Jasper Fiet’s presentation on Empower MSP Day One looked at the automation functionality for the N-central® platform.
“In all parts of your MSP business, you have parts that can be automated,” said Jasper. “These include deployment—onboarding new devices and customers; management of things like patch, AV, and backup; remediation and self-healing;
monitoring backup checks; and reporting.
“Automation can help you reduce manual intervention required by your technicians, improve your response time to react to issues and speed up setup of devices and users. A lot of people think automation is just about scripting, but anywhere where you can save time is where you can automate.”
Jasper highlighted some simple processes to help you decide what to automate in your company.
“Everyone wants to start advanced, but you need to start with the basics first,” he explained. “For example, look at what your top five call drivers are in your help desk—many of these will be tasks that can be automated to save your technicians time. Then look at the mundane repeatable tasks that you and your techs are doing over and over again. Also, deploying software is often somewhere you can make gains with automation. MSPs don’t tend to look at the quick wins that can save them a few minutes a week, but these add up over the course of a year.”
Also, part of automation is self-healing or remediation. Jasper highlighted some straightforward areas this could cover—for example, if the server stops working, you can automatically restart it; if the time on the computer is not correct, you can resync it; if a backup doesn’t run, you can restart it.
Jasper also pointed out that without automation, it would be difficult for MSPs to progress from break/fix to proactive or managed programs.
If you’re concerned about the time it would take you to automate all your process, don’t be. Automation Manager is a powerful drag-and-drop tool that allows you to use building blocks to create scripts without having to get involved with the actual writing. “Automation Manager provides codeless PowerShell scripting, allowing everyone to speak the same language,” said Jasper. “Instead of doing any actual coding, you simply select objects and drag them onto a template. It has built-in policies available for over 150 core tasks.”
The Automation Manager can be found under Start Automation Manager in the Actions menu.
Automation Manager also provides functionality that ensures your customers know you’re adding value. “If a customer’s laptop disk is full, you can clean it automatically, which is great… but the customer doesn’t see the value you’re adding as it just happens,” explained Jasper. “Instead, you can create a prompt that asks whether the customer wants to have their disk cleaned automatically or they want to do it themselves. Alternatively, you can create a pop-up that says you’re going to perform maintenance.”
Jasper then went on to show how to build these pop-ups using drag and drop, explaining what all the objects do, as well as running through a series of other quick automation wins for MSPs, demonstrating how these could be created using Automation Manager. These included: enabling/disabling USB storage devices, downloading CCleaner and running a scan, downloading and installing SolarWinds® Backup, restarting the print spooler, downloading file and installing an application, and clock drift.
So where can you start with automation? “We have a community that shares scripts, or you can talk to me or one of our sales engineers,” concluded Jasper. “We also have monthly training for Automation Manager, which we do via WebEx, and customers can find the schedule in our Community Portal.”
The scripts Jasper created during his presentation can be found here.
Jasper Fiet is manager, sales engineering EMEA for SolarWinds MSP
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