A network administrator is an individual that is responsible for the maintenance of computer hardware and software systems that make up a computer network including the maintenance and monitoring of active data network or converged infrastructure and related network equipment.
Network administrators are generally mid-level support staff within an organization and do not typically get involved directly with users. Network administrators focus upon network components within a company's LAN/WAN infrastructure ensuring integrity. Depending on the company and its size, the network administrator may also design and deploy networks.
The actual role of the network administrator will vary from place to place, but will commonly include activities and tasks such as network address assignment, management and implementation of routing protocols such as ISIS, OSPF, BGP, routing table configurations and certain implementations of authentication (e.g.: challenge response, etc.). It can also include maintenance of certain network servers: file servers, VPN gateways, intrusion detection systems, etc.
In smaller organisations, network administrators may also be technically involved in the maintenance and administration of servers, desktop computers, printers, routers, switches, firewalls, phones, IP Phones, personal digital assistants, smartphones, software deployment, security updates and patches as well as a vast array of additional technologies inclusive of both hardware and software.
Duties of a network administrator
The role of the network administrator can vary significantly depending on an organizations size, location and socio-economic considerations. Some organizations work on a user-to-technical support ratio, whilst others implement many other strategies.
Generally, in terms of reactive situations (i.e.: unexpected disruptions to service, or service improvements), IT Support Incidents are raised through an Issue tracking system. Typically, these issues work their way through a Help desk and then flow through to the relevant technology area for resolution. In the case of a network related issue, an issue will be directed towards a Network Administrator. If a network administrator is unable to resolve an issue, a ticket will be escalated to a more senior network engineer for restoration of service or a more appropriate skill group.
Network Administrators are often involved in proactive work. This type of work will often include:
- Network monitoring
- Testing the network for weakness
- Keeping an eye out for needed updates
- Installing and implementing security programs
- In many cases, E-mail and Internet filters
- Evaluating implementing network management software
Network administrators are responsible for making sure that computer hardware and network infrastructure related to an organization's data network are effectively maintained. In smaller organizations, they are typically involved in the procurement of new hardware, the roll out of new software, maintaining disk images for new computer installs, making sure that licenses are paid for and up to date for software that need it, maintaining the standards for server installations and applications, monitoring the performance of the network, checking for security breaches, and poor data management practices. Typically, within a larger organization, these roles are split into multiple roles or functions across various divisions and are not actioned by the one individual. In other organizations, some of these roles mentioned are carried out by system administrators.
As with many technical roles, network administrator positions require a breadth of technical knowledge and the ability to learn the intricacies of new networking and server software packages quickly. Within smaller organizations, the more senior role of Network Engineer is sometimes attached to the responsibilities of the Network Administrator. It is not uncommon for smaller organizations to outsource this function.
Training and certifications specifically for network administrators
Training and certification that may be of assistance to a Network Administrator
- Network analyzer (disambiguation)
- Network architecture
- Network management system
- System administrator
- about.com - Network Administrator Profile - What Is a Network Administrator 
- Video: by Justine Nguyen: 9:16pm, 27 July 2006
- Tech Republic Article - What is a reasonable end user/tech support ratio? - published by Beth Blakely: 7:00am, June 18, 2004 
- Wisegeek.com - What is a Network Administrator? - by Malcolm Tatum edited by Bronwyn Harris: Retrieved December 22, 2012 
- The US Department of Labor's description of "Network and Computer Systems Administrators"