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System Administrator vs Network Administrator

System Administrator vs Network Administrator: What's the Difference?

Jul 25, 202310 mins readAmit Masih
System Administrator vs Network Administrator: What's the Difference?

If you're considering pursuing an IT degree program and wondering about the job possibilities in the IT field, it's common to find specific job titles that need to be clarified or more challenging to differentiate.

For instance, have you ever wondered what sets apart a network administrator from a system administrator? While they may sound similar, their organizational roles and responsibilities are distinct.

If you want to work with computers and networks, consider a career as a network engineer or a system administrator. Both positions are in demand, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 6% growth in employment for network and computer systems administrators from 2016 to 2026— on par with the average for all occupations.

However, there are differences between these two professions when it comes to their duties, required skills, and certifications. Understanding these distinctions can assist you in determining which path aligns better with your experience, interests, and career aspirations.

In this article, we will explore how system and network administrators differ while highlighting areas where they share similarities. Though both roles involve working with computers, their objectives and skill sets diverge. Sometimes, they collaborate closely, while at times, they work independently.

What is a systems administrator?

A system administrator is responsible for ensuring the efficient operation of computer systems. They work with both hardware and software components to achieve goals. System administrators handle tasks about servers, software infrastructure, and user support. They assist users in accessing IT resources and provide solutions to any problems.

Some typical responsibilities of system administrators include;

Setting up computer servers: System administrators acquire server hardware and prepare the environment for server installation. They install server devices operating systems and conduct tests to ensure everything functions properly.

Installing and updating software systems: System administrators select software for the hardware. Install it within the system. They also schedule updates to address bugs, introduce features, and enhance user interfaces.

Troubleshooting server issues: System administrators perform tests to identify the cause of system failures or slowdowns. Through a process, they pinpoint whether the problem is digital or physical and resolve it.

Responding to user tickets: Users submit tickets to report any issues or bugs encountered within the system. System administrators review each ticket thoroughly, providing guidance or resolving user issues accordingly.

Backing up data: System administrators are responsible for creating and safeguarding copies of system data. They establish a schedule for data backups to ensure versions of the system code are available in case an understanding needs to be restored.

Developing recovery procedures: System administrators must devise step-by-step instructions for recovering lost data and restoring the system following a crash. These instructions aim to provide methods for data recovery in scenarios.

Ensuring application compatibility: System administrators verify that all applications within the system are compatible with each other and the network. They provide operation by resolving conflicts that may arise when multiple users simultaneously engage in various activities.

Managing user accounts: System administrators create user accounts, assign permissions, set passwords, and make necessary adjustments for system users. They can remotely assist individuals or groups of users within server categories by accessing their accounts.

Documenting system changes: System administrators maintain records of server activities, modifications, and service disruptions. These written records serve as references for guiding system development and enhancements.

What is a network administrator?

A network administrator is a professional in the field of IT who's responsible for managing the connectivity of computer networks. They work with network equipment and infrastructure to ensure that they can effectively support user activities.

Network administrators keep an eye on the network activity and demand to detect any vulnerabilities or anomalies that may arise. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that all IT systems remain connected, and in case of any connection issues, they troubleshoot to identify the root cause.

The everyday tasks performed by network administrators include:

Choose network hardware: Network administrators thoroughly choose appropriate networking equipment based on their client's requirements. They carefully select cables, routers, and switches to create networks of varying sizes and capabilities.

Configuring networking equipment: Network administrators physically configure networking equipment to establish the transmission of network signals. They securely connect cables, adjust plug connections, and set up devices to enhance connectivity stability.

Connecting devices to networks: Network administrators assist clients in connecting their devices (such as computers, phones, etc.) to the designated networks and related servers. They configure computer settings, software systems, and other necessary components so that these devices can seamlessly access information through network channels.

Monitoring network activity: Constantly monitoring user activity as network processing loads is crucial for network administrators. This helps them identify problems in advance, prevent users from overloading the system capacity, and maintain security standards. System admins are responsible for identifying areas of network activity and making adjustments to minimize any negative impact on network speed or stability.

Addressing connectivity issues: In cases where clients experience difficulty connecting to their networks, network administrators diligently investigate the root cause of the problem. They conduct connectivity tests, measure upload and download speeds, and remotely access client devices to identify user-end network issues.

Implementing firewall protection: To safeguard networks against access, network administrators employ firewalls and other security tools. They carefully configure firewall settings to grant permissions only to authorized users while preventing any access or information breaches.

Handling outage reports: Whenever system-wide outages occur, network administrators promptly investigate both hardware and software systems to determine the cause of the issue. Their primary goal is to restore connections for all affected users.

What’s the difference between a network administrator and a system administrator?

Have you ever wondered about the distinctions between network and system administrators? Although both operate within the IT field, their roles and responsibilities differ based on the size of the organization they serve.

In businesses, their tasks may overlap; in larger enterprises, they have more defined and specific duties.

A network administrator manages the server infrastructure and ensures smooth network connections. Their primary focus is to enable communication between computers and the Internet. They handle tasks such as installing and configuring hardware and software related to networking. Additionally, they work diligently. Maintain network performance while prioritizing security measures.

On the other hand, a system administrator primarily takes charge of network services and applications. Their role involves ensuring that computers possess software versions along with updates. They are responsible for managing aspects of network design and its components. Setting up email, web, and file servers fall under their jurisdiction. Furthermore, safeguarding networks from hackers and viruses is part of their responsibilities.

At the end of the day, while both roles involve IT management in capacities, it is essential to understand that a network administrator predominantly focuses on server infrastructure and connectivity maintenance. In contrast, a system administrator oversees network services and application management.

You can better understand their roles with the following comparison:

**Network Administrator: **

  • Manage server infrastructure
  • Installs and configures LAN and WAN
  • Maintains the hub where all the servers are located
  • Installs and maintains the set-up network

System Administrator:

  • Manage network security
  • Installs software and updates accordingly
  • Keeps design elements and network components  

What skills do you need to become a network administrator or system administrator?

To pursue a network administrator or system administrator career, one must possess skills essential for both roles. These skills will enable you to perform your job and facilitate your professional growth. With these skills, you will be well-equipped to excel as a network administrator or system administrator.

Outlined below are some of the skills necessary:

1. Analytical Skills: It is crucial to have the ability to analyze network and system performance data effectively. Also, identifying information and utilizing it to troubleshoot problems or enhance network and system functionality is vital.

**2. Communication Skills: **You must be capable of explaining issues and solutions in a manner that nontechnical individuals understand. Collaboration with teams, sharing ideas, and providing feedback are essential to effective communication.

3. Computer Skills: Proficiency in utilizing computers and software applications is essential for this role. Managing and maintaining networks and systems and resolving their issues require solid computer skills.

Career paths for system administrators and network administrators

Network and system administrators follow career paths that align with their skills and interests. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, network administrators are currently in demand, with a projected 5% employment growth from 2020 to 2030.

This increased demand is driven by organizations' investments in cutting-edge technology, which makes it essential for skilled network administrators to manage and maintain these systems efficiently. Network administrators have career options, including roles such as data center manager, senior system manager, director of IT, and information system manager.

Similarly, system administrators also enjoy a range of career paths based on their expertise and aspirations. They can pursue careers as system analysts, cybersecurity professionals, data protection experts, software engineers, android developers, lead technicians, or web developers. These opportunities allow system administrators to explore areas of specialization within the field.

What Job Titles Are Related to System Administration and Network Administration?

Once you acquire the skills required for an administrator role, you can have various opportunities to pursue multiple job titles. It's important to note that your specific title will depend on factors such as your industry expertise, years of experience, and personal interests.

After obtaining the skills needed for a position, you'll have the opportunity to explore a range of roles within administration. It's worth noting that your job title may vary depending on your level of expertise in the industry and the number of years you've spent gaining experience. Here are some examples of job titles for administrators:

  • IT director
  • IT manager
  • IT specialist
  • Local area network administrator (LAN administrator)
  • System engineer

How to choose between being a network administrator or a system administrator

You may wonder how to choose if you're deciding between a career as a network administrator or a system administrator. Both roles offer different opportunities and come up with other challenges and rewards.

Here are some suggestions to help you make your decision:

Start by gaining experience with a system: Look for job opportunities in companies where you can take on network and system administration responsibilities. This will allow you to learn how things work and determine what aspects you enjoy or dislike. It will also help you identify the skills required and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

Familiarize yourself with both roles: You don't have to commit to one. Consider taking courses or training in both network administration and system administration. This way, you can explore which area interests you more and aligns better with your strengths and preferences.

Remember, it's not just about considerations—it's also about finding enjoyment and ease in your chosen career path.

Think about your long-term goals: Becoming either a network administrator or a system administrator doesn't mean that's where your journey ends.

There is room for growth and advancement within these fields. Network administrators can progress into leadership positions, such as directors or architects of information systems, while system administrators can pursue roles as engineers or designers of system solutions.

The final verdict

There's a lot in common between network and system admins. However, the first focuses more on hardware, while the second focuses more on software and people.

Additionally, even though there is some overlap when it comes to how they work, both tend to occupy different domains within the industry.

As a result, experts in both professions must be aware of what the other brings to the table to communicate and resolve conflicts effectively.

Undoubtedly, both roles are essential to successfully operating a company's IT and development infrastructure.

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