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Lesson 1

UNIX System Administration

This module will introduce you to some of the basics you will need to begin your exploration of UNIX system administration.
When you complete this module, you will:
  1. Understand the origin of the different types of UNIX operating systems
  2. Know what the root account is and how to use it safely
  3. Know how to access, update, and configure the UNIX manual pages online

Systems administration is the 1) installation and 2) maintenance of the UNIX computer system. The system administrator will need to maintain the software and hardware for the system which includes hardware configuration, software installation, reconfiguration of the kernel, and networking to keep it running in a satisfactory manner. To do this the system administrator can assume superuser or root privileges to perform many tasks not normally available to the average user of the system.

Unix System Administration

System Management

It is easy to identify the most important issues and concerns system managers face, regardless of the type of computers they have. Almost every system manager has to deal with user accounts, system startup and shutdown, peripheral devices, system performance, and security. While the commands and procedures you use in each of these areas vary widely across different computer systems, the general approach to such issues can be remarkably similar. For example, the process of adding users to a system has the same basic shape everywhere: add the user to the user account database, allocate some disk space for him, assign a password to the account, enable him to use major system facilities and applications, and so on. Only the commands to perform these tasks are different on different systems. In other cases, however, even the approach to an administrative task or issue will change from one computer system to the next. For example, mounting disks does not mean the same thing on a Unix system that it does on a VMS or MVS system (where they are not always even called disks). No matter what operating system you are using Unix, Windows, or Linux need to know something about what is happening inside at the kernel level, at least more than an ordinary user does.

What is System Administration?

System Administration is
  1. planning,
  2. installing, and
  3. maintaining computer systems.
In this module we will describe what is expected from a System Administrator, and how one might approach their responsibilities. Being an expert on installing, running, and maintaining all of the major UNIX variants isn't enough to be a truly good system administrator. There is a significant nontechnical component to being a system administrator, especially in terms of planning, organizational, and people skills. As computers become more and more pervasive in business, system administration becomes a mission critical position in more and more organizations. The administrator has to understand the systems that he is responsible for, the people who use them, and the nature of the business that they are used for. A key skill in administration is planning, because at the rate that systems are being created, overhauled, and expanded, trying to improvise and design a network "on the fly" just doesn't work. Companies are moving more and more processes not just to computers, but to point of sale systems, such as Web commerce and sophisticated in-store systems, such as electronic catalogs and cash registers that are directly connected to both inventory and credit systems. Companies that may have moved their inventory control to computers five years ago are scrambling to get order entry computerized and on the Web, while companies that haven't automated their inventory and ordering systems yet are scrambling to do so in order to remain competitive. E-mail is now regarded as just as important as faxes and telephones, while every part of customer service that can be manned by a computer and fax retrieval system already is. This module also covers a few key system administration tools that are already found with most UNIX variants or are included on the UNIX Unleashed CD that accompanied this book.

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