November 05, 2018
Question: How does your company use automation? How does it improve your business?
Chris Taylor: From an automation perspective, we use a lot of different industry tools. We use our MSP tools that are built into it to manage escalation and alerts. Obviously, our backup technology does automate spin ups of the server every week, and sends reports - all that is automated - we don't have guys that are doing that. If something fails, that generates a ticket that we manually type in, but a lot of that process has been automated. A lot of the day-to-day system monitoring, system update, system patching - all that stuff is pretty well automated these days. We really only have to step in when things aren't happening correctly the way they're supposed to from an automated perspective.
Jamie Wolbeck: We currently automate about two to three FTE's worth of work every month. Our measure, our mark of that is what repeatable standards can we keep doing over and over where automation will come into play - so it's done the same way every time; that somebody can just click a button or look at something and say, ‘Yes, I need to run this script, and deploy it and then how much work content is that going to take out on a month-to-month basis.’ And so, our measures of trying to do that have been in a couple of ways. We have a sub community within our organization where we do contests to understand what the best automation would look like. We let people compete with certain scripts, kind of evaluating which scripts are going to take away the most work content; which ones are going to make this a repeatable process; and remove those potential mistakes that might occur. And that's created this group of people now who are really interested in writing those scripts. So, we use those scripts on a quarter-to-quarter basis to see what sort of things can be removed from the overall work content; from the remote support team or the project team, for example. So quick examples of that are desktop setups. Can we just plug a desktop into play? A scripted pulls the image down and does all the base setups and now the only the customization is existing where it's ready to deliver. So that's one; Office 365 migrations are another one. Can we get this to the point where we can punch in a first name, last name, set in a CSV file, import it and it knows, okay, I'm setting up all these users based on certain parameters. So, we've been able to do that. And larger ones are around the server setups, like what sort of network deployments can we do by just hooking up a host server and build an entire virtual environment by using Get commands that are pulling down images and then automatically setting up those servers. Those are things that we've learned through these contests that people have already been working on. It uncovers, ‘Oh hey, we should just be using this for everybody. Why are you just using it?’ And, so the sub community that's come together is really improving and they're egging each other on to do better. We just keep that going and keep building off of that - then we get to a point where we have more automation than we've ever had before.
Fred Alonzi: We do a lot of automation of Par3. In fact, a couple of us really have a lot of background in programming so we can build these little widgets to help us. One of the things I have to plug with the managed services is the ability to script these widgets and run them on workstations and devices. These servers can collect all sorts of information and automates so many processes for us. And, this is really important to us because we do have that skill set -we can automate these things, we need the platform to be able to do the automation on and, and the Solar Winds platform has given us that opportunity. We can distinguish ourselves even from other Solar Winds vendors because of the number of scripts we've written and plugged into the managed services portal and allow our customers to benefit from that automation. I think that's just part of the whole managed services process. Just to automate all that service, a service route time required to support our clients - and that's certainly a big part of it - to automate all of that under one dashboard. It's great that we have the integration with the antivirus, the patching system and the backups. Getting it all into one dashboard and being able to manage it and automate a lot of those processes using those widgets in between systems is all really critical to us.