A computer operator is in charge of all hardware systems that support a computer network. Prior to the introduction and subsequent popularity of personal computers, a computer operator’s job generally focused on maintaining the mainframe to which a company's computers were connected. Personal computers are generally self-contained, so a computer operator’s job now normally centers on database maintenance and providing support to the network and users. A computer operator may work in almost any industry that uses computers and is often employed in retail, commercial, administrative, educational and government sectors.
To keep a network of computers operating efficiently, a computer operator commonly performs regular checks on all connections. The connections regularly include USB ports, modular phone connectors and electrical outlets. These are typically found on modems, keyboards, monitors, printers and other peripherals that provide enhanced performance options. Depending on the type of business where the operator is employed, the peripherals may also include lab equipment, medical diagnostic machines, digital copying devices and photo imaging tools.
In addition to securing all hardware connectors, a computer operator customarily performs cursory performance checks of monitors, keyboards and printers. His expertise generally enables him to notice any irregularities in these devices with a quick glance. Most of these simple problems can be quickly remedied by an experienced operator. Malfunctions outside of his scope of knowledge are generally reported to a computer maintenance technician.
A computer operator normally concentrates on computer hardware operations and maintenance, as there is generally another specialist available to address software issues. The operator does, however, normally perform routine maintenance procedures to keep the computer systems operating at peak performance levels. Although many of these system checks can be scheduled to be automatically performed without prompting, it is ordinarily considered prudent to periodically check the results of the scans.
Checking firewalls is considered a good habit, as their damage or malfunction can expose computers to worms and viruses. Periodically updating anti-spam and anti-phishing programs is necessary to maximize the systems’ security. Performing disk clean ups and running defragmentation tools keep the systems quick and clean. Eliminating programs that are no longer used or wanted is another maintenance task that helps software run more smoothly.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required for this job. A bachelor’s degree in computer science is desirable, although a significant number of employers will accept an associate’s degree or certificate of completion in computer science or computer operations. Experience in the maintenance of computers, peripherals or data processing equipment is generally preferred.