IT staffing ratios: how many foos per bar?
April 28, 2008 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Need a metric/rule-of-thumb for IT staffing. Like, X people on helpdesk for every Y users, X admins per Y servers, etc.

Each system has its own needs, so I doubt there is any kind of strict standard. What's your own configuration?
posted by bartleby to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"While most organizations have systems administrator ratios of between 1:10 and 1:20, organizations that have highly rationalized infrastructures have ratios of more than 1:50."
--Gartner Group

(link is to google cache of a word doc on server consolidation.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 2:58 PM on April 28, 2008

Depends on the role of the administrator - One company I used to work for had three full time IT workers, one managed the department and took care of getting in third party companies for looking after accounting systems and liasing with suppliers, another did database development work in Access and general MS Office support, and the final techie did work on the Active Directory / Windows Server stuff, new system rollouts, maintenance and repairs. Oh, and backup tapes.

The company amazingly had around 260 employees spread over three sites witin 1.5 miles of eachother. Their trick was to outsource critical systems where relevant and knock down the suppliers costs.

Another development software reseller company I worked for had 1 F/T network admin, but utilised the technical support team for odd jobs also, that had 35 employees in total.

There's no hard and fast rule in my experience, it all depends what is expected of the engineer.
posted by rc55 at 3:08 PM on April 28, 2008

It also depends on what your needs are security-wise. In my department at TAMU, we have systems that MUST be up 24/7, barring an infrastructure failure like the entire campus being destroyed. My role is as a web systems admin in a interdisciplinary support department. We support everything from one-man labs where a guy plays with his red stapler all day to entire buildings with infrastructure and copier, etc. things, all of which are connected back to the main campus datacenter.

We're split into two groups. One group supports the web applications and websites of the department. This includes over 100 Zope/Plone sites running across 10 Zope instances, and another 25 or 30 Apache/PHP/MySQL sites, including one that is a quasi-YouTube for delivery specifically to authenticated members of the campus community. There are two web systems administrators that are "root" on all of those machines (plus the redundant VMs, load balancers, and other infrastructure -- all told it's about 50-60 boxes.), two senior programmers, and four programmers.

The other group supports the user community for all of our supported departments. They have a senior Novell sysadmin, a junior Novell sysadmin, and one Helpdesk Tech... and they support over 600 workstations. Might be closer to 800 now. How's that possible? ALL of the hardware is standardized, first off. No whiteboxes. Everything's Dell Optiplex. As soon as something passes out of warranty, it gets thrown out and new ones bought. Most of the time that user support is being done, it's being done via remote desktop using Novell's solution. Haven't moved to Vista yet... that's a disaster waiting to happen. But we've been happy with this staffing level. The guy stays at his desk for the most part and only has to run out and get something when a machine physically blows up, which isn't all that often.

Over all of us, there is teh boss, who is responsible for making sure we have enough money in the budget and that the higher ups have their expectations set appropriately and are communicated with appropriately.
posted by SpecialK at 3:36 PM on April 28, 2008

Response by poster: @namewithoutwords: That's exactly the type of thing I'm looking for, thanks!
So one full time sysadmin per 10-20 servers, according to your citation.
More, please, Mefites. How about Help Desk?

@rc55: I get that, and that every operation is going to be different. I'm trying to get a general sense of what's out there, and thanks for your helpful response.

@SpecialK: Thanks to you too. I wish I could standardize everything - that would make things a lot easier.

@ All: I'm a one-person department, for an organization that has had a lot of growth since I took the job. I'm trying to find a standard for using in renegotiating, because I'm being asked to do wayy too much work for one person - I've only been keeping up by working 75 hour weeks, and I'm still months behind.
"Listen, you have just One person doing (list of what I do, which is everything plus), and it's killing me. The standard for an operation of your size is X people. Keep me and hire Xminus1 more people, or I quit and you'll have to recruit X people anyway, none of whom know anything about your weird custom operation. But I'm not going to keep doing the work of X people, at any salary." So I need some numbers to cite for X.
posted by bartleby at 3:45 PM on April 28, 2008

Hi Bartleby,

Perhaps if you list the generic functions you are being asked to do and the size of the staff, and offices its split across and people could give you what they think it would take to support/implement? For instance are you running and being asked to support/implement

Internal and External Web
VPN access
Licensing compliance
desktop support
SOE and application packaging
etc etc etc

As a ballpark figure, the company I work for has 20000 staff split across 50 offices around the world, and of that around 1000 are what you would generically call I.T. (though quite a few of those are non technical staff)
posted by Admira at 4:30 PM on April 28, 2008

There's a huge, huge difference between one admin and two, in terms of managing interruptions, handling projects vs. fires, covering vacations, getting hit by a bus, and so on. Then it's sort of linear for a bit as you spread the work around. By 6 or so you start running into a bit of trouble because everyone won't know everything, and you'll probably end up with pairs; some organizations could do better with 3-4 admins than 10 just because of the extra communication load that comes along with the extra heads.

If you're struggling by with one, coming in and asking for, say, a department of 10 is like coming in and asking for half a million dollars of budget or more. I'd start with asking for one more, and then expanding one at a time after that as people get up to speed.

(Besides, they might say "yes", and suddenly you have to get a bunch of people up to speed right away.)
posted by mendel at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2008

There are no hard and fast ratios. I've been busy as all get out at both 1:2 and 100:1.

You are in a field where the entry level folks work like dogs. You're picking up a ton of skills and experience on the Company's dime, and they're paying you half price (at 75 hours) to get IT work done. A common case is that you will stay there until you're worth about 50% more than they're paying you, but their HR department only permits Analyst I folks to get 4% annual raises. So you'll leave, and they'll start from scratch with a new person.

If you wish to stay where you are for a while, I think your best survival strategy is to:

1) become extremely fastidious about tracking your activities all day long so that you can present weekly detailed status reports to your superiors. This is critical. YOU know what you do all day, but no one else does. Your boss isn't a mind reader. You need this detailed history. Use this to make sure your resume contains your complete skill set at all times.

2) become extremely mindful of what you do all day long. Do not permit yourself any idle time whatsoever. Don't chat, smoke, snack, linger, talk on the phone, surf the web, read personal email, leave the office to eat. Nothing. Eat a bag lunch at your desk.

3) Stop working 75 hours. Get to the office a little early, leave a little late, don't work from home or on the weekend. Just leave. Tell them you have somewhere to go, whatever. 45 hours max.

4) Only work on the most important things. If your boss has time/inclination, make sure she/he helps you prioritize.

If there really is two folks worth of work, they'll get the other person. If you keep doing two people's jobs for free, it ain't gonna happen.

If for some reason you feel that you must work on a Saturday, limit it to four hours, and make sure it's something project-y that looks good on your resume or annual review.

Good luck.
posted by popechunk at 6:22 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think it very much depends on too many factors to boil it down to a single ratio or formula. Our organization is around 210 people, probably 10-12 servers of various nature, and we have three sysadmins, one intranet developer, one guy who handles phones and printers, and me in a helpdesk/technician role. According to the numbers presented in that Gartner study, for instance, we're way low on IT, but I think we actually handle our workload quite well.

Part of this has to do with the users, I think. We work on a great team where everyone meshes pretty well, so we don't have a lot of "Hey IT, I need the latest point update to this program RIGHT NOW or all my work will break down!" Granted, there are a fair share of, shall we say... picky users, but for the most part we have an understanding with the whole organization that we work together.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:04 PM on April 28, 2008

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