Amasty system administrator interview

Hello, Amasty blog readers!

This week we’re announcing the new services from Amasty. From now on our team will be glad to help you with everything about Magento administration: migration services, help with server configuration and optimization, and installation of security patches for your Magento store to keep it safe and sound.

We’ll talk about each of the service in detail a bit later, but today is a good cause to present Andrey Tataranovich, the Head of Administration Department at Amasty. Andrey is a highly qualified professional, very diligent and attentive to each and every detail. What is more, Andrey is the one to ensure that all Magento administration services from Amasty will be performed on the highest possible level.

Besides his main responsibilities, Andrey often speaks at Magento related events and writes helpful technical articles for Amasty blog.

Read the interview to know about Andrey’s professional and personal qualities, advice for e-commerce merchants, and more:

— Hello, Andrew. We’ll start our talk with a question: how did it happen that you’ve chosen the field of system administration and ended up working in a company all about e-commerce and Magento? How long have you been working at Amasty?

— Well, I realized I was going to be a techie in childhood. I really enjoyed taking apart alarm clocks, radio receivers, tape devices, that kind of stuff. It wasn’t about breaking things, it was about getting into how it actually works and putting it together again. Well, some spare parts were left in case of alarm clocks, though.

I had several hobbies at school: reading, electronics, airplane models. I wasn’t successful with airplane modeling, because the class had closed before I found out it actually existed. I went further with electronics; friends gave me some spare or broken parts or devices, I took them apart and used as components.

Try walking in your customer’s shoes and think of doing the job in terms of clients’ comfort first, not yours.

Afterwards I switched schools and went to a tech stream (mathematics, physics and informatics). I hate math even now, but physics and informatics were my fav subjects, especially the latter. I needed only a computer, and my fantasy wasn’t bounded by anything except for the compiler.

Later on I entered Belarusian National Technical University, Informatics and Robotics department. I started working during my university classes as a jack-of-all-trades at first, and then joined an extensions development company, where with time I became the head of the system administration department, while the company went from customizations to developing products in the Magento field.

After 7 years there I was invited to Amasty.

— Please tell us about your working routine at Amasty. How does your typical working day look like?

My working day starts from having some obligatory tea or coffee. Then I check the monitoring status, and if the night was calm, I dig into my inbox. Of course, if something happened during the night, I fix it first things first.

Monday is the day of planning, when I distribute my tasks throughout the week. Then I start completing the tasks, work with support tickets or consult my colleagues. If I have some spare time, I read news and try new technologies and methods, it’s a must for improving your skills.

I’m not quite into multitasking, though, and prefer to concentrate on two tasks max – a long one and a short one to switch my mind during a small pause.

— Can you share the most complicated or the most interesting project you worked on? Are there projects you’re proud of?

— The most complicated project was done in 2007-2008, when I worked for a different company. The client wanted to create a sort of a social network, and his plans were very ambitious. At that time we didn’t have cloud providers like Amazon, RackSpace or Azure, and everything was done on dedicated servers, using database clustering and application nodes. I first met Nginx, PostgreSQL and the definition of High-Load thanks to this project.

When working with people, I need to think about every step and consider all possible consequences.

As for the most interesting project, I would say it was the development of a custom platform for storing data in MySQL. The platform was very specific, but it would accelerate the task performance by times.

I don’t like boasting, but if you ask, I managed to move working e-commerce sites with downtime no more than 5-10 minutes, while many companies offered not less than several hours. Of course, I needed to make lots of preparations beforehand, but our clients really needed to minimize the downtime, so I made my best to achieve such results.

Andrey from Amasty

Andrey speaks at Meet Magento Belarus 2014

— Is it different to work as a system administrator in e-commerce/Magento? And if yes, what should one consider while entering this sphere?

— I think that the biggest difference is in our clients. We often work with people that don’t possess technical knowledge. They are great managers or successful business people, but still they can’t create some FTP credentials or set up cron.

Thus, you should be very patient, respectful and cool-headed. Learn to explain complex things in a simple way. Nobody wants to look like a fool, and especially a client which pays you money. Try walking in your customer’s shoes and think of doing the job in terms of clients’ comfort first, not yours.

— What are the most popular questions that e-commerce merchants ask to system administrators?

— The most popular queries are about fixing issues or server optimization. And server optimization is often connected with wrong server setup, or choosing a server with poor performance.

When it comes to configuration mistakes, very often people don’t know anything about servers at all, they just read a couple of articles on the Internet, and configure the server without understanding what they are actually doing.

You should always have a second plan so you could recover and go on with minimal losses.

For example, installing FPC gives better performance improvement than php-fpm, memcache and redis put together! Adding more RAM or SSD is better than tweaking MySQL server settings.

Well, if to be honest, the times when you can significantly improve server performance by changing a couple of settings, are gone. Now low performance is mostly about applications. And a single low quality extension can ruin the whole work of your system administrator.

— Top three pieces of advice for Magento merchants?

  1. Backup regularly, store backup files separately, regularly check your recovery process in test mode. Even such hosting veterans as Amazon can’t guarantee 100% trouble-free performance, and you don’t want to depend on them. You should always have a second plan so you could recover and go on with minimal losses.
  2. Ask a specialist! Fixing errors and mistakes from the wrong server configuration is much more expensive than just setting up the right configuration. It’s important to plan all household utilities before you paint the walls and hang the curtains, right?
  3. Create a test website, try extensions from various vendors, keep an eye on new offers from hosting companies. It may occur that moving your website can be easier than fixing problems while staying on the current platform.

— Could you share some funny stories about your work?

— Presence effect works on me! You know, stuff like when the computer starts working just fine when a system administrator approaches.

I remember that I was once asked to stay near a laptop for a couple of minutes, because the user just couldn’t perform the data export without me nearby – the software gave errors all the time.

— What do you like the most about your job?

— I really enjoy the possibility to improve the workflow. When we talk about system administration, it’s always about routine operations automation, documenting, studying and implementing new technologies. I won’t forget these words from Recruit movie: ‘Our failures are known, our successes are not’.

It’s a perfect way to describe the job of a good system administrator.

Work of system administrator

— Which qualities are an absolute must for a system administrator?

— Curiosity first! It urges you to search for knowledge. Determination is the second one, because you just can’t do everything on the first try. There were times when I had to reinstall the server up to ten times a day to make sure that I try out all the available solutions and choose the most suitable one.

And, of course, responsibility. A system administrator can arrange a small apocalypse due to his or her knowledge and access possibilities. What is more, in e-commerce we deal with online shops, confidential data and real money, it means websites work round the clock, and if something happens, a merchant can lose money or reputation.

— What’s the most complicated part of your work?

— Working with clients. You can’t just backup and start over here. When working with people, I need to think about every step and consider all possible consequences.

— What do you like to do in your free time?

— Well, I don’t have a lot of free time. But when I do, I read, code and engage with microelectronics. Also I occasionally write about technical topics on my blog.

I support binary builds of Midnight Commander file manager and maintain a small repository of Debian/Ubuntu packages.

Thanks to Andrey for the interview – we’re honored to have him as a team member.

Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to ask questions in comments or jump and look at the new Magento administration services from Amasty.