The general public does not often see server engineers (or many other types of system engineer for that matter), and therefore much of their work is unknown. However, it is a vital career that ensures that websites, apps, and online services remain in working order.
With the massive rise in hosting services where you can find more info at Fortune Lords and video streaming services like Netflix and others, the need for highly qualified engineers is rising. Even though it is an essential service these days, it often involves work behind the scenes in noisy locations with variable temperatures due to the heat of the servers themselves and the cooling needed to keep them running efficiently.
Depending on the size of the servers they are maintaining, they could also be issued with PPE equipment to reduce the impact of the noise and temperature on the body.
But what exactly does this job entail, and what qualifications do you need?
What is a server?
A server is where files and databases are stored, waiting to be served up to other end users, also known as end-user clients.
You might think that only huge corporations need this kind of computing power, but there are many types of servers in use around the world for seemingly unrelated industries.
For example, a national supermarket will use a server to store its database of products and prices. Once the cashier has scanned a product, their point of sale system will call on the server to provide the cost and more. Once the sale has been made, the point of sale system will also send back data on how many items of a particular product were sold, and the server will update its database accordingly.
This happens in the blink of an eye and needs sophisticated setup and monitoring to ensure that the supermarket remains running. The data provided will also be used for data analytics whereby they will understand what is popular and at what times, how many customers they had at what times, which products sell the best and the worst, and so much more.
It is the server engineer’s job to maintain their systems and work with the business to set up new databases and more.
What does a server engineer do?
Mainly, they maintain their companies’s server infrastructure, ensuring that the services stay up and running.
This can range from website hosting services where essential systems are being supported to keep websites going or other online services, all the way to law firms and supermarket systems. The range of jobs available is massive, but they all share similar aspects, so your career options are certainly not limited.
They are required to configure and manage servers that use different operating systems, so understanding the main OS’s is essential.
These include Windows, Linux, and macOS, with Linux being the most frequently used, followed closely by Windows. Depending on your position and experience, a server engineer can expect to be active in the following roles:
● Installing software systems
● Fixing issues and conflicts
● Upgrading entire or partial systems
● Improve performance and reliability
Server engineers will usually have a background in computer science and process a keen analytical mindset that helps diagnose problems and understand how to fix them before they cause problems. It is a full-time job and requires a high level of concentration to ensure no downtime experienced by end-users.
They also need to keep up to date with security issues that could affect the servers under their control. This will mean interrupting reports and seamlessly implementing patches.
Along with staying up to date with security, they will need to research new hardware and options that they might be called upon to utilize.
While a server engineer is mostly a hidden job, they need strong interpersonal skills to communicate with other departments.
Those who cannot communicate potential problems to managers without any technical ability will soon find themselves without a job and references. This can be one of the more challenging aspects of this career as a highly-qualified server engineer will need to speak in layman terms to those who don’t understand the ins and outs.
What qualifications are needed?
Most employers will expect at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering or something related to data analytics or systems analysis.
Even though some information will be learned on the job, a new employee will need a solid grounding in the fundamentals before utilizing anything they might learn while employed.
Those looking into senior engineering roles will need to have a minimum of 3 years on the job experience and a proven track record of designing and supporting servers for their employer.
For those just starting, the following qualifications are acceptable avenues of entry, (usually all are needed):
● Matric Certificate
● MCP, MCSE, and MCITP
● HP Networking qualifications or equivalent eg, CCNP
● Bachelor of Science or Computing
As this is quite a specialized field that requires a lot of sophisticated computer know-how, the career advancement opportunities are quite significant.
Once they have worked for several years and proven themselves to be adept and capable, a server engineer will acquire promotion early or even move on to larger and more advanced projects requiring a higher level of input and recognition.
As previously mentioned, this type of career will only increase in demand in the future, and as more and more people go online and expect their services to work, the job will become much more sought-after. However, because of the qualifications needed and the high entry barrier, it will not become saturated, and salaries will grow.
There is also the chance to decide to become self-employed and freelance. While this means new skill needs to be learned, such as sales and business savvy, it also brings new chances to strengthen and improve existing skills while remaining on the front line of server engineering.
A server engineer’s life is not as glamorous as perhaps that of a software engineer or client-side engineer, but it is nevertheless of vital importance. By maintaining the integrity of the backbone of organizations, they can keep critical operations going.