Email is central to modern computing, yet few people have any understanding of how it works, transferring information between different and generally incompatible computer systems with apparent ease. It is the system administrator who is responsible for keeping mail transfer agents functioning. According to an industry professional there are many configuration parameters, which must be set to make these programs work properly. As a result, system administrators spend a lot of their time installing, configuring or upgrading these programs. Often, the system administrators are required to spend a fair amount of time using Internet resources to find out how to configure the system and to acquire the necessary software.
Internet system administrators also investigate software or hardware problems. For example, they may have to install new serial port cards, components that enable communication between telephones and computers. If two machines on a network are not communicating properly, it is their job to figure out why. Performing this task requires a detailed understanding of exactly how it is that computers communicate to one another.
In addition, system administrators also configure and monitor routers. These are very robust, special purpose computers that ferry 'packets of information' between one computer network and another. Routers are connected to at least two networks and decide which way to send each information packet based on their understanding of the state of the network. System administrators would generally connect routers using phone lines or ethernet cables (network cables).