What Is a UNIX® System Administrator?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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A UNIX® system administrator is an information technology (IT) professional who performs routine installations, maintenance, updates, and troubleshooting to a computer system that runs with this particular platform. This type of system administrator job typically entails working in a data center with a group of networked computers. One of the main job roles of a UNIX® system administrator is to ensure each machine's operating system is in the best working order. Just as with other types of IT system administrator jobs, a UNIX® administrator typically has a good background in areas such as software security and user management.

Much of a system administrator's work involves use of the UNIX® command line to complete routine tasks efficiently. While many software updates and installations can be done with a graphical user interface, this option can sometimes take a greater number of steps. Certain entered commands can automate many of these tasks to run in the background while users can continue to work at each machine without any downtime. Many UNIX® administrator jobs require applicants to have specific credentials such as the A+® or Linux+® certification. Each of these certifications indicates thorough knowledge of the fundamentals needed to become a UNIX® sysadmin.


A UNIX® system administrator ensures that end users have access to their saved files whenever they may need them. Administrators are usually responsible for backing up each computer system to storage media such as external hard drives. Even with these precautions, files can sometimes be deleted accidentally. The UNIX&reg administrator is normally able to recover these files and move them back to their correct places on the hard drive. An administrator is also able to add new user accounts and delete old ones as needed.

Other responsibilities of a UNIX® system administrator include implementing security measures and troubleshooting any possible risks. Administrators usually install and update antivirus and anti-spyware tools to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the computer network remotely and causing damage to any of the machines' operating systems. A system administrator will also sometimes examine log files of user activity to make sure no users have introduced security risks, such as viruses, to the system.

User support is another focus of a UNIX® system administrator's duties. Some users encounter problems with software due to errors or the need for updates. Administrators can usually fix such routine issues and troubleshoot more serious problems, such as temporary system crashes.


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