Google IT Cert – Week 19 – Sysadmin and IT Infrastructure

This is my evaluation of the Google IT Professional Certification Course on coursera.org. This is my Week 19, or week 1 of Course IV, System Administration and IT Infrastructure Services.

The original Course IV all about automation has been dropped from the requirements for the certificate program in response to feedback from students and, supposedly, HR people hiring for IT positions. This means the program is 6 weeks shorter.

. . .

System Administration and IT Infrastructure Services

Course Intro

Here’s a quick recap of everything we’ve learned – Operating systems, processes, networking, etc. Feel free to read the last 18 freakin’ weeks on this blog.

Then there’s another fun story about our presenter learning about computers, working in IT, etc., etc. He learned a lot through real-world experience.

Then a quick recap about what this course is doing (teaching entry-level IT skills).

System Administration is the field “responsible for maintaining reliable computer systems in a multi-user environment.”

A systems administrator will have a diverse range of skills, although they may specify to some degree. These areas include maintaining servers, deploying hardware and software, monitoring networks, managing data and backups, user access controls and security, and, depending on the business, everything else.

There follow four sections that we have already been over in the last three courses. They are self-explanatory and did not take the estimated 10 minutes to read.

  • Navigating Courses
  • Program Surveys
  • Using Discussion Forums
  • Get to Know Your Classmates
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Discussion Prompt: Meet ‘n Greet

I hope everyone is excited and really taking the time to get to know all the other people they won’t interact with during the course. The half-assed attempt at forging some kind of community, of students who are paying to do an online class, seems a little sad.

My answer:

Hello everyone, Hope you’re all as excited as I am. I’m really looking forward to this course–I’m going to learn so much I will become the most powerful systems administrator the Earth has ever known!

What is Systems Administration?

What is Systems Administration

Organizations need to have reliable networks and resources. IT infrastructure is everything from software to hardware, networks and services needed to keep them all operating in an enterprise environment. Systems administrators, or sysadmins, are tasked with maintaining the IT infrastructure of an organization.

Any organization with an IT presence will need to have an IT staff, and as an organization grows it will create different teams working in different specializations. There may be network engineers on one team and database engineers on another.

But a small business may only have one person, and this course is going to go over what that one person needs to know.

Servers Revisited

Common IT resources a sysadmin may be responsible for include even basic things like email, file storage, and website maintenance. These services are often deployed from a server. Remember servers?

People are often most familiar with the concept of a web server—it stores and serves requested web content. But there are also other common servers that are often part of any organization’s IT infrastructure: Email servers provide email services to client machines, and SSH servers provide SSH services.

Servers can provide data to multiple clients at once, and a client can interact with many servers at once.

Any computer can be a server, even a laptop. Some servers a nothing much more than a large desktop tower. If an very large and powerful server is needed, there is something called a rack server, which allows morecomputing power in an expandable, efficient rack unit. There is also another form-factor called a blade server, which accommodates even more powerful hardware.

If you have multiple servers you’re managing, it is always easier to remote into them using something like SSH than to go from one to another. Always keep a monitor, keyboard, and mouse near your servers, though, in case you can’t remote into them.

A device called a KVM switch (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) allows one set of keyboard/mouse/monitor to be used with multiple computers.

Reading: KVM Switch

Always wanted to know more about KVM switches? No?

The Cloud

Cloud computing is nothing more than the concept that one is able to access data from anywhere in the world at any time. It is just a group of servers providing some function or service that is accessible by internet connection.

All those servers are housed in what is called a Data center, which is a big facility full of servers. Many large companies own their own data centers, and smaller ones rent space in commercial data centers.

Cloud computing allows an organization to keep all their data in a “central” remote location. This means they don’t have to pay for storage devices, just the service fees associated with storage. These subscription fees may be low compared to the up-front cost of setting up network storage devices, but over time they can add up.

Another issue to be aware of is the dependency on the storage service provider. If they have a problem, your organization may be unable to function until they figure it out.

>quiz

Systems Administration Tasks

Organizational Policies

Large companies often have a Chief Security Officer who will determine policies regarding IT services and procedures. But a small company may ask the sysadmin to come up with these policies all on their own.

Here are some common policy questions that are often asked when policy is being written:

  • Should users be allowed to install software? Probably not!
  • Should users have complex passwords with specific requirements? Yes, probably.
  • Should users be able to view non-work-related sites like Reddit? Maybe…
  • Should company phones have a device password? Yes, obviously.

All policies should be well-documented. As with all other aspects of IT, good documentation is critical.

IT Infrastructure Services

There are a lot of services associated with IT infrastructure, (email, file storage, etc.) and as a sysadmin you will need to manage lots of them at once.

Network access? That is a service that must be managed. Secure connections to websites and other machines? Yes, a service that must be managed. Everything has to be set up, monitored, patched, and supported for as long as it is in use.

User and Hardware Provisioning

Sysadmins are also responsible for managing hardware and the users access to it. This means setting up physical hardware as well as controlling user accounts and permissions to use that hardware.

A standardized set up and deployment of hardware, including software installation and ser accounts, is called provisioning.

Hardware is thought of as progressing through a life-cycle. This means that it can be evaluated as to its service to the organization in a standardized way, using universal metrics. The hardware lifecycle has these stages:

  • Procurement: when it is purchased (or re-used) for a user
  • Deployment: given to the user so they can do work
  • Maintenance: software is updated and hardware issues are fixed
  • Retirement: Hardware is deemed no longer useful and is removed from the fleet

A lifecycle may go like this:

  • A new employee needs a computer, HR asks you to provision one for them with a new user account.
  • You allocate one from inventory (or order a new one)
  • You image the machine (preferably with a standardized process)
  • Name the computer with a standardized hostname (like username-location)
  • Instruct the user to sign in with their new account
  • If the computer ever has a hardware failure you act accordingly
  • If the computer is too old you proceed with decommissioning and recycling
  • If the user leaves the company you must remove their access from company resources and wipe the machine for future use

Imaging in a small company may not happen frequently enough to be difficult, but in a large company it can become very time-consuming. Automating provisioning is critical in large organizations.

Routine Maintenance

Computers need to be updated almost constantly, and in a large organization you cannot do this for each machine one at a time. Servers need frequent security updates, and cannot be taken offline at every given time when an update is available.

Batch update allows you to push updates out to multiple machines at times that are convenient to the organization, such as night time.

Though every update does not need to be installed immediately, it is a best practice to update systems routinely, especially for security updates.

Vendors

Sysadmins will also have to be responsible for phones, printers, copiers, faxes, video conferencing equipment, and other devices.

If a sysadmin is not responsible for fixing the copy machine, he or she may still be responsible for coordinating with an outside vendor who can perform the work.

Sysadmins will also have to manage accounts with vendors, as most businesses will not just want to order equipment off Amazon.

Troubleshooting and Managing Issues

Most IT work is some form of troubleshooting. Systems administrators may be operating at a higher level of problem solving than an entry-level IT support person, but they probably started out there. And while a systems administrator may be working on more difficult problems, a lot of the skills are the same as desktop support.

Decision making skills are always critical—knowing how to prioritize and solve problems in a logical way. And you always need troubleshooting and customer service skills.

Most organizations have some kind of ticketing or “bug” system in place to track troubleshooting and documentation.

In Case of Fire, Break Glass

Disasters happen. All you can do is prepare for it. Data needs to be backed up, preferably in multiple locations, with one far away.

Being a sysadmin is a lot of work.

Good talk.

>quiz

“Dion Michelle Obama Story”

This video is titled in a kind of weird way. And no, his last name is not “Michelle Obama Story.” Dion is a Googler who got to meet Michelle Obama for a work thing. He likes work things.

>Graded Assessments (quiz)

This was a 12-question quiz. Each question had one of the four stages of the hardware lifecycle. You had to select which stage of the lifecycle applied to a scenario. I got one wrong that asked something like “A laptop has died, and you replace it with a used laptop from inventory.” I answered that it was part of the “retirement” stage, because the laptop died and was removed from the deployed fleet. The correct answer was the “procurement” stage, even though that is not the subject of the scenario. The scenario is about the dead laptop. Am I wrong? Whatever.

See you next week for week 20!


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