This might seem obvious—you automate to save costs, right? True, automation saves you money by keeping techs from spending employee hours on repetitive work. This undoubtedly plays a major role. But the bottom line isn’t the only reason. With automation, you can:
• Reduce human errors.
Scripts can handle complex tasks the same way each time, reducing the potential for human error. It’s easy for an exhausted technician to do a step out of order and cause an issue.
• Extend your RMM platform’s capabilities.
You can always create an add-on to handle some additional monitoring capabilities for new device types, or to handle the nuances of legacy systems.
• Get information faster.
Instead of manually pulling data, automation can mine data from systems and networks, giving technicians quick diagnostic information and executives strong reporting information without having to bog an employee down in too much minutia.
• Free up employees.
No one likes doing repetitive boring tasks all day. Automation can take some of this drudgery away by allowing them to work on higher-level tasks that require human interaction and challenge them—making work far more interesting.
• Building capacity for interruptions.
You know the drill—customers call with a problem because their network’s running at a snail’s pace and you have to summon the team to spend hours figuring out the root cause. Automating tasks lets you feel confident you still have other tasks covered, like patching, backup, and routine maintenance.
• Respond to issues faster.
You can set up automation tasks to occur based on a given trigger event, like a device exceeding a specific threshold. For example, if a service fails, you could set up your RMM to either reset the service automatically or even run a script set by the sysadmin in response. It doesn’t even have to be a full fix—there’s some benefit to simply having an automation script deliver you more information on an issue by checking specific issues first or ruling out potential problems. That saves your tech time and gives them something to go on.
Customers demand a greater quality of service. They want issues fixed quickly because they face serious costs when there’s downtime at their site. A well-automated MSP can have an edge in this case. For example, let’s say a client submits a ticket about a slowly running server impacting a critical business system. Without automation or remote monitoring, you may have to send a tech in person to run checks. Automation can handle this for you before anyone arrives on-site.
What should you automate?
It’s clear there’s a broad range of benefits for automation. From cost savings to expanded service offerings to simply making your team’s lives easier, there’s very little in an MSP business that automation can’t help. That said, what should you automate? Again, there are several types of automation to consider here. Some tasks will be built-in features for your RMM solution, and you simply need to set up the features correctly for your customers.
A word about RMM scripting
For some solutions, you’ll need extensive scripting knowledge. And frankly, in some cases, you may even need to learn a new, proprietary language. However, not all require you to be a scripting ninja. N-able™ N-central® doesn’t require you to learn a new scripting language. You can upload your own PowerShell scripts or download premade scripts from our automation cookbook. Plus, it comes with a drag-and-drop automation editor that allows you to create full automation workflows without having to write a single line of code.
Potential automation task ideas
1. Discovering new devices.
If your RMM doesn’t already do this, writing a script to pick up new signals on your company’s Wi-Fi is crucial. Once you discover the new device, you can decide how best to handle it. This can be particularly useful to see if there are unprotected machines you’re not currently monitoring.
2. Patch management.
Automate and schedule as much as you can for patching across your systems. This includes checking for out-of-date systems, downloading patches during off-hours, immediately applying priority security patches, etc.
While this is a more complex process, you should map out your process, then anything repetitive, and consider automating. This could mean configuring servers or workstations, setting up user accounts, rolling out RMM agents, deploying important software like endpoint detection and response or email protection, checking for machines running ancient software or unpatched operating systems, or making sure all required applications are installed on the end machine.
4. Excessive user privileges.
Piggybacking off the previous point, when you onboard a new client, it’s common for companies to have users with higher-than-average user privileges. For example, an early employee who worked as an executive assistant may end up with access to critical systems they simply don’t need access to. Setting up a script to scan for privileges within common identity systems like Active Directory can give you the lay of the land early on so you can start to correct some of the issues.
5. Employee offboarding.
Just like onboarding, expect some turnover. Regardless of the reason for someone leaving, you can’t have them walk out with access to old systems. Try to write a script to turn off the basics—access to company communication systems like email, Microsoft teams, shared drives like OneDrive, financial records, or anything that could prove potentially damaging to the company. You may still need to look at each individual employee’s information after they leave and double check information, but the automation you write up front can really take a lot of the early grunt work out of the process.
6. Responding to alerts.
When an alert arises, you can have your RMM solution create a ticket in your PSA or help desk if you either write a script or have an existing integration between the two (such as between N-able N-central and N-able MSP Manager). Additionally, you can always get more granular by classifying certain alerts based on a set of criteria—priority level, potential systems affected, or clients affected—and properly route the ticket for triage. Additionally, if you have a predictable alert, try creating a script to deal with that alert in a manner, even if it’s simply to gather additional diagnostic criteria.
7. Basic maintenance tasks.
Routine maintenance tasks are ripe for automation. Scripts can allow you to frequently defragment the hard drive, remove temp files, or flag files over a certain size to administrators looking to save disk space.
8. Application removal.
One good security practice involves keeping an application allow or block list. (In fact, many security operations need some level of automation.) Writing a script— or perhaps using one from our Automation Cookbook and modifying it for your purposes— allows you to keep users from installing disallowed applications that could either introduce security issues or harm network or system performance.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. You’ll come up with your own. And if you have the opportunity, you may even decide to share some scripts with the wider N-able community.
Motivating your team to work on automation
Find out more about the best practices that will help you motivate your team to work on automation and actually embrase it in your everyday operations here!
Learning more about automation
You can always assign at least one member of the team to learn more. If you have something you want to automate, Ortholy’s team can help. Plus, you don’t always have to write your scripts from scratch. N-able N-central includes a drag-and-drop automation editor that allows you to create full automation workflows without having to write a single line of code. So if you want to upload your own scripts or you want to drag-and-drop your way to greater efficiency, N-central can help.
N-able N-central: Built for Automation
Ultimately, those MSPs that embrace automation can boost efficiency and speed up their business, giving them an incredible competitive edge. N-central was built to help you tackle complex networks. And with the automation capabilities, it’s also built to help you scale your business as you need.