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DevOps vs SysAdmin: What’s the difference?

DevOps (Development and Operations) and SysAdmin (System Administration) are related but distinct roles in the field of IT. Whilst DevOps is a cultural and professional movement, SysAdmin primarily focuses on managing IT infrastructure.

DevOps vs SysAdmin: What’s the difference?


Tech Talent Engine


If you work in the tech industry, chances are you’ve heard of DevOps and SysAdmin. While these roles overlap in some areas, they serve distinct functions and have unique responsibilities.

In this article, we’ll explain the key differences and commonalities between DevOps and SysAdmin, exploring how they contribute to the success of modern IT operations.

It could be that you’re wondering whether to pursue a career in DevOps or SysAdmin, whatever is on your mind, we're here to help.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a set of practices, principles, and communication between software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) teams in an organisation. The primary goal of DevOps is to streamline and automate the software development and delivery processes to deliver high-quality software more effectively and reliably.

Key DevOps responsibilities:

  • Automation: DevOps professionals work to automate repetitive tasks, such as building, testing, and deploying software to increase efficiency and reduce errors.
  • Continuous integration/ continuous deployment (CI/CD): Implementing CI/CD pipelines to facilitate the rapid and automated delivery of code changes into production.
  • Configuration management: DevOps teams manage configurations and maintain consistency across different environments (development, staging, production) using tools such as Ansible, Puppet or Chef.
  • Collaboration: DevOps professionals foster collaboration and communication between development and operations teams to ensure software meets operational requirements.
  • Monitoring and feedback: Continuous improvement is a big aspect of DevOps. This includes monitoring and logging systems to track application and system performance.

What is System Administration?

SysAdmin (System Administration) are key to IT operations. They manage and maintain an organisation's IT infrastructure, ensuring its stability, security, and performance.

SysAdmins deals with servers, networks, storage and more, ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Key SysAdmins responsibilities:
  • Server management: SysAdmins are responsible for server provisioning, configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
  • Network administration: They manage network infrastructure, including routers, switches, firewalls, and VPNs to ensure data flows efficiently and securely.
  • Security: SysAdmins implement and maintain security protocols, including access control, encryption, and vulnerability assessments.
  • Backup and recovery: Creating and managing backup and disaster recovery solutions to protect data and minimise downtime.
  • Patch management: SysAdmins keeps software and systems up to date by applying patches and updates.

Differences and commonalities between DevOps and SysAdmin

At a glance, it may seem as though DevOps and SysAdmin are very similar. However, there are just as many differences as there are similarities.

Firstly, the primary difference is that DevOps is focused on software development and delivery, whereas SysAdmins are responsible for broader IT infrastructure.

Both DevOps and SysAdmins indeed work with automation, but DevOps places a stronger emphasis on automating the software delivery pipeline, whereas SysAdmins automate repetitive system maintenance tasks.

For example, for SysAdmins, this could include creating, modifying, and removing user accounts for employees. This includes setting permissions and access controls.

In terms of technology and skill set, DevOps work with tools such as Jenkins, Docker, Kubernetes, and Git, while SysAdmins use tools such as Nagios, Zabbix and Active Directory. Both DevOps and SysAdmins work to fixed time scales, but DevOps focuses more on cross-team collaboration, whereas SysAdmins work within the operations teams.

How to choose between DevOps and SysAdmin?

Choosing between a career in DevOps and a SysAdmin role involves a thoughtful consideration of your skills, career goals and the evolving landscape of IT. DevOps and SysAdmin roles share some common responsibilities, such as maintenance and troubleshooting, but they differ in their focus and approach.

If you prefer a more traditional, specialised role with a focus on system configuration, hardware management and infrastructure maintenance, a SysAdmin position may be the better fit for you. SysAdmin excel in ensuring the reliability and performance of servers and networks and often work with a specific technology stack or operating system.

On the other hand, DevOps could be your calling if you are inclined toward automation, collaboration and the continuous delivery of software. DevOps professionals bridge the gap between development and operations, helping to facilitate collaboration among teams.

To compare the salaries:

  • DevOps Engineer average salary is £57,000.
  • SysAdmin Engineer average salary is £40,164.

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