Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Despite being thick as a phone book, you'll see that "The Practice of System and Network Administration (2nd Edition)" is very clearly organized and can serve not just as a learning tool but also as an effective reference guide for seasoned system and network administrators.
About the authors
Thomas Limoncelli is a noted system and network administrator employed at Google.
Christina Hogan is a system administrator with 10 years of experience currently working as an aerodynamicist for the Sauber Petronas Formula 1 Racing Team.
Strata R. Chalup is President and owner of VirtualNet, a Technical Project Management and ISP/ASP Architecture and Deployment company.
Inside the book
When it comes to work that system administrators are doing the most, this book deals with topics such as data integrity, network devices, debugging, customer care, server upgrades, service monitoring, various services, and basically everything else you may need. Since there are more than 1000 pages, it's unpractical to list all the chapters and provide and overview of each so I'll give you some highlights.
To make the material easy to browse, besides offering the usual table of contents, the authors opted to lay down many elements from the book in the very first chapter and point the reader to the appropriate page where more information is located. For example, when you see a list of tips under the title "Coping with a big influx of new users", you exactly know if that's what you need at a particular time. Also worth noting is that at the end of each chapter there are several questions that you can use as an exercise to see how much you learned.
The attention to detail is evident as is the diversity of data presented in every chapter. For example, when discussing an important topic such as backup, the authors don't just emphasize its importance and recommend solutions, they also discuss time and capacity planning, high-availability databases and offer some insight into possible technology changes.
Readers interested in security will enjoy the chapter dedicated to security policy where the authors cover different organizational profiles and even get into management territory by illustrating some organizational issues as well as the importance of a relationship with the legal department.
System administrators face problems every single day and it takes a lot of knowledge and practice to be able to solve every one of them. When discussing debugging the authors show you how to get to the root of the problem and fix it permanently instead of providing superficial fixes. In the context of customer care, you learn how to improve your communication skills in order to properly inquire about a problem.
What I found to be really valuable in this book besides the technical and organization components, are the details related to how an administrator should behave with customers and present his work in order to be valued accordingly. In the past system administrators may have been perceived solely as technical staff but nowadays they have to work with management on many occasions and their presentation skills are quite important.
My 2 cents
This absolutely huge book covers an immense amount of data that can be applied to all environments. It doesn't matter if you're a lone system administrator or part of a large team working in the enterprise, there's something in here for everyone.
With "The Practice of System and Network Administration (2nd Edition)" on your bookshelf, you'll be prepared to tackle numerous challenges.