PP UK Sysadmin Wins OpenDNS Award

PP UK Sysadmin Wins OpenDNS Award

The OpenDNS SysAdmin Awards were just handed out. The awards are annually given out to: “elite network managers who persevere great challenges, oversee epic rollouts, hack creative work-arounds and manage limited budgets“ all without much appreciation. The winner this year, in the prestigious “Flying Solo” category, is the UK Pirate Party‘s system administrator Steve Wilson.

The SysAdmin Awards of 2012 are the sixth annual, and according to OpenDNS this year they received more than triple last year’s entries. Wilson and the other winners in respective categories are receiving custom made awards with built-in LCD screens a worthy sysadmin should be able to change through their network.

Wilson became the sole administrator of the PP UK’s complicated and undocumented Django implementation. He managed to fix it with many improvements in only 18 months, all this as an unpaid volunteer whilst working full-time for his normal job. The network is today serving an estimated 10 000 users a day. Before Wilson took over the IT role, the party website wasn’t near any top million website rankings. Today it ranks in the global top 11 000, and it is the 300th most visited website in the UK.

“When [Wilson] took on [our] systems they would buckle if mass mail was sent or if visitor numbers increased unexpectedly. It would fall over randomly whenever changes were made, even if those changes were cosmetic. I think I am right in saying that backups existed, but restoring from them was something that involved a number of chants and rituals involving candles.”
– Andy Halsall, PPUK campaign manager

Not only did Wilson fix the existing system, he also implemented the UK’s proxy for the Pirate Bay. The proxy quickly became the country’s most used, with millions of users. According to Wilson, however, it’s not all good – the popularity has also led to two separate denial of service attacks in as many months. These problems and others have been dealt with in a calm and professional manner from Wilson who keeps handling every problem the PPUK has thrown at him.

The definition of the “Flying Solo” category is “a (true) story of the heroic SysAdmin who saved the world (or did something awesome) to save the day (or company) all by his or herself”. This certainly fits Steve Wilson and his work like a glove. His work as SysAdmin for PPUK has inspired several other members to join their IT team. It seems like Wilson will have to run for another award next year now that he has gotten some help with the IT.

Featured image: CC BY-NC-SA Anton Nordenfur, CC BY-NC-SA Pirate Party UK