typodupeerror

## How Many Admins Per User/Computer Have You Seen?414

miffo.swe writes "I'm trying to find the normal ratio of technicians/support tech per user or computer in your average IT-shop. When searching around, I can't find that many examples or any statistics. We manage around 900 computers (mostly Windows XP) and 25+ servers (mostly Linux). There are around 2600 users of varying knowledge, mostly pretty low. I can't find any statistics on this, so real-world examples are very welcome since we do this with one sysadmin (me) and two sneaker techs. Are we seriously understaffed, or is this normal?"
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## How Many Admins Per User/Computer Have You Seen?

• #### Over 9000 (Score:5, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:48AM (#30594294)

Over 9000

• #### Re: (Score:2, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward

I'm 12 and what is this?

• #### Re: (Score:2)

I would think 12 year olds would really like Dragonball Z.

Newfags...
• #### Re: (Score:2)

I worked for an HMO doing IT support, and for 500 people we had 6 IT workers. The HMO generated a terrifying amount of paperwork, and one person would be on printer/fax duty every day. This doesn't sound hard, but we had 3 buildings spread out over 4 city blocks, each building with 4 floors, and each floor with a dozen printers (I'm counting fax machines in this number). This wasn't really by design, the company grew organically and this is the end result.

• #### Re:Over 9000 (Score:4, Insightful)

<sjc&carpanet,net> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @03:19PM (#30598056) Homepage

I think it comes down to "what do you mean by admins"?

The more you restrict what admins have to support, the more homogenous the environment, the better the ratio. The more you expect from them, the more complex the environment, the more you need.

Another factor to add in is tools. Does every machine have actual remote console? (and I mean console as in, I can sit there and watch the POST console). Do you have build servers and good backups, and tested procedures to do restores if a system needs a total rebuild on the spot?

My group is constantly compared in terms of group size to number of machines. Its maddening since we support 5 different flavors of unix (and VMS), some with ok tools configured and ready, some nearly "hand crafted". Then at least 3 different versions of each of those flavors. We can't seem to get projects approved to fix any of this (and god forbid we did it without a project!)

We are compared against a Windows group, that supports a couple of flavors of Windows, and has had automation tools to schedule and do work remotely setup for years. Of course they can admin more systems with less headcount... they have the tools and environment setup to do it!

Hell it took us almost 2 years to get project approval to set the machines for centralized auth through LDAP... and they wonder why we seem to need so many people for so few machines.

So frankly, I don't think the question has enough information to be answered usefully. There are just too many variables to be able to put up a good estimation of appropriate head count per machine. I can tell you though that standardization, automation, and redundant designs will decrease that head count.

As will properly trained/experienced admins (if we could only get them to send a couple of people to basic sun training we would be way better off... but we can't even get that. We have guys that have been effectively working on the level of entry level admins for years, who have never been able to get management to send them to a class).

-Steve
(who should post anonymously but, on some level hopes they will read this...)

• #### Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

<slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:49AM (#30594316)

The real question is are you always constantly working your ass off, fixing stupid problems - and therefore unable to do anything more productive? If so, then it seems you don't have enough people.

If you have a fully managed office, and you can remote in to all these desktops and fix everything really quickly - then you're probably OK.

Like most of IT, whatever works.

• #### Re:Depends (Score:4, Interesting)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:03PM (#30594624) Homepage Journal

The real question is are you always constantly working your ass off, fixing stupid problems - and therefore unable to do anything more productive? If so, then it seems you don't have enough people.

If you have a fully managed office, and you can remote in to all these desktops and fix everything really quickly - then you're probably OK.

Like most of IT, whatever works.

That last sentence hits the head right on the nail...

The numbers really are determined by a lot of factors... if your business revolves around programming and engineering, and thus your workers are from those fields (as opposed to tons of avg computer users in a non computer/technical field), you are less likely to have serious issues that IT needs to address, thus requiring a smaller IT staff. And of course, what money IT is allowed to spend on initial setup and/or maintenance also determines the staffing size for IT. One can design a system that remote boots from the NIC and reinstalls everything to a machine specific image - or kicks the boot to the HDD if there are no problems making serious non-hardware issues trivial - if the money was there during the initial setup or a big upgrade phase... or one can fix the stuff the old fashioned way and go hands on (which requires more of an IT staff). Hardware differences also can determine staffing size. One of our customers had a problem with certain AMD XP machines when SP3 came out - required lotsa "hands on" fixing... other of our clients did not have those machines and needed no one and no help. Also, are the machines needed 24/7? Is there mission critical data on them (or no mission critical data anywhere - or mission critical data is on the server)?

And so on... inotherwords, there are a ton of factors that determine staffing needs for IT. It could be one person per 10 or one person per 100, etc.

Thus, slimjim8094's statement really does sum it up nicely...

Like most of IT, whatever works.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

I've worked as the "IT-guy" a couple of times where I was doing various support, from showing how to open a word document to installing machines to lightweight management of servers, usually around 100-200 users would take 2 people to handle, but this has been "low priority users" (school and government) where waiting a couple of hours for someone to come by to fix your issues isn't a problem.

As you pointed out, whatever works.

• #### Re:Depends (Score:5, Interesting)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:08PM (#30594702) Homepage

The real question is are you always constantly working your ass off, fixing stupid problems - and therefore unable to do anything more productive? If so, then it seems you don't have enough^H^H^H^H^H^H the right people.

A good SA can come in and make a lot of these stupid little problems go away, never to return.

These sorts of problems can also be caused by bad management exerting too much control over the admins, or admins with weak people skills trying to please everyone rather than prioritize and do the right thing.

When asked to do something, to you just go ahead and do it? Or do you require things like justifications, business cases, funding, staff, etc? If management can just ask anything of the IT staff, they will do so, and it will feel like you're being walked all over, and that you're overworked. If you have some basic sanity checks and make those requirements before a project can be greenlighted, you'll find that your job can be a lot easier. Doing this also makes planning happen before you get midway through a project and find that different stakeholders have different opinions on what should be done next.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

When asked to do something, to you just go ahead and do it? Or do you require things like justifications, business cases, funding, staff, etc?

Admins do not get to require justification or business cases to do their jobs. That is management's job.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

On the other hand, if that's the level of service the business is willing to pay for, that's what they should get. IT doesn't run the world, they make it easier for others to run the world. If management wants an efficient IT department (and they probably should) then they will do what you suggest. If they want tech guys at their beck and call to just fix things whenever they screw up, or get them whatever newfangled toy they might like, then they won't. Smart management will want an IT that gives them

• #### Depends on how many windows stations removed (Score:3, Informative)

It depends on how many Windows desktops you are able to replace with Macintosh OS X, Solaris or Linux. Seriously. Windows isn't around because of it's technical merits [groklaw.net].

I have worked in help desk environments in the past for a Windows / Macintosh / Solaris computing environment. The Solaris users largely took care of themselves, but contacted us for some settings information, like establishing the right settings for Kerberos, LDAP, AFS, or SMTP. The Mac users outnumbered everyone else by at least 4 to 1.

• #### 100 to 1 is about right (Score:4, Informative)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:49AM (#30594342)

we're at around 1200 users and around 8 help desk people to support them all. 2 DBA's for 30 some MS SQL servers and 3-5 admins for 200 some windows/^nix servers. some people double by helping users in their office

• #### Re: (Score:3, Informative)

Mine's good for a laugh in some ways: 1200 users at our main site, 200 at our sales office. Manufacturing/sales environment, just barely out of start-up mode, with a ton of legacy crap laying around from an acquisition. Mostly Windows environment (boss drank the koolaid and asked for seconds), though Oracle and most of the critical infrastructure bits (esp. the Internet-facing ones) now run on RHEL, Fedora, or FreeBSD (courtesy of the DBA and myself). About 80% virtualized on the back-end.

• #### Support/user ratio (Score:4, Informative)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:52AM (#30594392) Homepage
Here's what we've had at different jobs:

Internal Corporate Helpdesk - 6800 users, supporting every application on desktops, 10 support techs during the day, 1 on nights and weekends.

Website support: 10,000 users, supporting general usage of just 1 website. 4 techs, regular business hours only.
• #### Re: (Score:3, Informative)

> Website support: 10,000 users, supporting general usage of just 1 website. 4 techs, regular business hours only.

Envious. 7,000 users; 1 full time person and 2 half-time. Oh, and we're also expected to the develop the underlying application, not just make keep it up and running... ...actually, we're primarily meant to be developing it, and support isn't expected to be a major part of our job...

• #### Too many chiefs and no indians (Score:4, Informative)

<moc.rr.ck' ta' `7epopm'> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:54AM (#30594428) Homepage

Right now its 4 offices around 120 employees and just me...oh and I forgot (or selectively blocked) a former client who keeps calling me to pick up after their new "IT guy" who is supposed to save them money. If they were all in one location I could probably juggle it better but as it is I'm starting to burn out.

• #### Re:Too many chiefs and no indians (Score:4, Interesting)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @02:46PM (#30597522) Journal

* Remote desktop and VPN are your best friends. Learn them, live them, love them.

• #### 150: 1 is Decent.. (Score:5, Interesting)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:59AM (#30594548) Homepage Journal

You have more than double that so i'd say you are pretty understaffed. I saw a video once that was actually pretty intelligent in talking about standard support ratios. Basically, there isn't a "standard" the answer is almost always "it depends". You start with your userbase - how tech savvy are they? How many applications are you supporting? What kind of hardware do you have? How many remote supporting tools do you have to use? Each of these answers adjusts the support ratio up and down and sometimes something as low as 75:1 is needed and other times 300:1 is just fine.

Still, in the place I work now we have 600 machines and 40 servers or so (most virtualized) and we have 13 IT people (with 1 open position right now). This includes 1 helpdesk person, 2 programmers, 2 systems support personnel (they support specific software we use), 2 hardware techs, 2 network analysts, 3 systems engineers, a secretary, and the boss.

• #### Re: (Score:3, Funny)

Obviously you don't know how to search. I found a job posting for a sneaker tech [jobisjob.com] right away.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Someone who uses the sneakernet to work on a box instead of better tools like SSH/pstools/RDP/ARD/GPO

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Who else would be able to fix the sneakernets [wikipedia.org]?
• #### standard is supposed to be 185 to warrant on-site (Score:2)

tech. i have 300. when i need help we establish a project and bring in contractors

• #### Re: (Score:2)

I don't envy you, sir.
• #### what usecase? (Score:2)

If you're running a distributed system where each node is exactly the same and you just push out a standard image then you could have a 1:1000 ratio.
But if you have a a bunch of computers doing very specific things each one being different the ratio has to be less.

An average doesn't really make sense unless you can specify the usecase for these systems.

• #### You're posting on Slashdot (Score:2)

"Are we seriously understaffed, or is this normal?" It seems to me if you are able to read/post on Slashdot AND maintain those systems, you're doing something the rest of the world needs to look at.
• #### 1:5000 (Score:3, Interesting)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:09PM (#30594720) Homepage Journal

Was the ratio i had when i was managing an entire assembly plant's IT operations. Yes i was working my ass off.. 24/7 operation as well.

Where i am now, its more like 500:30000 ( ok, not a true ratio, but i wanted to include the total number too, since its pretty high. )

A lot depends on what industry you are supporting, your user base, and your budget.

• #### How tight or loose are group policies? (Score:2)

Make user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Lock down group policies if you are overworked.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

Make user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Lock down group policies if you are overworked.

I think you meant:

Make a stupid user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Make a smart user an admin on their own machine if you are overworked. Make everyone an admin on their own machine if you're a contractor, for obvious self-enrichment reasons.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Make user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Lock down group policies if you are overworked.

I think you meant:

Make a stupid user an admin on their own machine if you want to increase the IT staff. Make a smart user an admin on their own machine if you are overworked. Make everyone an admin on their own machine if you're a contractor, for obvious self-enrichment reasons.

Smart user? Might as well add in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

• #### Understaffed (Score:2)

6,100 employees 44 locations + 2 datacenters.

3 admins (1 network 2 systems) and 2 helpdesk technicians
• #### Power of Scale (Score:3, Informative)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:14PM (#30594832) Homepage Journal

The larger the corporation the more per\user per\server to admin. Theseare my observation sover the last 12 years in my career:

For small corporations (less then 1 million) I usually see about 1/800 ratio for support\end user and 1/50 for servers.

For medium corporations (greater then 1 million but less then 80 million in revenue) I usually seea bour 1/2000 ratio and 1/150 for servers.

For large corporations (greater then 80 million) I see about 1/3800 and 1/250.

Support metrics are usually driven by "Call Times" including resolve times and hold times so depending on the scale of the businesses and nature it isn't so much support/staff ratio but rather hold time\support ratio. ITIL was crafted specifically to facilitate outsourcing Incident Management (password resets and all that less then 15 minutes crap) to lower cost, drill down labor and maintaining low hold times versus Problem Management which is the higher skill set.

Server ratio is largely due to "bucketing" of servers\apps to an admin resource (Think along the lines of an Account Rep). A.k.a Bob handles Apps A,B, and C along with Servers X, Y, and Z. So depending on the corporation you can have anywhere from 2-8 apps assigned to a single admin. Each application may maintain upwards of 5-12 servers depending on the size of the application. Smaller enterprises tend to have smaller "buckets". A typical LAMP stack may have 1-4 app servers, 1 NAS, 1 batch server, and possibly it's own database server. As you get larger those buckets share other buckets so you may have a team that handles just apache and another that handles just MYSQL\POSTGRES\etc. Those buckets can be huge. I have a team of 8 DBAs managing right now 2307 database instances. That is roughly 289 server instances per DBA. A simple table update may take 12 minutes for a structure update to process so median process time may factor into staffing requirements when concurrency isn't an option based on outage windows. Databases are virtual servers usually with a SAN hosted on hardware that is managed by another team but you can get the picture. By specializing administrative roles you can increase the nubmer of server or services supported by a person (power of scale) so the ratio of servers per tech tends to rise the bigger the corporation. In addition more expensive, comprehensive tools, become accessable to larger corporations (TIVOLI framework for instance.)

Based on your description you should need:

2 Call Center Incident Management crew
2 Problem Management crew
1 of which is responsible for security\auditing
1 of which is responsible for maintenance
1 of which is special projects
All three should rotate these roles quarterly or annually as well as rotate 1 as a Problem Management staffer (the non-special project members)

So your total support crew should be about 8 people. You may also for off hours support want to outsource to a location 12 or 6 hours offset based on your location. (6 hours makes meetings more practical as you can usually get a meeting when one group is just getting in and the other is just getting ready to leave.)

• #### Approximately 8000/1 for Sun's old desktop (Score:2)

I helped deploy a configuration of Sun's older Linux based Java Desktop System which allowed install, upgrade and configuration of 8000 desktops across hundreds of branch offices. It wasn't widely reported because Sun dropped this Linux based desktop to allow more focus on its own kernel and Sun Ray technology which easily allows more users per administrator. For Sun Ray desktops on Solaris I would imagine the ratio can be at least 10,000 to one.
• #### Too much variation (Score:2)

It really depends on who your users are, what your servers are doing, and what level of support is desired/needed by the organization.

If you have 1000 users who use one app that they are all familiar with, user calls are going to be lower than an org with 20 different apps and a wide range of skills. In a large organization, you may be supporting everyone one from accountants who know Excel inside and an out to janitorial staff who are still using dial-up at home(seriously, they still are because they can'

• #### Track busy time, adjust accordingly (Score:2)

While I was the sys admin for a small ad agency of 50 to 75 users (fluctuated monthly) my boss claimed that he read or spoke with other companies who were operating with a 50:1 ratio. Granted, ad agencies can be a bit unique with a very mixed technology environment and REALLY difficult users, but it worked for me. Most of the time I was fixing failed systems but I still had time to implement newer / better technology to resolve reoccurring issues.

I think what a larger company needs is a support staff that i

• #### Re: (Score:2)

"Guard against scaring them into giving you false information - sometimes employees fear that they are being watched and may falsify their claimed work load and you end up hiring people to compensate the inflated demand." This is a HUGE issue with trying to track time for task completion. People start seeing it as micromanagement instead of this information being used to see what the actual workload is. I think the key to this is to let the IT staff manage this data collection and present the final report
• #### Repost! (sorta) (Score:2)

OK, not exactly, but the same topic was recently discussed in the Uniforms post [slashdot.org].

• #### 100-150:1 was a good ratio (Score:2)

The load depended on the department.. The guy supporting the executive offices was at 50:1 and hammered most of the time.
You can push those numbers higher but then all you do is fight fires, projects don't get done and vacation coverage is a nightmare.
We came up with a chart at one point classifying each department as low medium, high and VIP(CIO,CEO,CTO, VP and so on).. Low was counted as 0.5 users
medium 1 , high 2, VIP level counts for 3. The admin

• #### Funny you ask... (Score:2)

This was actually a recent topic over where I'm working at and we were trying to figure out a way to explain that we needed another person. We went the route of trying to find this magical industry average and like everyone else is saying "it depends". For our level of support and configuration here - 1 admin per 75 windows workstations seems to be the magic number. Right now we're at about 1 per 150.

However, "industry average" doesn't mean jack to the client. It's kind of like saying to them "well Joe has

• #### about one per 2500 seats (Score:2)

One place I worked in the 90s, about 100K seats, about 10 HD on the phones, about 15 field techs, about 5 WAN guys (myself and 4 others), about about 10 operators / system programmers / unix guys, works out to about 1:2500.

This was an IBM mainframe shop handling about 5% of all retail stock transactions worldwide on "dumb" terminals. If they didn't demand 24x7 coverage to handle worldwide markets, it would have been somewhat cheaper as we often staffed for "just in case". Having someone on pager was unacc

• #### Depends on how you count it. (Score:2)

When I was there, RUCS (Rutgers University Computing Services) ran a campus of around 18k people from four active student admins and eleven never-seen never-active bureacratic staff. So that gives a ratio of about 4500:1. It's worse if you consider time of day, though: that was three during the day (6000:1) and one at night (18000:1).

Disclaimer: it's been almost 15 years, the school's size may have changed, and there's an outside chance that RUCS might have gotten rid of their dead weight and gotten their

• #### 1 IT staff per... (Score:3, Informative)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:34PM (#30595200) Homepage

You need 1 IT staff (helpdesk, sysadmin, etc.) per:

20 Windows servers
50 Linux servers
100 full time computer users
1000 part time computer users

• #### Really depends on where you are (Score:2)

It really depends on where you are to what you need. Do you have people who never want any other software installed? Or do you have people who -need- various programs or want some to get the job done easier. Do you provide -all- your own hardware, or do people occasionally bring in faster printers so they don't spend all day printing? What about viruses? Are they a big deal? If say, 25 computers go down in a day due to something like a power surge will that seriously affect productivity? Are these systems r
• #### At one Fortune 500 company... (Score:2)

At a Fortune 500 company where I worked a few years back, the user-to-IT ratio for Windows users was about 4 to 1. On the Macintosh side it was about 100 to 1 although a 50 to 1 ratio is probably better.

• #### Numbers... (Score:2)

Well, the number I usually hear in the industry is 1 SysAdmin per:

10 Windows Servers
100 Unix/Linux servers

I think that the numbers are little low, and maybe too idealistic...Depending on the application, I could *easily* see one competent SysAdmin managing at least three times those numbers. Of Course, that is the rub, a competent SysAdmin. A *good* SysAdmin could probably increase the original numbers by a factor of ten. But then you start running into the "run over by a bus" syndrome...if a *good* SysAdmi

• #### It's not that simple (Score:2, Informative)

The number of admins needed in any shop depends on many factors, especially automation and duplication. In an ad-hoc environment where users are given free rein, you will need lots of admins. If management will support restrictions on users, the admins are creative and the necessary tools are purchased, then the job can be handled by a few astute individuals. If anyone knows of such a shop...
• #### On the UNIX(tm) side of things... (Score:2)

at least 1000 servers per admin.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

The next kernel update will make it 4096 servers per admin. But still no full screen Flash support, though.

• #### Deployable Enterprise... (Score:2)

I run two isolated networks for roughly 300 users (about 600 accounts between the networks) over multiple isolated geographical locations (you have to convoy between them) with 2 admins and 5 sneaker techs. We run about 200 computers, 4-6 servers, and multiple wireless interconnects with associated equipment. Of course being military makes for special requirements.

• #### We run 800/admin (Score:2)

We've got ~2800 RHEL4 and 5 servers and ~400 VMware ESX servers and 4 admins. The key is homogenity.

• #### Facebook: 1 engineer per million users (Score:3, Insightful)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:16PM (#30596052) Homepage
Jeff Rothschild, the vice president of technology at Facebook, said in a recent presentation [datacenterknowledge.com] that Facebook has 230 engineers supporting data for more than 300 million users. He says Facebook seeks to maintain a ratio of one engineer for 1 million or more users. Facebook is vague about exactly how many servers it has, saying it's "more than 30,000." But at 30,000 servers and 230 engineers, that's a ratio of about 130 servers per admin.

Microsoft says it has automated its data center operations to the point where its admins can each manage between 1,000 and 2,000 servers. That matters, as the company may pack more than 300,000 servers into its new container data center [datacenterknowledge.com] in Chicago. It expects to support that facility with about 30 employees, including admins and facility maintenance staff.
• #### Re:Facebook: 1 engineer per million users (Score:4, Insightful)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @02:15PM (#30597064) Journal

Jeff Rothschild, the vice president of technology at Facebook, said in a recent presentation [datacenterknowledge.com] that Facebook has 230 engineers supporting data for more than 300 million users. He says Facebook seeks to maintain a ratio of one engineer for 1 million or more users. Facebook is vague about exactly how many servers it has, saying it's "more than 30,000." But at 30,000 servers and 230 engineers, that's a ratio of about 130 servers per admin.

Microsoft says it has automated its data center operations to the point where its admins can each manage between 1,000 and 2,000 servers. That matters, as the company may pack more than 300,000 servers into its new container data center [datacenterknowledge.com] in Chicago. It expects to support that facility with about 30 employees, including admins and facility maintenance staff.

"Number of servers per admin" is to limited to be properly measured, even in your examples. Can one admin manage 5000 *nix boxes that are all identical, running a clustered web server? Sure. Given the proper engineering and tools, it's very possible. Now throw in a bunch of other applications that users request or a business requires and now you will need more staff. Also, supporting a bunch of pizza boxes or supporting one piece of heavy iron can make a difference is trying to measure this number. I know of a couple of folks who admin one box. Granted, they are either a large SUN and IBM hardware, running databases, web servers, and numerous applications, but look at their job requirement in a slanted way and it would look as though they are responsible for only one system. While another admin can have a couple of thousand desktops all identical and simple. And their value would still be relative to whomever the users are.

• #### I've grappled with this very question for decades (Score:3, Interesting)

on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @03:16PM (#30598000) Homepage Journal

The statistics are poor. We're in a mixed-use environment with mostly Windows for users and mostly Unix variants for servers, including HP-UX, BSD, Solaris, and Linux. The best data I have ever been able to come up with is one tech per 100 units. I've never counted routers, switches, hubs, and wiring in this, though I think you could make a good case to add them in. Some of those are a lot more onerous to configure than a garden variety PC. One thing that helped us was a standard-build PC. Store all data on backed up dual servers so if a PC breaks, you can replace it with an 'identical' PC easily and quickly. We kinda screwed up originally because we were IP rich with eleven Class C networks, so we used IPs to identify PCs and hard coded them, and also used one Class C per building, which was a big waste. It was a bit of a challenge to move to DHCP allocation when our Class Cs began to fill up, but we managed to avoid a lot of subnetting for a couple of decades. You probably couldn't get away with that these days.

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