Looking for ways to get started in system administration? In this Skills article, we’ll provide an overview of resources that will help you on your way. If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of what a system administrator does, we recommend starting with this introduction.
There is no traditional path for acquiring the technical skills needed as a system administrator, according to Enable Sysadmin. “Some sysadmins have an associate or college degree, and some don’t. Depending on when a sysadmin began their career, he or she might have a variety of technical certificates ... or none at all.” Here, we provide an array of options with which to plot your own course of study.
1. Work with Linux
Sysadmins need a strong working knowledge of Linux to manage and configure essential computer systems. If you’re just getting started with Linux, Jack Wallen recommends trying one of the five distributions described below to ensure initial success.
- Elementary OS—This elegant, Ubuntu-based distro is user-friendly and pleasing with a desktop layout that feels instantly familiar.
- Ubuntu Linux—Ubuntu is one of the most stable and user-friendly distributions available.
- Linux Mint—Linux Mint offers users three choices: Cinnamon, Mate, and Xfce, and beginning users should consider either Cinnamon or Mate.
- Zorin OS—Zorin OS has been designed from the ground up to make Windows users feel at home.
- Ubuntu Budgie—There’s next to no learning curve for this Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that impresses with its beauty and simplicity.
If you have some Linux experience, consider one of these distributions recommended by Geekflare to build an environment in which to practice your skills.
2. Understand the Fundamentals
These books and resources will provide a deep grounding in Linux philosophy and practice to help you understand both the overall concepts as well as a practical approach to system administration.
- Linux in Action by David Clinton—This book is designed to help you acquire a solid range of Linux administration skills.
- Linux Kernel in a Nutshell by Greg Kroah-Hartman—Comprehensive overview of kernel configuration and building, a critical task for Linux users and administrators.
- The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins: And Everyone Who Wants To Be One by David Both—Understand why many things in the Linux and Unix worlds are done as they are, and how to apply the Linux Philosophy to working as a sys admin.
- The Practice of System and Network Administration, 3rd Edition by Thomas A. Limoncelli, Christina J. Hogan, and Strata R. Chalup—This book describes the essential practices of system administration.
- UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook, 5th Edition by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Trent Hein, Ben Whaley, and Dan Mackin—The definitive guide to installing, configuring, and maintaining any UNIX or Linux system.
- Wizard Zines by Julia Evans—This collection of zines and comics offers quick and easy introductions to Linux administration and development topics.
3. Develop Your Skills
Self-paced training courses are a practical way to acquire skills at your own convenience. These offerings will provide a strong foundation in the essentials of system administration.
- Complete Linux Training Course to Get Your Dream IT Job 2022—This Linux administration course from Udemy prepares you for RHCSA, RHCE, and LFCS certifications.
- Coursera Linux Server Management and Security—Dive into how Linux works from an enterprise perspective.
- LFS101x Introduction to Linux—This free course can help you develop a good working knowledge of Linux using both the graphical interface and command line across the major Linux distribution families.
- LFS201 Essentials of Linux System Administration—Learn the skills and processes you need to work as a professional Linux systems administrator.
- Linux Security and Hardening, The Practical Security Guide—Secure any Linux server and protect it from hacking.
4. Get Certified
Once you’ve acquired basic system administration skills, the next step is to test your knowledge. The following industry-trusted certifications cover a broad range of introductory topics.
- CompTIA Linux+—This course validates the competencies required of an early career system administrator supporting Linux systems.
- CompTIA Server+—A vendor-neutral certification covering the latest server technologies including virtualization, security, and network-attached storage (updated version coming in May 2021).
- Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator—The Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam is ideal for candidates looking to validate their Linux system administration skill set.
- Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1—The LPIC-1 will validate a candidate's ability to perform maintenance tasks on the command line, install and configure a computer running Linux, and configure basic networking.
- Linux Professional Institute LPIC-2—The LPIC-2 will validate a candidate's ability to administer small to medium–sized mixed networks.
- Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)—This exam tests your knowledge in areas of system administration across a wide range of environments and deployment scenarios.
5. Engage in the Community
Attending conferences is a great way to expand your skills and network with like-minded people in the community. By engaging in the community, attending events, reading articles, and watching presentations, you will identify industry experts from whom you can learn more. The conferences listed here represent just a few of the many global and local events offering valuable system administration related content.
- DevOpsDays—These community-driven, local events are for anyone interested in IT improvement.
- Open Source Summit North America and Open Source Summit Europe—Linux Foundation events are where technologists from around the world meet to share ideas, learn, and collaborate.
- Red Hat Summit—Red Hat Summit offers a mix of innovation, collaboration, and learning opportunities.
- USENIX Annual Technical Conference—USENIX ATC provides the opportunity to learn about must-know topics, including virtualization, system and network management and troubleshooting, cloud and edge computing, security, privacy, and more.
- USENIX SRECon—SREcon is a gathering of engineers who care deeply about site reliability, systems engineering, and working with complex distributed systems at scale.
6. Keep Learning
This article barely scrapes the surface of the options available for teaching yourself system administration. Continuous learning is required to keep your skills up to date with the latest technologies and trends, and the resources below provide additional topics to consider.
- ADMIN magazine—This magazine provides tutorials, reviews, technology overviews, case studies, news, and other topics.
- Command Line Heroes—This podcast tells epic tales of how developers, programmers, hackers, geeks, and open source rebels are revolutionizing the technology landscape.
- (ISC)² Education & Training—Security-related training from Coursera.
- Learn Linux with Online Courses and Classes—Learn Linux with courses from Harvard, MIT, and other leading universities through edX.
- Plan Your Training—Take the Linux Foundation career quiz and explore technologies that match your interests.
- SANS Institute—Cybersecurity courses and certifications.
- What is a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)?—The SRE role is related to system administration but requires a markedly different skill set; learn more in this article from FOSSlife.
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