As a SysAdmin, it can be tough to filter the important industry news from the weak and the most useful technical advice from the poor, especially with an endless stream of content spilling through social media and news outlets.
So we’ve collated up some of the best resources we know to help get you up to speed and keep you there. Get ready to subscribe, download and bookmark – here’s your ultimate list of resources for a SysAdmin.
Author Jeff Geerling says it best, this book is “server and configuration management for humans.” Whether you’re just venturing into server management, are already up and running, or just want to know what all the fuss is about, this book is a down-to-earth and extremely practical guide to all things Ansible. Strategies for optimisation alongside common pitfalls make Ansible for DevOps a practical read that will soon find a home on many a SysAdmin’s bookshelf.
A classic and a staple of SysAdmin’s everywhere, this book has held its own since its first edition. The revised version has taken reader feedback on board to enhance its two halves – The Basics and The Icing – which together equip the hardiest of SysAdmins with the practical knowledge to apply in their day to day work.
Another classic and the most comprehensive guide to UNIX and Linux administration out there. The UNIX and Linux were originally published independently, but a forward-thinking publisher pushed the two together and created an incredibly helpful guide for both experienced and beginner administrators.
A cult-classic of the SysAdmin world, The Visible Ops Handbook is based on four steps to shift an organisation towards continuous improvement and increased control. Unlike many handbooks, its style is light making it an easy read with guidance grounded in real-world applications.
Get to grips with Vagrant with this must-have guide. Up and Running covers the basics – how to setup Vagrant, Vagrant alternatives – through to automated provisioning, box management and customisation. Well worth a read for any administrator looking to get started with Vagrant.
Be warned, you will not find a single line of code in this book. Instead, you’ll find a collection of essays and interviews from practicing administrators. Their stories from the front line are varied, often funny and incredibly honest. This is your resource for learning the human skills needed in system administration, how to work around the challenges of scaling databases, and how to recover from an administration disaster.
Ever feel like your to-do list is never ending and you’re constantly inundated with more tasks? Thomas A. Limoncelli explains how to effectively manage your time while meeting the demands of your business and your boss. There are many dreary time management-related guides out in the field, but Limoncelli delivers succinct advice and practical tips that will make a tangible difference to your working day.
- The Lone Sysadmin for practical and insightful posts from a SysAdmin with over 25 years in the IT industry.
- Standalone Sysadmin calls itself the blog for IT admins who do everything written by an IT admin who does everything.
- Pingdom Royal, run by the Pingdom team, posts updates every few days and the sheer volume of content produced through the blog makes it one to watch.
- CloudFlare users should check out the official CloudFlare blog which offers regular advice as well as webinars on how to optimise and best apply its technology.
- Code as Craft is a nifty blog written by Etsy’s engineers. True stories from administrators and developers on the frontline of the websphere.
- Kitchen Soap is the brainchild of John Allspaw, SVP of Infrastructure and Operations at Etsy. As well as contributing to Code as Craft, he writes his own updates on his experiments and projects and often focuses on the human aspect of engineering.
- Socialised Software is written by Mark Hinkle, the Senior Director, Open Source Solutions at Citrix. As well as crash courses in new topics, Hinkle also shares opinion pieces on the state of the industry and presentations he has given at conferences around the world.
- Jupiter Broadcasting has a strong line-up of regular technology-related podcasts. Linux Unplugged sits alongside podcasts on security, tech culture, and general technology and offers tips, advice and news from the Linux world.
- DevOps Café is a long-standing podcast that often features interviews with lead members of the DevOps and SysAdmin communities. Anyone who’s anyone in the SysAdmin and DevOps world has been interviewed. Listen for practical advice away from theory and for new industry influencers to follow on social media.
- FLOSS Weekly has played host to Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, Tim O’Reilly and more in its nine year history. The netcast regularly changes co-hosts and is still known for its interviews with leading members of the development and open source community.
- Security Now! is a regular podcasts filled with news and analysis of the latest security threats and discussions. Its hosts regularly take comments and questions from listeners to inform future episodes.
- Risky Business is more light-hearted look at security news and topics. A new episode appears weekly followed by full show notes with a list of all referenced articles.
- This Week in Enterprise Tech takes its place in this list thanks to its focus on enterprise IT. Although netcast and not a podcast, it covers a wide variety of topics from hardware to virtualisation.
If you’re not already a part of its extensive community, Reddit has an extremely active and varied administrator party. Head over to /r/sysadmin, /r/linuxadmin, /r/openstack, /r/commandline or /r/docker for starters before venturing further afield. If you’re looking for a forum on a specific technology or piece of software, your chances of finding a related subreddit are high.
A number of vendors host incredibly useful forums. Their communities are focused and dedicated to that vendor’s software/services so the advice can often be the most applicable. Cisco and Oracle run well-populated forums. It’s also worth adding Apple Developer, Google’s Apps for Work Help Forum, Microsoft’s MSDN and Adobe’s Developer Connection to the mix. Each have their merits and their downsides, but can usually be relied upon to deliver the advice you need.
StackExchange is a melting pot of advice. Server Fault deserves a particular shoutout here. At the time of writing, ‘hot’ topics include: creating pages on MS Azure to redirect out to a URL, enforcing minimum length passwords and simulating an unreachable host on Windows. Super User is another StackExchange recommendation and open to all computer enthusiasts. Worth checking for general advice on hardware issues and finding common FAQs.
Honorable mentions go to:
- Spiceworks – often specific, but incredibly useful
- Ubuntu forums – especially for command line work
- Lifehacker – may surprise you with its usefulness
- Macworld – for all the answers not found in Apple Developer’s resources
- Expert’s Exchange – general technology advice for IT professionals
- MacSysAdmin is home to Mac and iOS administrators from all over the world. It’s an medium -sized conference – only 240 attendees – but attracts some of the biggest names from the Mac world.
- Ubuntu Developer Summit is an online event dedicated to improving Ubuntu and its community. You can also track the Ubuntu team’s attendance at other conferences to find where they will be delivering Ubuntu Juju workshops.
- LinuxCon is held in North America, Europe, Germany, Japan and more and has become one of largest conferences for Linux users and administrators worldwide. The Linux Foundation also curates a list of Linux-specific events which is well worth a look.
- DevOpsDays are held all over the world and is considered to be the conference that brings development and operations together.
- Usenix LISA’s agenda covers security, DevOps, network administration and more. Expect speakers from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Chef and the world’s leading universities.
- IT Nation brings together over 100 administrators, company owners, technicians with an agenda that covers the full IT spectrum.
- Run by the TCEA, the System Administrator and Technical Support Conference is designed purely for those in admin and support roles in the education industry.
- SpiceWorld is one of the most affordable and rewarding conferences in the tech calendar. The event has the perfect balance of seminars and tutorial sessions alongside conference-wide talks and social events.
- VMWorld, with both a US and European editions, positions itself firmly at the forefront of the modern IT organisation with a mix of hands-on learning sessions and product analysis to help you make your next purchase decision.
As well as following relevant vendor and forum accounts for updates and alerts, the following profiles are home to some of the most influential SysAdmins in the IT community. Who better to follow that the individuals who have literally written the books on the industry.
And for when you need a humour injection during a bad day:
- Linux command line
- Mac OS X shortcuts
- Point-to-point protocol
- Powershell (basic)
- Security (reverse-engineering malware)
Who doesn’t love a tool that makes their lives easier?
- ISPConfig – An alternative to Webmin
- Wireshark – A nifty network protocol analyser
- Capistrano – For remote automation and deployment
- PowerShell collection – A useful collection of PowerShell modules
- Attack Surface Analyser – A Microsoft tool for vulnerability analysis
- DeployStudio – For imaging and machine building
- createOSXInstallPkg – Does what it says on the tin
- Simplepackagecreator.app – Simple yet useful
- Disk2vhd – For creating VHDs for Microsoft VMs
- Ntop – To analyse network traffic
- Artica – For the installations and configurations that are eating up your time
- Racktables – To keep track of your database assets