Before you begin this course, here is a quick overview of what you’ll be learning and why it is important.
First, the labs. Lab 1 - Secure Workstations, is all about installing and configuring computers for your end users to use in a large organization. This is a great place to start in system administration, because it is very similar to working on your own, personal computer. You’ll install an operating system, learn about its various parts, and configure a secure and stable workstation. If you’ve taken my CIS 225 course, this is basically a review of a large portion of that material.
Lab 2 - Configuration Management, builds on the first lab by showing how you can use tools to automate much of the workstation configuration process. For this class, we’ll be learning how to use Puppet, but many other tools exist for this task. At the end of this lab, you should have a script available that will automatically perform most of the configuration you did in lab 1.
Lab 3 is all about networking. Most modern computers are completely useless without access to network resources, so this is a vital part of system administration. In this lab, you’ll configure a network for your virtual machines, as well as several networking services for them to use. We’ll also be exploring several common networking protocols, such as HTTP, DNS, and DHCP, using tools such as Wireshark to capture and inspect individual network packets. Some of this material comes directly from CIS 525, but with a focus more on system administration than building networked programs.
Lab 4 expands upon the previous labs by creating centralized directory services for your workstations, Using such a service, users can use a single username and password to access resources throughout an organization, much like your eID is used here at K-State. This lab is notoriously one of the most difficult and frustrating labs to complete in this course, but I believe it is also one of the most useful ones as well.
Lab 5 shifts the focus in this class toward the cloud. Many companies today operate some, if not all, of their centralized assets in the cloud. In this lab, you’ll configure several cloud resources, and we’ll discuss the tradeoffs and differences between cloud resources and other traditional computing resources.
Lab 6 focuses on building servers for a variety of enterprise use cases, including file servers, application servers, web servers, and more. We’ll discuss what it takes to provide a large number of resources for an organization, and you’ll get hands-on experience working with several of them.
The final lab introduces many smaller concerns for system administrators, but each of them is vital to creating truly stable and effective resources. You’ll learn about state-of-the-art techniques in backups, system monitoring, developer operations (or DevOps), and some of the theory behind being an effective system administrator through ITIL, formerly the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.
At the end of the semester, you’ll complete a final project that integrates and demonstrates all of your knowledge about system administration. You’ll be asked to communicate information effectively, show that you can perform your own research and analysis, and more. The final project module is already available on K-State Online for you to view, so I recommend you review it soon.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why this information is so important to learn? Here are a few thoughts from my own experience to help answer that question.
First and foremost, computers are ubiquitous in today’s world. There is hardly a career left that doesn’t involve technology in some way, from engineering and science to agriculture and even hotel and restaurant management. By learning how to work closely with these tools, you’ll have an indispensable skill set for your entire career, no matter what path you choose.
Likewise, this class gives you a chance to hone your own technical skills. Students who have previously taken this class have reported that the information covered was very helpful for them during their internships and job searches, and they were quickly able to understand how to use the corporate systems available to them.
Similarly, you’ll also learn how to maximize your effectiveness on your personal computer, through the use of scripting, virtual machines, and operating system features. It will truly take you from a normal computer user to a power user.
In addition, throughout the class you’ll be honing your communication skills, which is constantly cited as one of the most important soft skills for finding a job in the tech industry. If you are able to communicate better than your peers, you’ll be that much closer to landing your dream job.
Speaking of which, there are lots of great careers out there if you do decide to pursue system administration. Every company both large and small has need of someone with this particular skill set, and each industry has a unique set of challenges and requirements. A system administrator will always be in demand, and I can guarantee that the job is never boring.
You’ll also be able to put your skills and knowledge to good use by helping others discover how to use their computing resources most effectively. It is a great opportunity to share your knowledge with others and build those working relationships.
Finally, yes, you may even find yourself in a management position, or you may be asked to work with management. Having a strong understanding of every aspect of an organization’s technical infrastructure and what’s out there can help you make good decisions and lead effectively. There are countless stories of companies who miss out on the latest technological advances, only to find themselves left behind or worse. In the resources section below the video, you can read more about what happened to Circuit City, a large electronics retailer that chose to become complacent, and ended up bankrupt.
With that in mind, I hope you are excited to continue this course and start working on the first module.