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What is a Network Administrator

What does IT do?

To understand \"Why You Need a Network Administration?\" you need to understand the environment that Network Administrators works in, their mandate, \"Find ways to seamless integrate a computer into the business process!\" and the mandate of company they work for, \"We exist to fulfill our customer\'s need\" To facilitate the answering of your questions, I will create a fictional environment called Sim Office where we will look at the various departments that comprise the environment, the tasks that they perform, how tasks move from one department to another, and how a Network Administration helps get the work done faster.

For the purposes of this dialogue, our environment is comprised of 500 people working at ENetArch. It\'s a successful company providing Network Administration to fortune 500 Companies in Michigan. As I described in the previous blog, \"What do Managers do?\" I explained in the previous blog that there were 30 different departments that a company has and 200 tasks that are distributed through out the company. From a very high level description, they are Production, Marketing and Research and Development (R&D). If you are confused because Accounting wasn\'t listed, then consider this ... Do you need accounting to do work, or do you need accounting to support your work? In all actuality, Accounting doesn\'t have anything to do with actually running the business; it is a function that supports running the business. So, hold on to that thought, and you\'ll see what I mean momentarily.

What do Production, Marketing and Research and Development (R&D) do? Production is the primary profit center. The capital that it generates supports Marketing and Research and Development. Marketing is makes sure that the public is aware of ENetArch. Because if they don\'t, then Production has no one to sell their products to. Research and Development (R&D) designs new products, policies and procedures for new market trends or customer requests that are coming into being. If they don\'t do this, then the products that Marketing is telling the world about will be out of date and useless to a customer base that is constantly upgrading to reduce cost of overhead and increase their production capabilities. And if no one is buying outdated products, then Production comes to a stop since inventory no longer moves.

From the description above we can now flesh what departments comprise Production, Marketing and Research and Development (R&D). Production has: sales, service reps, customer support, collections, and manufacturing, inventory, shipping and receiving. In Marketing we have: counter intelligence, advertising, and graphic design. In Research and Development (R&D) we have programmers, hardware designers, and testers.

Now let\'s flesh out the departments that support these departments. They are usually grouped under the term Administration, since these departments are threads that link all the major departments together - Network Administration, Accounting, Telecommunications, Custodial, Facilities, Human Resources (HR), Purchasing, and Governance. Network Administration is primarily concerned with managing the computers and data communication in the organization - making sure that everyone that is collecting data gets it to the right place (a bit more about this in a minute). Accounting is charged with making sure that funds are accounted for. Telecommunications is charged with interfacing with Ma Bell and making sure that all everyone who needs to talk with someone outside the company can do so. (In short, they maintain the telephone on your desk, the voice mail system, and the switching system used to route calls through your organization.) Custodial cleans the environment. Facilities maintains the environment - both internal and external. Human Resources (HR) manages the benefits for the employees - so things like insurance, pay scale, sick time, vacation time, grievances, and such are managed here. Purchasing is responsible for buying everything brought to ENetArch. Some times purchasing is complimented by another department that strictly buys and sells just the equipment for the environment, while purchasing focuses on raw materials for manufacturing. And finally there is Governance. This department can be broken down further into Administrative Assistants, Managers, Vice Presidents, President, and Board. Their primary function is to support Production, Marketing and Research and Development.

At this point we are at 24 different departments. If you are wondering where the other eight (8) departments are, they are outside vendors: Customers, Banking, Parcel Transport, Ma Bell, Insurance, Legal, Suppliers, Contractors, and Government. Customers is a department? I group all customers into a department in order to understand the requests that customers make on the organization and vice versa. Banking is responsible for managing the money saved for economic decline, pay vendors, and employees. Parcel Transport is used to describe any type of shipping company from USPS, FedEx, UPS, or Long Haul Shipping. Ma Bell is your telecommunications provider as well as your Internet provider. Insurance concerns the coverage of the facilities, the individual products being manufactured from law suites, or health benefits of employees. Legal is charged with patenting, copy writing, and/or protecting your interests from other parties that appear to be encroaching on them. Suppliers are a group of companies that may provide anything from office supplies up through the raw materials used in manufacturing. Contractors are a group of companies used that may support any other function not described here due to the limited frequency of use. And example may be building a new location. And no matter what type or size of business you have, you will always have to deal with the Local, State and Federal Governments.

There is one last department that dictates everything that happens in the organization, and it is the one department that is the most hidden from view, yet the most important. Without this department, nothing works. What is this department, it is the Global Calendar. It is the only thing that reminds us that something needs to be done by a specific date and time. If a customer calls and needs to speak to a sales representative that appointment goes on the global calendar, even though the sales rep may be assigned a specific user calendar - in order to do trend analysis of when things have to happen, only the global calendar can be accessed. Where would you put the timing of monthly and quarterly reports? Where would you put the appointments for system wide upgrades? Electrical and Network Upgrades? Product Releases? All of these messages hit the global calendar.

So what does this all have to do with a Network Administrator? It\'s the amount of information that is conveyed through the environment. Even if your environment doesn\'t use a computer, you are performing all these same tasks via sneaker net - walking to and from each person in the office to pass the task along or query them for information so that you can complete the task. Now let\'s add the telephone system, instead of walking to a person, you are now calling them on the phone. And, the same is true with email through a computer; instead of walking from person to person you are now sending out emails. And, with the advent of WebSites, instead of emailing people, you now can look the information up on a website.

What this means to a business owner is that more time is spent actually selling product and less time is spent running the business. There is a great commercial running presently, \"Is the process of doing business, getting in the way of doing business?\" When you can\'t run your business because your computers are down and everything that you needed in order to do it is locked up in the computer, how long can your company last? Not very long.

This is where the mandate to the Network Administrator comes in, \"Find ways to seamless integrate a computer into the business process!\"

What I described above was the tasks that needed to be done in order to run a business. What a network administrator does is show how a computer can help the business perform those same tasks with greater speed and accuracy.

In our Sim Office Environment, we have identified 30 departments that comprise ENetArch. The primary 3 departments are Production, Marketing, and Research and Development (R&D). Production has: sales, service reps, customer support, collections, and manufacturing, inventory, shipping and receiving. In Marketing we have: counter intelligence, advertising, and graphic design. In Research and Development (R&D) we have programmers, hardware designers, and testers. These supporting departments are: Network Administration, Accounting, Telecommunications, Custodial, Facilities, Human Resources (HR), Purchasing, and Governance.

Now let\'s take a look at what tasks that are flying between each department, and what information needs to be made available to whom and when. The easiest way that I\'ve found to do this is through several processes. One process uses work flow diagram that list out all the departments and then describe the messages that pass between them, in logical time order. Another method is to look at two departments and list all the messages that would pass back and forth between them. The 3rd method is to use a system that tracks all the tasks, not as specific tasks, but task types. Ultimately what is to happen here is to determine what information is needed when. This process is also used in ISO as it describes how the tasks are performed.

For example, Marketing - Counter Intelligence may collect information about newproducts that are about to be released by competitors. This information can be sent to Research and Design (R&D) as well as Sales in order to bring it to their awareness. Customer Service may be seeing an influx of calls concerning a specific virus for which Research & Development (R&D) may need to develop an antigen for. And when that antigen is ready, Sales and Marketing can post its availability to its clients and prospective clients. Or a more mundane task could be the receipt of a phone call at the operator’s desk and routing it to the appropriate department. I call this mundane because now we have telephone switching systems that can route calls easily, as long as the appropriate department, extension or contact name is known. Again, the task never changes, just how it\'s done. You still have to write a check and send it to a vendor to pay for a bill. Whether you do that with a check, or pay the bill online through a website, you still have to pay the vendor. What is changing is the method upon which you use to pay the vendor.

Here is where rubber meets the road and network administrators earn their paychecks. Their mandate, \"Find ways to seamless integrate a computer into the business process!\" is truly all there is. Initially network administration used to locate specific applications that helped specific departments accomplish their tasks. Accounting got an accounting application, sales a sales and marketing application, HR a benefits package that helped calculate and track individual employees packages, marketing programs that allowed them to slice and dice marketing information and send out notices to prospect customers about existing or new products, research and development got design tools, tracking tools, and many other tools to help them record the results of tests, and customer service used call tracking applications that allowed them to see speed to resolution times.

So with so many applications written and being used, why implement something new? Because the sneaker net still exists. People still have to get up, walk from their desk to ask someone else about so part of a task. This is what I call, task dependency. When one task relies on another task to be completed first before the initial task can be completed. A good example of this is when you make a purchase; you have decided that the next task you will fulfill is to buy ice cream. However in order to buy ice cream you have to go to the store, pull the ice cream you like from the shelf, go to the cashier, pay the cashier, go back home and eat the ice cream. But what if while you were trying to pay the cashier you forgot your money. The task is interrupted with another task - you have to go get your wallet. And what if you had no cash there, credit cards were full, and bank account empty, you would need to work to replenish those before you could buy ice cream.

So in short, it\'s about getting the information you need to complete the task you\'re working on. This is done by sneaker net, telephone call, email, IM, or by browsing to a location on a website to retrieve that information. But in order to have this flexibility through a website, applications that once supported each department individually now need to support each other. This is known as integrating the applications and is key to the mandate, \"Find ways to seamless integrate a computer into the business process!\" The while it may seem that the environment is relying more and more on the computer to do the work, the computer is also allowing the end user to focus more on the task at hand, and less on where they have to go to get the information.

Task dependence then also includes the concept of querying. In the past you used to call Jane via phone, email or IM and ask, \"Jane, what is the reserve limit of Vista ready Macintosh computers?\" Jane would look in her system and tell you what the number was. Again, today you can look at a website to see that number without having to ask Jane.

This is accomplished through the magic of network administration, since this article is not about how it\'s accomplished but instead what a network administrator does to help you.

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