Tag Archive - Automation

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

The Future Role of the IT Organization in Mid-Market Companies

“Big Data” has been on most IT folks’ radar screens for some time but new data suggests the time has come for mid-market companies to do some serious thinking about the implications.

It’s over 400 years since Galileo, hearing of the invention of the telescope, rushed to create his own version to sell to the commanders of the Venetian navy. He immediately understood the value of being able to more quickly recognize distant ships coming into harbor or gain advance information about the capabilities of enemy craft at sea.

Galileo's Map

The desire to gain advantage by acquiring and processing information more quickly has arguably been one of the biggest drivers behind the evolution of “IT” throughout the time since Galileo’s first x10 telescope. Obviously a significant business or military advantage comes from having better knowledge and insight than your adversaries. Knowing what your customer’s want and being able to more quickly satisfy them also creates competitive advantage. Processing orders, handling inventory, raw materials purchasing, invoicing and payments…..all garner greater benefit by being done faster.

Why is this important to today’s mid-market IT organizations? And what’s it got to do with “big data”? The latest research from EMA* suggests that the early adopters of big data technologies are moving their projects into production – over half of the projects studied are either in a full or pilot production phase. Survey respondents are finding that big data programs are able to aid real-time decision making. Big data is enabling these companies to mine information from previously hard to analyze data sets (like ships a long way off at sea) and to use it for better outcomes and, ultimately, competitive advantage.

One example is the healthcare organization that analyzed patient medical records in real time to reduce the risk of prescribing harmful medications to inpatients, based on their histories and current symptoms. Another is the restaurant loyalty and rewards program operator who provides real-time program analysis data to restaurant chain customers so they can replicate successful marketing programs quickly and identify poorly performing restaurant locations at the earliest juncture.

The list of industries and use cases for big data is large and growing and the days of pure experimentation are beginning to wane. The inference is that big data will be the next wave of competitive development that speeds the availability of critical business data, disrupts business models and changes the competitive landscape.

The implications for mid-market IT organizations are immense. A key imperative in resource constrained businesses is to free up time to allow for the necessary big data discussions, explorations and innovations. Big data projects cannot be defined or driven by IT alone. It’ll take extra time to develop the business knowledge and relationships required for success. IT must find ways to reduce the time spent on day-to-day operations in order to deliver on both operational excellence and business innovation expectations. To succeed IT must:

  • Look to third parties to help with basic tasks and cloud-based services.
  • Reduce the number of different tools and systems used – pick the best and most comprehensive – to reduce the burden of dealing with multiple vendors, upgrades, trainings and support efforts.
  • Optimize for business growth not just around the IT budget.

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Here are 6 responsibilities that tomorrow’s IT department must make time for:
  1. Identifying opportunities. In the EMA study over 40% of funding came from finance, sales and marketing. The finance department was a major sponsor in the retail, healthcare and manufacturing segments while IT was the largest sponsor in the Public Services sector. Discussions with other functions will help identify key big data opportunities.
  2. Obtaining funding. Obtaining funding means developing an implementable strategy and cost effective plan that leverages current infrastructure investments and outside capabilities. Funding for projects that truly have a strong business impact will likely come from senior management as well as other functions.
  3. Defining and developing applications. Big Data initiatives require complex processing. To derive the most from large volumes of “unstructured” or “incomplete” data requires more complex rules and advanced predictive analytics, possibly even the use of natural language processing. In addition, analytical results will need to be built in to existing processes and workloads in order to meet the requirement for speedier decision making and competitive advantage.
  4. Manage pilot programs. Despite the fact that big data approaches are maturing, for those who have yet to start, the challenges are considerable. Early adopters spent more time on data management issues than analytics and adjusting existing business processes. Later adoptees may be able to learn from the early experience and move more quickly by piloting in unfamiliar areas.
  5. Design “big data” architecture. Adding new data to a traditional structured database is quite simple in comparison to creating an architecture that enables consistent real-time analysis of data from multiple sources, each potentially with a different structure, format, update frequency etc. Ultimately IT will need to redesign the current IT infrastructure. Regardless of where the resultant systems reside, big data represents a major activity for IT going forward.
  6. Prepare to take a leadership role. As has been indicated big data programs are complex. Opportunities might be identified from across the organization but it’s clear that IT needs to take the leadership role when it comes to strategy, planning, design, development and implementation.

Just as the telescope had a profound impact on the speed with which information became available when it first appeared, big data is starting to have a similar, if not greater, impact. And while large enterprises may have deeper pockets to leverage the capabilities it is mid-sized businesses that are at greater risk, if they ignore the possibilities.

By helping the IT departments of mid-sized companies meet their SLA mandates, Kaseya’s advanced monitoring solution, Traverse, helps free in-house IT staff to better respond to business requests and provides detailed intelligence that IT can use to add strong value in conversations regarding business innovation.

Learn more about how Kaseya technology can help. Read our whitepaper, Solving the Virtualized Infrastructure and Private Cloud Monitoring Challenge.

References:

Operationalizing the Buzz: Big Data 2013

Author: Ray Wright

IT Automation: For the Harried Yet Innovative IT Administrator

Are you a harried, yet innovative IT Administrator? With increased IT complexity, driven by cloud, mobility, and big data, it is no wonder that IT administrators are working harder than ever, but still having trouble keeping up. Yet, I hear story after story about the creative, innovative approaches that IT admins are taking to address these new challenges. Usually these approaches involve automation. In fact, IT automation needs to be part of every MSP and IT organizations’ plans to deal with the increased IT complexity, greater workloads, and flat budgets faced by every organization in every industry, in every part of the world.

But I still encounter resistance to IT automation by those who feel that IT automation is a path to “I don’t have a job.” Many IT administrators have become expert at maintaining systems with SW updates, patches, new security releases, etc., and some believe the automation of these functions would negatively impact their job. In reality, automation frees up good IT administrators to attack new, challenging, high impact opportunities to help support the business.

Others look at IT automation as a replacement for homegrown scripts, created to automate certain functions. These home grown scripts are a source of pride and job security. Unfortunately, they are usually not well documented, need regular maintenance and only cover a subset of the many functions that could and should be automated. It is hard to implement extensive automation of the many repetitive, manual IT tasks, by creating script after script.

Fortunately, there are solutions today that provide out-of-the-box automation for the many routine, repetitive, manual core functions that most IT administrators would gladly stop doing, while at the same time provide the flexibility, interfaces and tools needed for more creative and innovative IT automation. A simple search will reveal the key vendors, however, not all automation solutions are created equally. When evaluating these automation solutions, there are five key items you should consider:

1. Out-of-the-box

Tasks such as scheduled backups, software deployments, patches and security updates are automation capabilities that should be ready to go straight out-of-the-box.  Experienced vendors will have distilled these built-in capabilities from years of working with IT service providers and corporate IT departments to understand good practice areas such as routine maintenance, software deployment, security and compliance.

2. Policy-based

Ensuring that every user and every system is being managed consistently is critical. However, with thousands of systems logging onto and off various networks in multiple—sometimes global—networks, it isn’t feasible for the IT department to manually touch every machine, ensuring it is in compliance with all of the organization’s IT policies. With policy-based automation, IT administrators can define, manage, apply and enforce IT policies across groups of machines without human intervention.

3. Flexibility and Interfaces to be Creative

Once the core, “out-of-the-box” automation has been implemented, IT administrators can now differentiate themselves and their MSP businesses or IT organizations with creative, innovative automation capabilities. Examples I have seen include problem remediation, isolation of viruses, and stolen laptop recovery. In all cases, the automation solution provided easy-to-use, flexible tools to allow the creative IT administrator to be creative.

4. Proven

Look for a solution with proven automation capabilities, which have been implemented successfully in a large number of customers. Successful implementation of both core and innovative automation solutions across many customers (ideally thousands), will mean that IT administrators in your organization will likely be successful as well. But be sure to speak to a few references.

5. Community

A broad customer base with an active community who share automation use cases and implementations is very helpful. Look at the vendor’s community, see how it functions, and talk to community leaders to understand how the community works. IT administrators generally like to have “community” ties, and a strong community can enhance the work environment and speed automation results.

IT automation is a must for any MSP or IT organization trying to keep up with the complexity and challenges posed by cloud, mobility and big data. Choosing a proven solution with the right capabilities and community support can make the move to automation much easier, especially for the harried, but innovative IT administrator.

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

Good Policy Management is the Best Way to Reduce Reactive Support

proactive IT policy management

So many times we hear some one say that they are proactive and not reactive in their approach to support.  It is an approach to systems management and support that is sound and makes sense, but getting there is tricky right?  100% proactive support is unrealistic, as are flying unicorns, but there are certainly tools and tricks to maximizing proactive work and to minimizing the load that reactive support activities place on your IT organization.

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WEBINAR REPLAY: Determining Optimal Margins for your Managed Service Offerings

Webinar - Determining Optimal Margins for your Service Offerings

WEBINAR REPLAY:  MSP Pricing Tips – Determining Optimal Margins for Your Service Offerings (originally aired March 2012)

Led by MSP pricing expert Erick Simpson of MSP University, this webinar presented key MSP pricing tips to achieve optimal margins as part of an MSP service delivery offering.

As a sneak peak of the session, Erick’s presentation on determining optimal IT managed service margins covered:

  1.  An introduction to key pricing factors
  2. How to define – and calculate – labor cost
  3. How to define – and calculate – overhead cost
  4. How to use these data to optimize profits
  5. How to use these data to grow your business

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Monitoring a Microsoft Failover Cluster

With the last build, we have now released a Lua script that can monitor your Microsoft server cluster. The released version will check for operational status in nodes and shared resources.

Prerequisites:
Kaseya Network Monitor v4.1 Build 7394 or higher
Microsoft Windows Server 2003/2008 Cluster

Setting up this monitor involves setting up an object that represents the cluster. Testing of individual nodes is also possible but in case the node you are testing against would go down, the script would just fail, not being able to read any values.

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How to monitor VMWare using Kaseya Network Monitor 4.1

With the release of Kaseya Network Monitor version 4.1, we now have two built-in ways of monitoring your VMware infrastructure. We support versions 4.1 and 5.0 of ESX/ESXi from build 7345.

With the Lua script that comes with the install package, you can easily setup monitoring of the most common health counters’ operational status. The counters that are checked are the following:

  • CPU
  • Storage volumes
  • Storage Extent
  • Controller
  • SATA ports
  • Memory
  • Power supply
  • Fan

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Kaseya MSPs Rank Highest Worldwide

Kaseya has always been at the front of the pack in terms of tools that successful MSPs use to run their businesses. Its not a brag, well it is a brag, but its also a fact. Kaseya MSPs continue to dominate the MSP Mentor 100 list globally.

Let’s look at a break down of how many MSPs running Kaseya were represented on the various lists:

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Remediating Kaseya Network Monitor Events

The Basics

So you got testing up and running, but what happens when a monitor fails a test ?

KNM tests a monitor according to its test interval setting defined in the monitor property page. This is normally between 30-60 seconds. Alarm generation and alarm test interval is two properties that come in to play when a monitor fail a test.

Alarm generation tells the monitor how many consecutive times it has to fail a test to go from ok state to alarm state.  In between those two states there is an intermediate state called “failed” , the failed state is a mere visual indication that something may be about to happen.
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Tips and Tricks: Use Kaseya for network monitoring of ESX, Cisco, Avaya, Juniper, Dell, Hp ….

We have a great new MIB packaging to allow for robust network monitoring and systems monitoring with Kaseya Network Monitor. A new MIB file package for KNMv4 has been added to the download center. This package contains 29 MIB files  from different vendors such as Cisco, Dell, HP, Checkpoint, Avaya, Sonicwall, Riverbed, VMWare and Juniper.

The mib files we provide in this package can be used for monitoring network devices and systems including:
  • VOIP equipment
  • VMWare ESX servers
  • fans in a Cisco switches
  • a number of active VPN
And many many more metrics.

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