Computer system administrators are responsible for the smooth operation of a computer network, including network security, the individual personal computers (PCs) and hardware connected to the network and any software the computers may be using. In order to reach the goal of satisfactory system functioning, computer system administrators must perform regular upgrades to hardware and software, troubleshoot any issues that arise during upgrades, and communicate with staff regarding future system upgrades. Most system administrator positions now require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in computer science while larger companies and US governmental agencies often recruit master's degree-prepared candidates only. System administrator tools include education and experience, as familiarity with networks is a necessary component of any system administrator position. Physical computer components, types of software and any means of systems automation are also considered system administrator tools by industry experts.
The first kind of system administrator tools that may come to mind to computer users — as opposed to those within the industry — include physical, tangible items such as cables, power cords and different analyzers designed to analyze and measure system efficiency and signal problems. The only system administrator tools that actually resemble tools are punchdown tools, also known as punch-down tools or Krone tools. Punchdown tools are used to insert wires into small areas inside the computer.
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System administrator tools also include software designed for many different functions. Unlike the software used on the network user PCs, system administrator software — also known as admin source tools — is invisible to the end user. Instead, it reports back to the system administrator various types of data such as software usage patterns, computing speed with various software and databases, and automatic software updates that require permission of the system administrator for installation. Other types of software considered essential system administrator tools are those related to system security. These types of software help maintain data privacy, ensure safe business transactions, and offer protection against computer hackers or computer viruses.
Many network system administrator duties that once required constant attention are now automated functions and considered indispensable administrator tools of the trade. Many of these system administrator tools — known as native tools — are packaged with the software they are designed to oversee. Other types of automated software designed to facilitate system administrator duties are sold by third-party vendors.