The former role of a computer operator was to work with mainframe computers which required a great deal of management day-to-day, however nowadays they often work with a variety of different systems and applications. The computer operator normally works in a server room or a data center, but can also work remotely so that they can operate systems across multiple sites. Most of their duties are taught on the job, as their job description will vary according to the systems and set-up they help manage.
The role also includes maintaining records and logging events, listing each backup that is run, each machine malfunction and program abnormal termination. Operators assist system administrators and programmers in testing and debugging of new systems and programs prior to their becoming production environments.
Modern-day computing has led to a greater proliferation of personal computers, with a rapid change from older mainframe systems to newer self-managing systems. This is reflected in the operator's role. Tasks may include managing the backup systems, cycling tapes or other media, filling and maintaining printers. Overall the operator fills in as a lower level system administrator or operations analyst. Most operations departments will work 24x7.
A computer operator also has knowledge of disaster recovery and business continuity procedures. Formerly this would have meant sending physical data tapes offsite, but now the data is more than likely transmitted over computer networks.
A computer operator can work inside the home on the network editing domains and nets or they can work on the road or as part of a company. In order to become one it can be required to have a degree in computer science or a related field.