Effective IT automation systems
In modern businesses, automation is a vital ingredient of success.
Automating repetitive tasks and manual processes can save you time and money, reduce errors, and enhance your entire business's efficiency.
What does automation look like from an IT perspective?
What is IT automation?
If your business is pursuing digital transformation, then embracing IT automation will be vital to that journey.
In a basic sense, IT automation allows you to set up instructions for completing repetitive tasks, to remove the need for your IT department to do it. IT automation processes can be applied to various environments and typically involve the use of different software tools, apps, and frameworks to minimize the need for human intervention.
IT automation can look vastly different depending on the scale to which you use it. For example, you might use minimal IT automation to carry out a small number of processes. Alternatively, your IT automation could involve building an autonomous IT system that works automatically based on user behavior or triggers from integrated tools.
Why should you use IT automation in your business?
For the same reason you should use automation in any other sense.
While IT administrators and other IT professionals are highly skilled and do fantastic work, a system can do a lot of their work quicker. You can then deploy them elsewhere in your business and working within your IT framework at points where human intervention is necessary and provides greater value.
In addition, IT automation can also help you:
- Better define and optimize your IT processes.
- Monitor data more effectively as an automated system will be consistent in performance and timings.
- Identify wasted resources or opportunities to redeploy them.
- Achieve better availability and uptime for your systems.
- Boost speed and performance across your IT environment.
- Undertake complex IT processes efficiently, often without using code.
- Run your business 24/7, as you do not always need someone “at the wheel,” so to speak.
How automation is used in the IT industry and IT departments
Some businesses do not embrace IT automation because they do not feel like they need to. "We are not an IT business" is a common reason. Still, the reality is most businesses use some IT processes in their business.
Here are some ways automation is used across the IT industry (and in IT departments!). Which ones could you bring into your business?
If you build custom apps for internal use, automation can help at every stage of the process, from committing to the build to every step of the process until final deployment and use.
The beauty of using IT automation in app deployment is that you can do it regardless of the environment in which you build your apps. The outcome? You get a robust app, free from errors, with vast swathes of time saved on things like testing and QA.
Security, compliance, and governance
IT security and compliance with laws and other regulations and standards is a 24/7/365 job. By deploying automation across your security systems, you ensure it is always at work. At the same time, standardized and consistent processes and workflows make it far easier to conduct audits.
The same rings true if you are ever subject to external checking. An automated security system is far easier for verification and checking enforcement than one with every team member's fingerprints all over it.
IT migration is a little bit like moving to a new house. It sounds simple enough to do – moving things from one place to another – but has the potential to turn into a nightmare quickly.
Whether you want to migrate data, applications, operating systems, and whether you are using physical data centers, the cloud, or a combination of these, IT migration often means many moving parts and even more repetition. Automation can make this happen much quicker and massively reduce the chance of errors occurring or your business losing data.
If your IT framework relies on many different apps, your systems can quickly become complex.
This is because your apps will all have different settings and requirements for working effectively and integrate with various other elements of your IT systems. Old school businesses would once store their app configurations in a Word doc or Excel sheet. Why? So IT admins could refer to it when managing all the apps in a system.
You do not need me to tell you how inefficient this is, especially when someone has to write another guide each time you integrate a new app!
Automation can take care of your configuration management while making it simple for your team to make changes with a simple script, or sometimes without using code at all.
3 excellent IT automation tools
There are many platforms out there to help you embrace IT automation. Each business is different will have a unique set of automation needs, so it pays to do your homework to ensure you find the right tool to help you.
Here are three of our favorites.
1. Microsoft System Center
If you are looking to automate server performance and management, Microsoft System Center is a fantastic tool. It is packed with features that will take care of all your automation needs and let you or your IT team focus on more productive tasks.
Although Microsoft System Center is naturally suited to larger businesses, we would suggest using it even if you are relatively small and looking to grow. It will save you needing to migrate later!
If your biggest challenge with your IT systems is configuration management, then Chef is the IT automation tool for you. The Chef system provides continual analysis of your servers, ensuring they are optimized. At the same time, the system automatically detects and corrects any configuration errors to ensure your systems remain operational at all times.
One of the most significant benefits of using Chef is how it helps you automate for users' benefit. It keeps everything simple and straightforward, and easy for your team to manage!
3. Relay by Puppet
If you are working in a DevOps environment and need to bring together a range of complex IT workflows, Relay by Puppet is ideal for doing this at scale across a flexible, multi-cloud infrastructure.
Relay by Puppet is perfect if you want to maintain the option to have human checking throughout your IT workflows. You can add approval steps to all workflows, delegate specific tasks to each team member, and get an on-demand, birds-eye view of how your workflows and systems are interacting with one another. Puppet’s integration library is brilliant, allowing you to add instructions and steps to your processes with the minimum of fuss.
Using effective IT automation in your business
You do not need to be a large IT company for automation to be transformative for your business. Even embracing automation for a handful of simple tasks can make a significant difference and save you a lot of time and money. Most crucially, it means you will already have a foundation and experience of using automation, which you can add to as your business grows rather than having to embrace it and undergo digital transformation later.