Calculating Support Personnel Ratios
Last Updated: 18 Jan 2004
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Everyone wants to know how to calculate the perfect size
of your support staff as far as the ratio of admins to
users or servers. Here are some of the questions you need
• How stingy/generous your management is
• How many users your organization has
• What your servers do
• What hours of operation you have
• How competent your admins are
• What administration tools are available
• What type of business/industry you're in
• What level of service are you trying to provide
QUESTIONS IN DETAIL:
• DETERMINE HOW GENEROUS YOUR MANAGEMENT IS.
If they're stingy, you'll need more people...
• SEE WHAT OTHER COMPANIES IN YOUR INDUSTRY ARE DOING.
Your management won't want to be too different...
• HOW MANY USERS DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION HAVE AND WHAT DO
THEY DO ON A DAILY BASIS?
People running Office and Email all day are often
easier to support than those running more complex apps.
Likewise, File Servers require less overall management
than Terminal Servers...
• WHAT HOURS OF OPERATION DOES YOUR BUSINESS MAINTAIN?
This will have a great impact on the number of people
you will need, unless you've found a way to convince
large numbers of technical staff to routinely work
for 14 hours per day...
• HOW COMPETENT ARE YOUR ADMINS?
Obviously, the more capable your admins are, the less
admins you will need (to some extent). This is often
tied to the first question, as Greater Skill generally
has Greater Cost associated with it...
• WHAT ADMINISTRATION TOOLS DO YOU HAVE?
No matter how skilled your staff is, if all they have
to work with is baling wire and duct tape, you will
need more employees than if you have adequate tools
for monitoring and administration. This is another
catagory that is somewhat tied to the generousity of
your organization's Senior Management team, but it's
also tied to the competence of your Admins, as there
are plenty of free tools that can ease the burdens
• WHAT LEVEL OF SERVICE ARE YOU TRYING TO PROVIDE?
What level of support do your users expect? What
type of SLA is in place? If you are able to provide
the support that your end-users expect, then you will
have a harder time justifying more staff than if your
staff is running at top speed and efficiency, yet is
not able to keep up with the daily work load. Be sure
to account for growth as well.
SUMMARY & RESOURCES
By now, it should be clear that there is NO MAGIC FORMULA
for calculating the appropriate number of staff for any
environment. Additionally, the number can (and will)
change over time, based on growth, desired productivity,
and other factors. It's just one of the things that have
to be revisited from time to time...
Here are some resources to help you establish a good
number for your environment:
Here are some of the best quotes I've come across in the
field of computing which pertain to administration:
"There are seldom good technological solutions to
behavioral problems." - Ed Crowley
"If users are made to understand that the system
administrator's job is to make computers run, and not to
make them happy, they can, in fact, be made happy most
of the time. If users are allowed to believe that the
system administrator's job is to make them happy,
they can, in fact, never be made happy." -Paul Evans
(as quoted by Barb Dijker in "Managing Support Staff", LISA '97)