Server Support Staffing Dips as IT Infrastructure Gets Easier to Administer

April, 2023

The demand for server support administrators has been on a downward trend. In 2012, server support personnel made up 11.5% of the total IT staff at the median. Today they make up only 5.9% of the staff at the median—just about half of the 2012 level.

For most companies, software-as-a service (SaaS) has reduced the need for on-premises servers. And virtualization, automation, DevOps, and the cloud have made IT infrastructure easier to administer. The impact on the IT staff over the past five years can be seen in Figure 1 from our full report, Server Support Staffing Ratios. Server support personnel as a percentage of total IT staff declined at the median from 7.2% in 2021 to 5.9% in 2022.

Trend in Server Support Product image 1030x687 - Server Support Staffing Dips as IT Infrastructure Gets Easier to Administer

But will that trend continue? There are competing theories here. On the ratio-may-decline side of the ledger are the factors already mentioned, which have made IT infrastructure easier to administer—whether on premises or in the cloud. On the change-may-be-afoot side of the ledger are a . There are stories of some companies moving some workloads from the cloud and bringing them back to on-prem servers. In some cases, it is to have tighter control over the infrastructure or to optimize performance, especially where there are requirements for low latency or high throughput. In other cases, IT leaders are finding that on-premises infrastructure can actually be lower in cost than the public cloud, especially for large scale systems with predictable transaction volumes. This maturing attitude is reflected in the slowing growth of cloud spending, which all the major cloud vendors have reported. So it will be interesting to see how the server support staffing ratio changes in the coming years.

“The percentage of server support staff has dropped significantly, but we may be nearing the bottom,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “Most companies are far along in their adoption of SaaS, so the amount of infrastructure work still to be reduced may be minimal.”

In this report, we use a broad definition for server support staff that includes all personnel who support the server and storage infrastructure, whether data center or cloud infrastructure, including system administrators, system programmers, system engineers, storage administrators, cloud architects, and facility engineers. It also includes computer operators, job schedulers, production control personnel, disaster recovery administrators, and other ancillary functions supporting the compute and storage infrastructure.

For this category, it also is important to understand who is excluded from the head count. Our count of server support staffing does not include database administrators, network support personnel, or communications system support personnel. Also excluded are IT managers, although shift supervisors and other line managers are counted if they spend the bulk of their time doing the work as opposed to managing others.

To examine this important IT staffing question, the full report starts with an assessment of how server support staffing has changed over time. Next, we provide four key metrics for benchmarking server support staff: server support staff as a percentage of total IT staff, users per server support staff member, OS instances per server support staff member, and physical servers per server support staff member. We provide these metrics for small, midsize, and large organizations. We also assess how industry sector can influence server support staffing ratios. We conclude with recommendations for improving server support productivity.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Server Support Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for subscribers, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).