ratios don't really matter. You need adequate teams in place to handle different sets of tasks that complement each other. I define an adequate team as 3-4 individuals. You also need to establish career paths.

I say ratios don't matter, because you can operate simple environments easily. I worked at a company with a 1,200 agent call center Example for a mid-sized place:

  • Desktop team - usually an entry point for staff. 1 senior tech, 3-4 juniors. May include helpdesk and telecom (cell phones, etc) provisioning functions.
  • Microsoft tech team. Usually handles domains, file servers, print, etc
  • Network team
  • Applications team -- these guys support your apps and may be SAs for the app servers

The complexities and things that matter to your company drives the need for more specialization and more staff.

Examples:

  • If you have a bunch of servers hosting public-facing apps somewhere, you're going to need specialized network people for that purpose.
  • If you have tons of databases, you need to have specialized DBAs.
  • If you have primadonna execs or other VIP-types, you need dedicated desktop guys to mind them
  • You may need to have specialized directory/identity management people at some point
  • Eventually following vendor best practices doesn't cut it, and you need dedicated info security people

Perfection doesn't exist, so how you approach things depends on how much money you have, the leadership you have in place, etc. Without good leaders, growing the staff will make things worse.

On the other hand, your staff as it is described is inadequate. I cannot imagine how crappy your life is with those kind of demands.

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Our IT organization has 8 staff members (not including Director/VP) with 3 more to-be-hired. We support:

  • A development organization of 70+ users.
  • HR/Internal staff of about the same size.
  • Two production sites with ~30 systems, network gear, SAN.
  • A development site with ~80 systems, network gear, SAN.
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