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We are about to have a production soft launch release but it looks like our manager isn't going to hire an admin for our servers.

Personally I am a developer and I feel that without the proper setup, upgrading, backup and monitoring we can't run anything and I tried to prove it multiple times to my manager but with no effect.

Can you give me some advice on how to explain that?

The project is a game. We use Windows and Postgres on servers.

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    if server get hacked, whole game is ruined, so no money, is that enought ? ^_^
    – Froggiz
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:43
  • @Froggiz it's much more probably to have a server crash some night and noone will even be able to restart or restore from backup (if we had them!) until morning.
    – Vlad
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:48
  • that is the matter of choice:-) in what lang your game is programmed, c#?
    – ostendali
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:55
  • so if server crash and backup are bad managed game is ruined, should be enought :P if server got trouble (network/hdd acess/ or more) is nice to have an admin for that...if your manager don't want an admin, it is about cost, so maybe you can try to do backup by your self (use test server to test backup / restore) ... and hope all works well
    – Froggiz
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:56
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    I suggest that you make sure your CV is up to date, and start looking for the job you will need when this company fails in a few months. Nov 4, 2015 at 17:10

6 Answers 6

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The first step will be to list all the tasks an administrator would have to do (I mean, high-level tasks, like ensuring availability with backups and potentially high-availability solutions, ensuring security with proper installation, performing regular deployments if needed...)

Once you have that list, for each of the tasks, there are two possibilities, either someone else in the company will do it, or not.

If someone else will, he will not be doing something else (because his time is limited), and will probably be less efficient (because it's not his core job), so you can argue about the cost (a developer would be more paid and would take more time to do it), and potentially about motivation if the devs dislike doing it. (Some might love to be more "devops" oriented)

If no one else can, it will not be done, and you can argue about the cost/risks of not doing it.

But your manager might also have arguments supporting his decision (whether good or not), or might still be looking for the correct guy, so pay also attention to what he answers. Also, keep in mind that making those decisions is part of his job, not yours.

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    Our manager always asks for concrete things. But I don't know all aspects and in which way exactly admin should do them e.g. ensuring availability.
    – Vlad
    Nov 4, 2015 at 18:26
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    Start with the things you and the rest of the team know need doing. Worry about other things later. Nov 4, 2015 at 19:28
  • Although the decision is his job, not yours, it's sometimes worth making clear (tactfully) that you do not feel qualified to undertake the role you're describing and that since it is not in your job description, you do not expect to undertake it. Sometimes non-technical managers don't understand the distinction between their different brands of nerd
    – Jon Story
    Nov 5, 2015 at 11:19
  • @Vlad : It's not about HOW to do, it's about WHAT to do. You can say : "Currently, if the server is lost, we will loose up to one week of data (RPO) and the game might be unavailable during xx hours/days.(RTO). An administrator could lower that to a dozen of minutes for both with appropriate actions (but I don't know which)." You don't need to know how to do it, nor does your manager. Of course if you know how, it will help you to know what is possible or not, and for which cost, but that's another concern.
    – gvo
    Nov 5, 2015 at 14:30
  • @Jon Story : I agree, I'm not saying Vlad shouldn't talk with its manager, but that at the end, Vlad will not be the one taking the decision, nor he will be the one facing the consequences of a wrong decision.
    – gvo
    Nov 5, 2015 at 14:33
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I don't see a need for a dedicated server admin. In a case like this with a small team, small server environment it's often cheaper to get a good service provider who does the maintenance, troubleshooting, security and all the rest. There isn't enough work for a full time man just looking after the servers.

Get a good guy in and there should be no issues. This is pretty standard in my country for small companies. This means you can have an excellent server admin on call, or on a maintenance contract. It tends to cost you more per hour, but he will do very few hours a month.

Whenever you have critical data, in terms of disaster recovery if nothing else, it's also critical that your core infrastructure is properly maintained.

So in answer to your question, failing getting a dedicated server admin, push hard for a service provider. Personally I think the latter is the better option.

As far as convincing your manager goes, here is some things you need. Firstly either make one or get a risk assessment made. Make a disaster recovery outline, make a maintenance outline. If at all possible get these done on spec by a professional and try and get a meeting sorted out between your manager and the professional. The sort of person I would be looking for is a Server Admin who also has experience with maintaining postgresql databases, because it's best for everything to be backed up at the same time. The sorts of people and companies who provide these services would do a much better presentation for your boss and probably give a better explanation than you would be able to.

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  • @Vlad edited answer to give some help to convince your boss with.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 4, 2015 at 23:49
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You need to show your boss the risks of not having a dedicated system administrator, as was hinted at in the answer from @ Gvo. I will take each of the points you made and outline the business risk I see.

Lack of tested backup

  1. How will you restore the data in the event your server were to crash or be compromised?
  2. How do you ensure that in the event of a manmade or natural disaster, the technology the business uses will remain functional?

Inadequate monitoring, configuration and updates / patching

  1. Without monitoring, how will you know that your server has not been compromised? There are multiple ways compromise can happen...
  2. How do you plan for future growth of your customer base when server capacity and performance monitoring is not done?
  3. The list of malware and the methods used to compromise computers are growing. Without timely patching, how do you plan on protecting the data of your customers?
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Two Words: 'Ashley Madison'.

Seriously though, server security is a big deal, this is just one piece of the argument, but you are not an information security expert. As others have noted, look into outsourcing to a full service shop.

Note to the boss that administering a server is way more than just installing an OS. There are numerous intricacies of disks, cpus, memory configurations. Getting these wrong can mean a slow site and a bad launch. Getting security wrong can mean complete and total disaster as a hacker might extort your company to get their customer data back.

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This might sound silly but my guess is your boss has other plans and is trying to minimize cost. Is he hiring bare, bare, bare minimum staff to start the project?

What I typically seen with these startups is that they try to sell their company once the product kicks off. Their idea is to make a bare minimum product, show that it is marketable, then try to sell it off. Your boss might understand your request but at this point probably has no desire to secure that aspect especially if he's not hiring anyone else.

My advice is to seriously make sure your resume is in order because these next few months, or maybe next few years are probably going to go down hill. The server will be the least of your worries.

If you really want to argue, the best solution here is to go cloud based. It offers small businesses without the need of a dedicated admin to be in a secure environment. It will also make your game more marketable because others can simply hit the API or site you have up without having to log into your server. You can probably explain this from the marketability standpoint to get the best result from your boss. It's also a huge bonus for you because you can slap on your resume that you set up cloud based architecture and got that ball rolling.

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There could be a couple of communication problems here. The first one is, you need to frame the concerns in a less technical manner even though your manager claims to want detailed explanations. The more details you give, the more he's going to take the risk and just let you figure it out. Just say you have no one on your team that has ever managed such a server. When you're use to just having servers on a LAN, you're getting into a much bigger league when servers are accessible from the Internet. Also, the unpredictable traffic is a concern. That assumes your boss already knows how much traffic there will be or he's not very optimistic about the success of your game.

Second, you're saying you need system admin expertise, but all your boss is hearing is that you want to hire a full-time person and he can't afford it. There should be plenty of consultants and service providers to monitor servers. They're most likely to be able to provide some sort of 24/7.

I don't know when you launch, but the idea of hiring a qualified admin as a full-time employee between then and sounds like the thing a manager wants to avoid doing unless there is a budget he needs to burn through.

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  • "There should be plenty of consultants and service providers to monitor servers" - any examples? where to find them?
    – Vlad
    Nov 5, 2015 at 17:57
  • @Vlad - Google search?
    – user8365
    Nov 9, 2015 at 15:35
  • ok, it looks like "server administration outsourcing" is a suitable search query
    – Vlad
    Nov 10, 2015 at 10:58

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