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Six steps to better data center skills

Head into 2016 with a positive outlook, a plan for new projects, and a well-rounded set of data center skills.

Data center teams take on new projects and challenges every day, whether it's to deploy a hybrid cloud infrastructure or meet a rigorous uptime goal. IT professionals, from the junior systems administrator to the IT director, enable this progress by honing their data center skills.

"You need to understand new technologies and figure out ... what applies best to your environment," said Joe Aiello, staff engineer in Global Labs at telecom vendor ShoreTel Inc. It's one of the ways Aiello stays competitive in the IT field.

Data center skills range from highly specialized expertise, such as mainframe operations, to broader and less-technical abilities such as working effectively within a team. These six tips will guide you to better performance and efficiency as a data center professional in the next year -- no BIOS adjustments required.

1. Take risks and innovate

Data center professionals understand the importance of stability and uptime, but they still must innovate and take risks where appropriate. Gartner Inc. dubs this dichotomy bimodal IT: holding onto traditional data center skills, such as troubleshooting and improving utilization, while embracing better communication and strategic thinking.

2. Consider the whole data center, not just one silo

Enterprise security is one area that exemplifies the change from specialized silos to holistic IT operations. IT managers need input from the networking team, security team and data specialists to properly secure data center systems and information via firewalls, encryption and other methods.

3. Work as a team

Even the most skilled IT professional will flounder and make poor choices when left to operate in a vacuum. Learn 10 ways to improve data center operations through better management and individual buy-in.

4. Adapt to new technologies

A wealth of traditional data center skills won't stop your IT organization from adopting cloud services and hosting where it makes sense. Rather than sacrificing your job to the cloud, adopt new skills and adapt to the mix of on-premises, hosted and as-a-service workloads.

5. Learn to speak the lingo

Whether you want to move up in your IT organization, communicate with business leaders or land a new job, the right data center terminology will give you an edge. Use the visual "flash cards" for these important IT terms to help you speak more clearly about data center metrics and share your skills with others.

6. Pick up new skillsets

Staying relevant in a changing data center world means getting involved in new areas. Windows administrators increasingly have Linux servers in their data centers, and cloud providers often rely on a Linux OS. If you're just starting out, Linux experts have tips to help you succeed.

Next Steps

Ace the sys admin interview

List "creativity" as an IT skill

A plan to bridge the mainframe skills gap

This year's most sought-after IT skills

Certifications start to pay off again

Adapt to cloud or perish

Dig Deeper on Data Center jobs and staffing and professional development