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A cloud administrator manages a computer network that provides access to outside users through the Internet. He works with the servers that provide the storage space and run the programs that the users access remotely. His duties are comparable to a network administrator position, except the cloud administrator's network is open and accessible to people who do not work for the company that owns the servers.
The notion of the “cloud” is a product of the early 21st century. In the 1990s, companies networked their workstations using computer servers that were most often located on site. Those servers ran centralized software programs that workers accessed from their desktops and stored databases of information that everyone could view and modify at the same time. Network administrators were hired to maintain the system, to upgrade software and equipment, manage security and provide technical support to individual workers.
When workers wanted to access company information from the road or from home, they had to remotely access the company servers by dialing in using a modem or an Internet connection. The program that allowed access had to be locally installed on the computer a worker was using. He could not use any other computer to access the company servers that did not have the program.
Increasingly reliable Internet connectivity brought with it the ability to remotely locate servers that could be accessed by any number of people over the Internet. Instead of every company having its own bank of servers running its own licensed software, the notion of software as a service (SAAS) was born. With SAAS, software developers run their own software on their own servers and allow purchasers to access the software over the Internet. Each user has his own secure working environment and storage space on the software developer's servers. A cloud administrator manages this server environment where people's data is stored remotely.
Companies selling SAAS products, such as email services, media storage space or a sales management database, will hire a cloud administrator to keep the servers running at peak efficiency. Their products rely on providing software accessibility over the Internet. The servers that allow that functionality have to be operating around the clock, running updated software and processing the latest security protocols to protect against privacy breaches and data loss. Administrators work directly within the computer operating system to ensure a stable server environment.
What the cloud administrator has to know to do his job will depend on the environment into which he is hired. Generally, he will need to know server administration, networking, Internet connection protocols and a number of computer programming languages. He will also likely need to know how to work with Internet databases and how to administer the particular SAAS that the company sells. Most importantly, he must be well-versed in server security, as the reliable protection of data is one of the key issues that drives consumer use of the cloud.