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Seeing as you can easily remote into a server (SSH whatever), does being a sysadmin easily allow for employees to work remotely?

Do companies allow this commonly, or is it more so for consultants? (or maybe not even for consultants?)

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often depends on how well the hardware works. it's hard to swap in a new card/drive/RAM stick over SSH. –  quack quixote Dec 10 '09 at 13:31
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@~Quack: 1'm jus7 7ha7 l337! –  Bart Silverstrim Dec 10 '09 at 13:38

7 Answers 7

The technical aspects of Unix server administration can generally be accomplished remotely, particularly if you have smart power (i.e., you can power cycle remotely) and serial consoles configured. (As others have mentioned, you'll need VPN access and good network connectivity.)

Speaking from some experience, though, being in the office confers a number of advantages. Being in the office helps you build relationships with your customers -- by which I don't necessarily mean the end-users experiencing problems, but the stakeholders and managers/execs who need to understand why what you're doing is important for the company, and why they should therefore continue to fund your position.

Walking around and chatting with both stakeholders and end-users is incredibly beneficial -- because it gives people informal modes of access to you, and because it helps you to see what's falling through the cracks, and where some spackle will address significant pain points for your customers.

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I've done both. I once worked for a large shop (a university computing center), and transitioned to one day in-office and four days at home. It worked out very well for two years before I moved on. I currently only do remote work as a consultant/contractor and I routinely do work for people I've never met in person. It all depends on what is expected of you.

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I've worked as a consultant and had clients that preferred both, some never wanted to see you unless the physical server was on fire. Some wanted to know exactly how much time you used on their site (and weren't multi-tasking clients).

In my mind it comes down to:

  1. The people; do they want to see you?
  2. The hardware; blade centres are a joy to work on remotely, old 386 netware boxes not so much. Also managed switches help.
  3. The age of the network; older more stable nets don't require as much hands on stuff imho
  4. How lucky you feel updating firewall rules remotely.
  5. The security policies of the network; and if you can legally get in remotely.
  6. Trust and billing are two other big ones.

and always remember just because it can be done doesn't mean it should...

when you work remotely at home, if you aren't careful your at work 24/7 with no reprieve... good luck convincing someone your sick today when they know you can move your fingers, have a laptop and were in bed anyway...

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Regarding number one...perhaps admins aren't always the best judges to answer that question. –  Bart Silverstrim Dec 10 '09 at 14:26
    
@Bart Silverstrim; no but personal hygiene questions aside it is a pre-condition to working remotely, that your client/employer is ok with the idea of not seeing you or do they want to know where you are. Spose another big consideration is the security people have in knowing they can get their hands on their admin quickly in event of emergency. –  Antitribu Dec 10 '09 at 16:12
    
@antitribu: Not so much personal hygiene as much as technology fields tend to attract Aspergians. –  Bart Silverstrim Dec 11 '09 at 0:53

If you are an administrator for servers only, and the servers are in managed or cloud hosting, then I could a system administrator working completely from home.

Other than that, you would probably need to be there some of the time, although I could see a company having one Admin who works from home as long as there is a team member on location.

From what I have seen, telecommuting jobs are far more common for developers.

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It also depends on security policy in Your company. For example I wouldn't allow for remote work in nuclear power plant...

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Depending on the power plant and the conditions, I might really really want to be working really really remotely... –  Bart Silverstrim Dec 10 '09 at 13:39
    
Duly noted, Homer Simpson. –  Dan Carley Dec 10 '09 at 16:25
    
Mmm...donuts... –  Bart Silverstrim Dec 11 '09 at 0:53

"It depends". If you're a general sysadmin, you have plenty of times where you need to be at the server.

Many "routine" tasks can be done remotely. Much of your work could probably be done remotely. Without context as to why you're asking and what your particular situation is (And the responsibilities of your sysadmin in particular) it's hard to say. Plus there are situations where updates go wrong, and without a remote power switch someone will have to flick the power switch or check on hard disks or swap tapes.

There's also political reasons that a sysadmin job can't be done entirely remotely. Face to face meetings, keeping users from feeling as if the sysadmin is an overpaid never-seen ninja not earning his or her pay, being accessible to users are a few reasons not to do everything remotely, along with the added issue of remote accessibility problems (his internet connection dies, all his work is halted until he or she gets access again).

In short, it's probably more than feasible for much of an admin's job to be handled in part or large part remotely, but it's better to split the time between having an office setting and home (since most admins will probably already be doing a lot of work remotely. Do you really think that cell phone and remotely accessible email isn't part corporate leash??)

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+1 customer face time. –  David Mackintosh Dec 10 '09 at 16:55

It strongly depends on the company you work for/with.

Technically speaking, there are lots of solutions, and almost everything that does not involve a hardware failure or a total network disaster can be dealt with remotely.

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