Automation Solutions: 10 Ways to Make Your MSP More Effective

Automation technology continues to become more sophisticated, allowing managed services providers (MSPs) to automate repetitive but important tasks with minimal effort. In fact, the right task automation solution can help you automate key operations without even needing to learn a new scripting language. IT automation is getting easier, less time-consuming, and more cost-effective, helping MSPs streamline their operations and boost the efficiency of their day-to-day activities.

To help you understand IT automation, this article will discuss how to achieve automation without learning a scripting language. It will also outline the benefits of using an MSP automation solution to help you understand if leveraging automation is right for you.

What is an automation script?

An automation script consists of a launch point, the source code, and variables with corresponding binding values. Generally when you create an automation script, you must have knowledge of scripting language syntax and operations. In other words, you have to already be familiar with a scripting language.

Traditionally, batch files and scripts have been used to automate task-oriented operations across both homogeneous and heterogeneous computing environments. Scripts are created to carry out important, routine tasks—which might include:

  • Automating networking activities
  • Monitoring system performance
  • Backing up and clearing event logs
  • Reading and writing to the registry
  • Managing various user accounts, printers, applications, services, and prints

To achieve the automation of these tasks, businesses often employ highly skilled—and expensive—programmers to write and maintain the scripts responsible for automating various jobs that would otherwise be managed manually.

The move from manual execution to automation by script was once valued as a way to reduce redundancy in execution, cut costs, standardize repetitive tasks, and streamline processes. In recent years, however, many businesses are tuning to automation tools, which have evolved to deliver a comprehensive suite of automated capabilities—without the need for users to learn a scripting language.

Automation software allows businesses to leverage existing scripts to deliver automation within a managed framework, without having to conduct custom script development and maintenance in the future. This means you can create automation scripts without code, significantly reducing development costs and timelines.

Using automation without learning a scripting language

The shift to dynamic, intelligent process automation is rooted in the struggle IT executives face as they try to grapple with rapidly changing business requirements and conditions. The current market conditions require better customer service, tighter integration between the business and customers, and higher productivity. To complicate matters, IT departments often find understanding the language of users and business managers a challenge, which makes delays to IT projects a regular occurrence. In a competitive environment, this can be very frustrating, given how imperative it is that businesses are able to adapt to changing business conditions.

Fortunately, task automation solutions allow businesses to bridge the gap between IT and business units, helping change the way IT departments deliver data and services to information workers. This adds new dimensions of agility and flexibility to businesses. With IT automation tools, you can rapidly realize the benefits of IT process automation. This drives down management and operational costs, increases productivity, and enforces compliance best practices that are designed to improve the availability and performance of critical applications.

IT automation tools allow you to achieve more with automation without the need to learn a new scripting language. As an IT service provider, you’re already aware of the dramatic difference automation can make to your daily operations. Despite these advantages, many IT service management software platforms still require you to learn complex scripting languages to make the most of their capabilities. However, with the right tool you can surpass simple automation and create processes for almost anything—even without scripting knowledge.

Here are some key benefits of implementing an MSP automation solution:

  • Eliminate code: When you implement an MSP automation solution, your automated tasks no longer rely on code. This reduces errors, as well as the costs and challenges associated with developing and maintaining code, batch files, and scripts. It also reduces machine and employee downtime caused by process errors or delays, as well as any errors associated with code maintenance.
  • Extend capabilities: IT automation tools can help you curb limitations, extend capabilities, and overcome any restrictions imposed by legacy systems and applications.
  • Accelerate information flows: MSP automation software helps you accelerate data flows, making information workers (i.e., decision makers and business users) more efficient. IT automation tools achieve this by delivering real-time access to accurate data, rather than requiring information workers to manually extract this data.
  • Centralize resources: The right task automation solution helps you improve security and your control over IT processes by centralizing the management of the automation network.
  • Free up employees: IT automation tools eliminate time-consuming, repetitive, labor-intensive IT tasks. This frees up employees to focus on strategic and complex activities where human interaction contributes the most value.
  • Create a cohesive organization: MSP automation software can improve collaboration between business users who benefit from automated processes and the IT professionals responsible for delivering automation.

The top 10 automated tasks

While the right MSP automation solution can help you automate almost anything, automating certain tasks can reap the most rewards. Here is a list of tasks that, when automated, can have an especially positive impact on company efficiency.

1. DISCOVERING AND IMPORTING NEW DEVICES

Manually discovering and importing new devices can be very tedious and repetitive, especially in growing or often changing business environments. An IT automation tool can automate this process for you, regularly discovering and updating your devices behind the scenes. By making device discovery automatic, you’ll instantly save your team a significant amount of time.

2. ONBOARDING

An MSP automation solution can create tasks to automatically set up and configure new endpoints, servers, or other devices on customer networks. This makes the onboarding process much easier, for both your team and your customers.

3. APPROVING PATCH CONFIGURATIONS

Manually approving patches can be time-consuming and prone to errors, which can have a disastrous impact on your systems. An IT automation tool with automated patch management capabilities can help you ensure that patches are accurate and configured in a timely manner—while still allowing you to manually approve certain patches as necessary.

4. DEPLOYING, CONFIGURING, AND UPDATING ANTIVIRUS

Maintaining updates is an important part of an IT department’s responsibilities, which is especially crucial when dealing with security operations like antivirus. If an antivirus solution isn’t deployed, configured, and updated correctly, it can make your environment vulnerable to cybercrime. Certain automation tools can deploy, configure, and update antivirus on your behalf so your customers always benefit from the most up-to-date antivirus capabilities.

5. CONFIGURING BACKUPS

A comprehensive MSP automation solution may also be able to configure your backups for you. Backups are a critical part of safeguarding business continuity and, when errors occur in backup configurations, it can have a devastating impact. The right IT automation tool can manage backups for you.

6. RESPONDING TO ALERTS

An IT automation solution can even automate responses to alerts, enabling the software to act on your behalf when certain circumstances arise. Instead of manually requesting that a technician respond to an alert each time, you can instruct your IT automation solution to trigger a programmed response anytime you receive a specific alert.

7. RUNNING RECURRING MAINTENANCE TASKS

Automation tools can help you run recurring maintenance tasks by completing lower-level repetitive tasks on autopilot. This ensures important maintenance still gets done, while freeing up technicians to take on more work or focus on higher-value activities.

8. REPORTING

Reporting can be a time-consuming task. An IT automation tool can generate detailed reports on automated steps taken by the system. For example, if the system fixes a server outage, the reports could help you uncover the failure’s root cause.

9. CREATING TICKETS

Help desks often receive emails, phone calls, and other types of correspondence that require a technician’s attention. To help address these communications in a timely manner, it’s important to turn them into tickets, which you can manage via the service desk. An IT automation tool can automate the creation of tickets from emails you receive, saving you time and effort.

10. FIX ISSUES

Many tools allow you to set up automatic fixes for common problem scenarios, such as an application failing. This allows you to automatically address certain problems, often before customers even know about them.

Leveraging automation with SolarWinds

SolarWinds® N-central® is an all-in-one remote monitoring and management solution that includes a powerful automation management utility. The Automation Manager features a drag-and-drop editor, which makes automating even complex tasks simple—while eliminating the need to learn scripting languages or proprietary code. N-central is the ideal MSP automation solution because it allows you to achieve maximum automation with minimal effort, time, and resources.

The Automation Manager included in N-central features more than 100 common tasks that are ready to be used out-of-the-box, meaning you can get started with automation almost instantly. This IT automation software also provides more than 600 elements to choose from when creating your automated tasks—making it easier to take on additional customers, scale your business quickly, and service larger and more complex environments.

As a starting point, N-central supports all the top 10 automated tasks mentioned above. Whether you want to speed up the onboarding process for new customers or create automatic remediation steps in case a check fails, SolarWinds N-central Automation Manager is up to the task. For MSPs interested in learning more, a 30-day free trial of N-central is available.

If you want to find out more about how automation can help your MSP business, check the automation section of our blog

You can also check out our Automation Cookbook at www.solarwindsmsp.com/cookbook, which has been created to help partners collaborate and share their scripts and monitoring. It provides a one-stop shop for all things automation. It contains  a collection of Automation «recipes» that MSPs can take and use on their own. It currently has over 380 curated and reviewed scripts and is constantly growing with the support of MSPs everywhere, as well as the support of the Automation Team at SolarWinds.