Messaging Administrator: Managing a Host of Functions
BackBy Deanna Hartley — September 2009
The term “messaging administrator” typically conjures up a wide array of job functions and responsibilities — too many, in fact, for a single person, regardless of how talented the individual may be. For this reason, candidates interested in this field tend to become experts in one of three tracks that traditionally comprise the role of a messaging administrator.
The three different types of messaging administrators are: mail administrator, text messaging administrator and instant messaging administrator.
Experts in their Own Domains
While the responsibilities vary depending on the particular job role, it’s not uncommon for some overlap to exist.
For instance, the functions of an internal messaging administrator — whether an e-mail administrator or an instant messaging administrator — usually revolve around internal compliance as well as auditing and messaging and quota management, said David Wachs, president of Cellit, a company that specializes in self-service mobile marketing for smaller businesses as well as large global firms.
What forms the bulk of responsibility for text messaging administrators, on the other hand, is dealing with outside compliance procedures, which includes managing the frequently changing compliance requirements of the carriers.
“A text message is 160 characters in length, so there you’re not so worried about storage issues surrounding data because they’re so tiny,” Wachs said. “But if I’m managing mail servers, I could very well be concerned about how much hard drive space we have left on our servers at the end of the day and also backing those up and making sure if someone uses their mail account, all the data has not been lost.”
The Role of the Mail Messaging Administrator
A mail messaging administrator is responsible for managing multiple e-mail servers such as Microsoft Exchange or qmail — a mail transfer agent that runs on Unix — for large enterprise organizations, Wachs explained.
“[They] also manage the LDAP, which is the authentication and directory sources surrounding the e-mail server,” he said. “So, they’d be responsible for setting up the permissions of who gets access to what e-mail server.”
Another key function of someone in this job role would be to manage the servers. “That means managing quotas of the individual users, meaning [determining whether they are] allowed to have a mailbox of 1 gigabyte or 5 gigabytes in size,” Wachs said.
Compliance is also an area in which mail messaging administrators must familiarize themselves.
“[If you’re a mail messaging administrator,] make sure that if you work for a legal entity, they have a signature line that includes any legal disclosures as well as Sarbanes-Oxley storage of messages and archival of those messages,” Wachs explained.
An additional responsibility is to guarantee virus protection. “[A mail messaging administrator must] ensure the mail server is not subject to passing of viruses in and out of the system and passing of critical documents in and out of the system,” he added.
The Role of the Instant Messaging Administrator
The second track for someone looking to get into the messaging administrator field is an instant messaging server manager at a larger organization.
“Just like you might have a Google chat, a Yahoo instant messenger or an AOL instant messenger chat application — which is public, meaning I can chat with [individuals] despite being outside of [their] organization — some organizations have moved that technology in-house, typically using a server such as Jabber,” Wachs said.
The Jabber server allows individuals to run their own instant messenger within the office environment, he said.
“The benefit of [this type of approach] is that there’s a level of security where if you’re sending information back and forth, you’re not as worried [that] it’s traveling over ‘public’ bandwidth and [has] the potential of escaping a corporate environment,” Wachs said.
Some of the issues an instant messaging administrator is expected to be knowledgeable about include viruses, compliance procedures, the sending of critical data, and making sure that nothing critical is being transferred or leaked.
The Role of the Text Messaging Administrator
The third and final track in the messaging administrator field is a text messaging administrator — a role that Cellit specializes in.
“We manage SMS or text messaging infrastructure [on] an outsourced basis for companies,” Wachs said. “So, if you’re a large organization and you’re looking to communicate — typically in some sort of marketing context — with your constituency or your customer base, we provide the software systems and campaign management tools to enable you to send messages via text message to your recipients, receive messages back from them, analyze the results, run surveys and blast out alerts.”
Text messaging administrators must be familiar with issues related to the throughput of messages, meaning how many text messages to blast out at any given time, Wachs explained.
“The other issue is compliance with carrier best practices — [they must] ensure that all the required language is included in each text message and the proper stop options are available to the end user, so if someone wants to stop receiving text messages, they will have the opportunity to do so,” he added. “[They are responsible for] the storage and management of subscriber phone numbers in a secure fashion so [as to ensure] you’re not spamming them or delivering them to third parties so they might be spammed.”
Most organizations will not necessarily have an employee in-house dedicated to handling and managing text messages — which consists of sending messages to the end user and managing those interactions — partly due to the fact that it’s a new field, Wachs said. They would likely outsource such functions to a company like Cellit, which would manage text messages on their behalf.
“There are a lot of moving parts surrounding carrier approvals, carrier best practices [and] ongoing carrier compliance,” he said. “[We] run certain types of servers to manage all that and to deliver those messages in the most effective way possible to the end users.”
Key Ingredients for Success
“Server administration — whether that’s Linux or Windows NT — would be a [desirable] skill,” Wachs said. “Network admins — understanding the different levels of networks and connectivity, both TCP/IP and Ethernet, as well as having a strong base of communication skills to deal with outside vendors at the telecommunications companies or the carriers [is also valuable].”
More often than not, the skills required for a text messaging administrator are vastly different from those needed for the other two tracks.
“[The skills for] mail administrators and instant messaging administrators are going to be more technical, more about managing the day-to-day of physical servers and hard drives and quotas and security of those servers and backups,” Wachs said.
On the other hand, text messaging administrators must also be prepared to dive into what many would classify as tedious work.
“With a text messaging administrator, there are certainly technical skills [you need] — you don’t want your servers to go down — as well as database skills: making sure all those messages are stored in a database,” Wachs said. “But equally [as important are] the skills that have to do with filling out mounds and mounds of paperwork surrounding carrier requirements.”
The desirable academic backgrounds for both mail administrators and instant messaging administrators are similar, however: a MSCE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) or a Linux-certified engineer would be the typical prerequisite.
That said, “the role of a [text messaging administrator] requires a high level of legal understanding — maybe one or two law courses for text messaging — as well as some basic communication skills because so much of the job surrounds communication with the carriers and best practices, compliance stuff,” Wachs added.
Since text messaging is a relatively new field, there are no certifications that have been developed yet. However, it would be useful for someone in this field to become a member of the Mobile Marketing Association, Wachs said.
Each Role Has Its Own Rewards
Each area of messaging administration is a growing field, Wachs said.
“An e-mail administrator plays a critical role at an organization,” he said. “There are opportunities to grow in areas of network administration because they’re dealing so heavily with the core network requirements.”
What may be considered a significant benefit of an instant messaging administrator — which also holds true for an e-mail administrator — is the face-to-face client time internally, with employees, Wachs explained.
As for text messaging administrators, it’s an exciting time to be in the field.
“The role with text messaging would be an opportunity to shape an industry because it is such a young industry and it is changing so quickly,” he said. “The technology is changing so quickly that [answering questions such as] ‘What is a text message?’ [or] ‘What is an MMS (multimedia message)?’ [is] what it’s all about.
“Right now, text messaging is growing at a very rapid pace,” he added. “In the United States, there’s going to be a need for people who understand the correct way to communicate with employees and clients over this new technology.”