Will AD make LAN admin an endangered species?
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By Leslie Goff
Network administrators duties' can range from managing the hardware and network operating systems on a departmental LAN to managing the entire network infrastructure for a business unit or division. But as organizations migrate to Win2000's Active Directory, the role of the LAN Administrator will likely change.
LAN Administrator, LAN manager, NT2000 Administrator
Manage the local area network for a department, business unit or division. Depending on the IT organization, the job can encompass server management, maintenance and updates, granting user access rights and passwords, managing and updating network operating systems, providing end-user support directly or in conjunction with a help desk, documenting procedures and problem resolutions, and ensuring that applications on the network are running properly.
Network OS expertise (especially user domain structures), knowledge of network hardware, basic network security and a working knowledge of the applications running on the network. "Some applications need a lot of handholding," says Jim Idema, LAN administrator for the finance division of Amway Corp. in Ada, Mich, who administers a hybrid Novell NetWare and NT 4.0 LAN of 15 servers and about 170 end-users. Requisite soft skills are patience in dealing with end users, the ability to produce clear and precise documentation, and the wherewithal to research and solve problems.
Since most LAN managers work in a mixed environment, the more certifications one can acquire, the better, advises Idema, who has Novell's Certified Network Administrator (CNA) and Microsoft's Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) in NT 4.0. Though Amway has temporarily postponed its plans for a Windows 2000 rollout, Idema intends to update his MCSE for Win2000 by the end of next year.
Typical day on the job:
"There's no such animal," says Idema, who is on-call one week of every month and carries a pager 24x7. While his primary responsibility is to manage the network, he spends about 70 percent of his time resolving user problems related to a worldwide company reorganization.
Career path options:
Natural transitions would be into Web-related network administration, network security, infrastructure, operations or end-user support (although Idema says a move to help desk analyst would be a step down). Lateral moves from a business unit into central IT or vice versa are also a possibility. A network administrator with at least several years' experience could start a management track in networking and infrastructure or operations and end-user support; one with diversified experience could ultimately move into upper IT management, such as vice president of IT or higher.
There's no shortage of jobs. Network administrators are essential in any IT organization; moreover, in small-to-medium businesses with limited IT staffs, the network admin is indispensable, providing a wide range of infrastructure and end-user support. In large organizations, however especially those migrating to Windows 2000 the demand for net admins may be shrinking as companies try to do less with more. In Amway's finance unit, for example, the number of LAN administrators was cut from six to two (user ranks were cut as well) as part of its global reorganization. And with Win2000, notes Christopher Smith, CIO of HomeLife Furnitire Corp., Hoffman States, Ill., fewer network administrators will be needed to manage individual LANs because of the way Active Directory functions. Rather than needing an NT admin for each remote domain, all domains can be managed centrally from Active Directory.
Average of $57,012 for entry-level and staff positions, including base salary and bonuses, and an average of $73,069 total for LAN managers, according to Computerworld's 2000 salary survey, published September 11. NT2000 Administrators responding to SearchWin2000's ongoing salary survey reported an average salary of $51,181.
Best types of companies to work for:
The top three highest paying industries for network administrators, according to the Computerworld 2000 Salary Survey, are information technology manufacturing, aerospace/defense and consulting.
Leslie Goff is a contributing editor based in New York.