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Archive for the ‘system admin’ Category

ZDNetAccording to a ZDNet article (by John Hazard, March 9, 2011) “IT manager jobs to staff jobs in move to the Cloud“:

The typical IT organization usually maintains manager-to-staff ratio of about 11 percent (that number dips to 6 or 7 percent in larger companies), said John Longwell, vice president of research for Computer Economics. The ratio has been volatile for four years, according to the Computer Economics recently released study, IT management and administration staffing ratios. As businesses adjusted to the recession, they first eliminated staff positions, raising the ratio to its peak of 12 percent in 2009. In 2010, businesses trimmed management roles as well, lowering the ratio to 11 percent, Longwell said. But the long term trend is toward a higher ratio of managers-to-staff ratio, he told me.

“Over the longer term, though, I think we will see a continued evolution of the IT organizations toward having more chiefs and fewer Indians as functions move into the cloud or become more automated.”

For a complete copy of the article see: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/it-manager-jobs-to-staff-jobs-in-move-to-the-cloud/45808?tag=content;search-results-rivers

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ComputerWorldIn a Computerworld (Australia) article entitled “Is there best practice for a server to system administrator ratio?”  from July 9, 2010, the following was reported:

“We have observed that it can be, for example with a physical server, as low as 10 per admin, and for virtual servers as many as 500,” Gartner analyst, Errol Rasit, said. “But it really depends on the type of application. We have seen as an example from a particular customer – from some of our larger customers – that they had their admins managing 15 physical servers and when that moves to virtualisation it moves to something like 75 virtual servers.

To give you a different order of magnitude in another example one admin was looking at 50 physical servers and then moving to 250 virtual servers. I will say that we have seen maybe 500 or 600 virtual servers being managed by a single admin.

IDC meanwhile notes that in Australia the ratio for an SMB would vary greatly from a hoster and again to a cloud provider like Amazon or Microsoft. The analyst house’s statistics suggest anywhere from 10,000:1 at a dominant vendor like Google down to the SMB average of 30:1 for physical boxes and 80:1 for virtual machines.

One enterprise IT manager told us the ratio for physical servers was roughly 50:1, another working for a government organisation said 15-20:1, and an IT director at a research and development outfit noted that in a mid-size organisation a system administrator could maintain 10-14 servers per week or if their role was merely maintenance (i.e. no projects, no debugging, etc) then they could look after 25-35 servers per week. The IT director added a bigger organisation with larger economies of scale could potentially increase the ration to 10-14 servers to each admin per day with staff dedicated to just maintenance.

One of the key factors in increasing the ratio, however, is how much automation can be rolled into the maintenance / management of the server farm.

“A lot of what changes the ratio in the physical world is the types of tools being used to automate a lot of the processes; so run book automation and these sorts of things,” Gartner’s Rasit said. “That tends to be the main differentiator. The problem with virtualisation and virtualisation tools is there are a lot of them. It is very, very easy for a lot of customers to try and automate everything and that doesn’t necessarily always bear fruit for the organisation because they are spending too much time doing that.

A complete copy of the article can be found: http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/352635/there_best_practice_server_system_administrator_ratio_/

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Help the Help DeskThis is the most comprehensive study that I have seen on IT Staffing.  It was written by Lon D. Gowen, Ph.D., Lead Systems and Software Engineer at the MITRE Corporation.  The paper is entitled “Predicting Staffing Sizes for Maintaining Computer-Networking Infrastructures”.  It was published in 2000.

In this paper Gowan presents benchmark data for the “Number of Users Per FTE of CNI Support” for

  1. Systems Administration
  2. Help Desk
  3. Break/Fix
  4. Configuration Management

These numbers were observed in both a DoD and a Private sector enviroment.  Acutal numbers are presented in the paper and are compared to numbers predicted using a COTS modeling tool.

Full paper available at: Predicting Staffing Levels

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A “Information Technology Operation Benchmarks Report” created by Nick Ganesan, CIO/Associate Vice-Chancellor for ITTS aQuality Benchmarkt Fayetteville State University.  The report contains detailed benchmark data for:

  1. IT Budget Profile
  2. IT Budget per IT User
  3. IT Budget as a Percentage of Institutional Budget
  4. IT Users to IT Staff ratio
  5. IT Staff to Number of PCs – Ratio
  6. Staffing Profile by service area
  7. PCs to IT User Ratio
  8. Central IT Support Percentage
  9. Staff ratio by service areas

The benchmark data is against IT services at universities located in the United States.

Location of Report: http://www.kfupm.edu.sa/sict/ictc/related%20documents/IT%20Benchmark/Fayetteville%20State%20University%20IT_Benchmarks_ver1.pdf

Local Copy: IT Benchmark for Universities – Fayetteville State University Report

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TechRepublic has provided a spreadsheet model to help you determine the right number of people in your IT shop.  In their approach, they focus on one category of staff at a time.  In each category, a few key questions are used to focus the analysis:

1. Programmers

  • Is there a separation between application development and support?
  • Do programmers work on multiple business applications?
  • Are external clients supported, and if so, is there customized code for individual clients?
  • Are major investments needed in software development of critical business applications?
  • How big is the programming backlog, and what type of changes are being requested?
  • Can the key business processes be accomplished better and more economically with a third-party solution?
  • If you have external clients, can programmers be dedicated to and billed to specific clients?

2. Business application analysts and trainers

  • Are new applications planned?
  • Does the company support the installation of software for external clients?
  • How knowledgeable are the departments and clients in the use of their business applications?

3. Help Desk specialists

  • Are infrastructure calls separated from business application calls, or is the Help Desk support functions for both combined?
  • How responsive do you need to be?
  • Does the Help Desk have sound escalation procedures?
  • What’s the level of client satisfaction for IT support?
  • Is the response rate to solve user issues sufficient?
  • Do you have a tracking system to monitor support calls, trends, and responsiveness?
  • How many calls is the Help Desk handling now?
  • What is the percentage of local users (as opposed to remote)?
  • Does the company require 24/7 staffing of the Help Desk?

4. Network administrators

  • Are major changes or enhancements planned/needed for the infrastructure?
  • Is an experienced architect of the network in place?
  • What has been the history of implementing infrastructure changes?
  • Is there an infrastructure strategic plan?
  • Is a change management process in place?

5. Desktop support specialists

  • What are the company growth plans?
  • Are major changes planned/needed in the desktop hardware/software?
  • What is the percentage of remote users (other office buildings, cities, etc.)?
  • Is the response rate to solve desktop issues sufficient?

6. Data Center operations staff

  • Does the Data Center require 24/7 operation?
  • What are the requirements for the Data Center?
  • Is a “lights out” operation possible?
  • Is the Data Center secure?

Using this model IT staff needs are based upon a number of factors, including the workload, anticipated needs, current capability of the staff, and maturity of the company. As much as possible, we try to quantify all the variables in each set of issues. Ultimately, it’s a judgment call based on the variable data, the level of support that you need to provide, and your experience in managing IT. If you can quantify the variables that affect levels of support, you’ll be much better equipped to determine your true needs.

A full description of this approach can be found at: http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-1061079.html?tag=e106

A copy of the IT Staffing Model in an Excel spreadsheet can be found here:  http://downloads.techrepublic.com.com/5138-6321-730024.html

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Does a thumb rule exists for “server administrators to a number of servers for a large and distributed enterprise infrastructure.”

I know this cannot be applied in every situation, but is there some reference than can be used to derive a head count for 24×7 support operations.
Answers:

1) check out the paper: “How Many Administrators are Enough” http://www.verber.com/mark/sysadm/how-many-admins.html

2) If there is a remote mangement tool to access the same. then the number is around 200-300.
if no software is present and physical present is required, then not more than 50-100 servers per server administrator. I am assuming these servers to be windows servers.
in case of Unix boxes, more servers can be managed even without management software, as patches to be applied are less often and they hardly need to be rebooted. so zero admin scenarios can exisit with unix boxes.
3) Administrators vs no. of servers depends on the stability of the organization and the stability of the OS being used. I have driven an initiative where I could drive the ratio from 150 per SA to 900 per SA. This involved a lot of standardization on the OS level as well as a focus effort to reduce known problems and working on eradication of the problems rather than break fix efforts. A lot of focus was also driven on the quality and training of the SA’s.

Source: LinkedIn Answers (March 2008) http://www.linkedin.com/answers/hiring-human-resources/staffing-recruiting/HRH_SFF/184490-5730787?browseCategory=&goback=.ahp

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Google employs one systems administrator for about 20,000 servers.

Bechtel employed one systems administrator per 100 servers.

Source: ‘Bechtel’s New Benchmarks’, CIO Magazine, October 24, 2008

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