I'm sixteen years old and I would like to be a system administrator or penetration tester don't know which yet. Should I buy Enterprise server level equipment or will starting out with a raspberry Pi be fine? Using fedora server edition.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jeff Schaller, ilkkachu, jimmij, garethTheRed, G-Man Dec 31 '17 at 19:57

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TL/DR: Start with the hardware you have, use something like virtualbox to allow you to create virtual machines to learn with and buy extra gear as you require it.

Enterprise level servers and equipment can be very expensive, especially for someone sixteen years old. Most of what enterprise level stuff gives you is power and support and sometimes specialist feature sets - none of which you really need when you are learning.

The most important thing to get started with when learning to become a sysadmin is to get to know the systems you want to work with - normally linux or windows. You can learn the fundamentals both of these on almost any computer, including virtual machines or a raspberry pi. There is no need to buy anything specially for this.

I would recommend starting with virtualbox which will allow you to easily create and run virtual machines on either a windows, mac or linux host. From there you can learn to install, use and configure various systems and software in ways similar to how productions things might be setup. You can even create networks of vms to simulate real world setups - if your host is powerful enough to run multiple vms.

You can do quite a lot on a raspberry pi, so it might be worth getting one if you don't already have one - but it runs an embedded linux which is a little different from normal distros but can be a fun/interesting way to learn some things but I would also get use to creating virtual machines as there is stuff you can do on them that is harder or different on a raspberry pi. That said there is also stuff you can do on a raspberry pi that you cannot do in virtual machines - mostly due to its gpio pins.

As for other hardware you should buy it as you require/want it. You can learn a lot about being a sysadmin without ever needing to buy something particular for it.

  • Thank you for your detailed answer! I plan on setting up the raspberry Pi as a server. I use virtual box on my Mac to run Fedora server, Ubuntu, and a recently installed Kali Linux. You're right about Enterprise level equipment being too expensive since I don't have a car yet. I have about four different books on Linux but I feel like it can't hurt to know a little bit more about windows. – Sidney Upton Dec 31 '17 at 21:21
  • It's not really embedded Linux. It's far far closer to Debian than to a QNAP, for example. – roaima Jan 1 '18 at 1:42

From an administration standpoint running on a low power virtual machine or on a credit card computer is an excellent way to learn about how to administer Linux. Especially since Raspbian closely mirrors Debian which is actually used on many servers. Other distributions like you mentioned Fedora also work.

You can easily run web servers off of the rpi and learn how to configure them as well as install server applications based on php, python, node, etc.

Some features typical of enterprise environments like network management and virtualization can be tricky on an rpi. But you can still easily use LXC containers and install things like libvirt just to get familiar with what they look like.

Most database software like postgres should run fine for prototyping purposes.

In large part "enterprise hardware" doesn't mean anything special except that its well supported by the manufacture. What is a big shift from learning to professional is that your workplace will have many working parts; an enterprise environment that you'll need to be able to get familiar with quickly.

That means being familiar with a lot of different technologies and specifically all the popular ones.

For virtualization theres: VMware, hyperv, xen, KVM and LXC. and only the last 2 will really be usable on rpi.

For databses theres mariadb, postgres, mysql, MS SQL, etc. All these are easily run on rpi except the last one.

For webservers theres: nginx, apache, lighttpd, ISS. All of these would run great except the last one.

For application servers there's the following languages: Python, Perl, Java Node.js, PHP and .net. All of these can be run on the rpi.

You can see the common thread is that the rpi missing out on Microsoft server software and technologies. You will need to decide if thats important to you.

  • Okay I gotcha. I'm not too worried about microsoft stuff right now. Focusing on mastering the Linux command line. Some of the terminology used here is still flying over my head but as I progress in the book I'm starting to understand it more and more. Also googling helps. – Sidney Upton Dec 31 '17 at 21:25

No. It's probably one of the worst place to start learning sysadmin, you not only have to learn sysadmin but you also got to learn raspberry pi at the same time and cope with its limited computing power while being distracted by a bunch of unnecessary ports.

The best way to start learning sysadmin is a virtual machine. You can install a free virtual machine hypervisor like Virtualbox and install a server OS into the VM there. A VM installed with a server OS is essentially identical to VPS hosting.

Most enterprises nowadays runs on cloud system, which runs on virtual machines. If you want to learn about the enterprise grade capabilities that you can't do easily with virtual machines at home, I'd suggest signing up for an account at a cloud commuting provider like Amazon AWS or Google Cloud. They start off really cheap and they have some free quota which should be sufficient for learning purposes.

Additionally, as a sysadmin you're likely also going to have to know a bit about domain management. You may want to buy a domain name and learn about DNS management.


Personally I will follow this path

a)Start to read a lot of sysadmin books,from simple talking about vim,networking,x11..to complex about postfix,oracle db,sql,ldap,dns..etc You can find on ebay those book,they are not expensive

b)Take some certifications: lpic2,rhcsa,better lpic3 and rhce(are not easy..but not impossible after 1-2 years of study).

c)If possible buy a cheapest server like old Hp Microserver(avoid the model with Celeron..is ultra-slow!),here you can run a lot of vm(with 16GB of ram you can run 10-12 linux vm) and test services like ftp,dns,networking,etc

d)Find a job as sysadmin,you can start from junior level and become senior or why not..an architect some day. Good luck!

  • Thanks! I already have some books on Linux but I'll follow your suggestion and buy some books on sysadmining specifically on eBay. – Sidney Upton Dec 31 '17 at 21:27
  • Since we're all doing opinions, I personally see very little benefit in certifications. Sadly, more and more often I see people learning how to pass the exams instead of learning how to administer systems. – roaima Jan 1 '18 at 1:44

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