IT Automation: Basic, Advanced, and Downright Creative

Automation Graphic

My last blog post discussed IT complexity and new challenges from cloud, mobility and big data which are key drivers of IT Automation. These new challenges make it hard for IT administrators to do their jobs, without increasing the level of automation. The post identified the key requirements for an automation solution, from out-of-the box functionality to policy-based management to community sharing of innovative implementations, noting that not all automaton solutions are created equal. To help crystalize the differences and the possibilities, this post provides a set of examples of each type provided by Ben Lavalley, our automation expert here at Kaseya.

Basic Automation:

In a strong automation tool, basic automation capabilities should come out-of-the-box ready to deploy. IT administrators can obtain immediate time saving and efficiency with little configuration effort. Examples include:

  • Automate actions based on monitoring of specific workstations. Monitor and create a dashboard view to identify workstations and their status. Then apply policy management to automate routine maintenance. Maintenance may include disk defrag, disk cleanup, browser history cleaning, and other actions.
  • Automate patch management with server/workstation policies for Windows patching. Configure automated patch approval and reboot settings for servers and workstations, using policy management for set-and-forget patching.
  • Automate third party application updates. Configure application deploy and update policies to keep third party applications up-to-date. IT administrators don’t need to create scripts to update Adobe, browsers, etc.
  • Automate Auditing. Run reports on machines with low memory, or open network file shares, or other characteristics, so that corrective action can be taken.

Advanced Automation:

IT administrators can deploy more advanced automation based on common agent and other procedures. Examples include:

  • Configure Service Desk for automated remediation of monitoring alerts. Run service or machine restarts to try to resolve a reported issue. In addition, collect diagnostic information from the offending system and add the results of the diagnosis directly into the notes of the ticket, so technicians have the valuable information they need to address the root cause of the problem more quickly.
  • Use policy-based automation for select servers. Audit server roles, e.g., Exchange, Sequel, Controller, etc., with dashboard views that have been filtered for location and server type, then create a policy (using policy management) that applies on-going monitoring and reporting based on system attributes.
  • Automate the end-user portal. Customize and automate the end-user portal (via the management agent), to help end users deal with basic issues. Publish bulletins, “how-to” information, etc., and provide procedures for end-users to run on their own machines for self-help.
  • Establish policy-based automation for application management. Set a policy for applications that start-up automatically, then detect for non-compliance to policy. Non-compliant applications can also be removed automatically, if desired, to improve workstation performance and remove potential security issues.

Creative Automation:

Talented IT administrators like to get creative, and good automation solutions provide the tools to do so. Creative solutions are usually built using some combination of out-of-the-box capabilities along with light scripting. Examples include:

  • Stolen laptop recovery. Automate the capture of desktop screenshots and even pinpoint the geographic location of the laptop with wireless network collection (using Google location APIs). It can result in a very surprised thief being apprehended in a coffee shop, for example.
  • Automate email, e.g., Exchange server, Quality of Service (QoS) monitoring. Run a regular email test to proactively test that a mail server can send and/or receive mail.
  • Clean up the “bloatware”. Establish an approved workstation configuration, detect deviations, and automatically clean-up the “bloatware”. Patrick Magee, from Howard Hughes Corporation, has reduced help desk tickets by 50% with this automation solution.

Regardless of the size of your business, you can improve operational efficiency and productivity through IT automation. Moreover, reducing human involvement wherever possible frees up the IT team to deal with the new challenges posed by cloud, mobility and big data. In harnessing these new technologies, the IT team becomes a partner to the organization, helping to drive business success.

For more information on Kaseya automation capabilities, visit our IT Automation website: http://www.kaseya.com/features/kaseya-platform/it-automation.

Authors:

Tom Hayes, VP Product Marketing, Kaseya

Ben Lavalley, Product Management, Kaseya

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