Server Support Staffing—Nowhere to Go But Down

November, 2021

Staffing for server support administrators has been flat since 2019. Going back to 2012, the demand for server support staff had been on a downward trend. As companies move more of their workloads into the cloud, we expect the downward trend to return.

As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, Server Support Staffing Ratios, server support personnel as a percentage of total IT staff increased slightly at the median from 7.1% in 2020 to 7.2% in 2021.

Serverr Support Staffing Ratios 1 1030x687 - Server Support Staffing—Nowhere to Go But Down
Other factors that contribute to a return of the downward trend include virtualization, automation, and DevOps. These technologies, including the cloud, have made servers easier to administer. But companies are at different stages with investment and adoption of cloud technologies. Our research shows that, on average across all companies, only about 28% of server operating system (OS) instances were in public clouds in 2021, meaning there is still a need for server support staff.

However, over the long run, many IT organizations will no longer need to spend as much time or money supporting servers as they continue to increase cloud usage. The reduction of server support staff seems inevitable.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the strategic necessity of cloud technologies for both business continuity and resiliency,” said Tracell Frederick, research analyst/editor for Computer Economics, a service of Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “The successful adoption of SaaS and cloud during the pandemic have only increased the urgency for IT leaders to get out from under the data center infrastructure burden.”

In this report, we use a broad definition for server support staffing that covers the majority of employees in the data center. The category specifically includes systems administrators, systems programmers, systems engineers, storage administrators, and facilities engineers. It also includes computer operations staff, along with computer operators, job schedulers, and production control personnel.

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 data center managers are counted if they spend the bulk of their time doing 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).