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Simple-to-automate IT tasks: Stop doing these 3 things

There are certain tasks that no IT ops administrator should still do manually. No more excuses -- take these easy operations processes off your plate, and let scripts or tools take over.

IT operations groups struggle to get key daily tasks done that keep data centers and cloud deployments up and running...

smoothly. While daily tasks don't get the same attention as emergencies, a backlog can affect operations, and even cause major problems.

IT operations staff members execute these processes the same way every day, because it's the status quo and it works. When a given task first started, the manual approach might have been the best -- or only -- way to accomplish it. But in modern IT, you can easily save time and effort if you automate IT tasks.

Better automation tools have emerged, and tasks and processes are increasingly friendly to command-line interface control and automation. Take a close look at daily IT tasks with a fresh view of what can be scripted -- it will make life in the operations center better, and it's likely overdue. Automate these three IT tasks to start.

Extend virtual resources

One minor but annoying issue with virtual servers is that they can run out of space -- on the C drive, data drive or elsewhere. Extending disks in a virtual server's OS isn't a complex or difficult problem, but it's needed often enough that this is an ideal place to automate IT tasks.

Monitoring tools alert to a lack of space on a virtual server easily. The automation processes of a tool such as Red Hat Ansible, PowerShell or another CLI can increase the virtual disk size and extend the operating system partition handily. Low-space warnings should not require intervention from the IT operations staff unless they become a trend.

To automate this IT task, the monitoring tool or tools must be able to kick off scripted tasks, but also test the setup so that it doesn't inadvertently mask a problem. For example, you should not be able to automatically extend the same disk over and over; that over-usage scenario requires root problem investigation.

Patch guest OSes

Script patches, updates and reboots to lift a huge burden from IT staff.

Application downtimes, migrations, updates and reboots are part of a never-ending cycle for IT operations that can drain the IT operations staff, particularly for off-hours runs. For applications with well-vetted updates and a solid patching routine, automate the IT operations steps to deploy new code.

PowerShell is well-suited to orchestrate Windows updates remotely, including the system reboots when required. Check if the application in question has available PowerShell commandlets -- premade sets of PowerShell commands. In addition to Windows systems, the major virtualization platforms also work with PowerShell commands, which extends this common language across multiple platforms.

Before you dive in and automate every IT operations step in OS updates, be aware of a few downsides. You must ensure everything is set correctly and tested before an update script goes live. Large-scale automation processes are not exactly easy to stop. Any mistakes happen at breakneck speed with CLI-based operations, so test, then test more -- it is absolutely critical to success.

Run a systems check

One of the last IT tasks to automate today is the first thing most IT operations staff members do when they get to work. Admins like to check over the systems to make sure everything is running okay, whether with a physical walk through the data center or perusal of multiple systems and reports to get a complete picture of the deployments' health.

When you automate IT tasks, it isn't just to fix things. Here, automate how the data on operations is collected and displayed. Operations data collection doesn't actually change production systems, but automating it is one of the most convenient things for an admin, and it's simple to do.

Everything IT operations staff needs at-a-glance should be presented in a collected, organized fashion without the need to chase down more info. Use a combination of scripting and/or automation and orchestration tools to collect needed reports.

IT automation should make the mundane and common daily tasks and events take care of themselves, so operations teams can work on more critical projects.

This was last published in November 2018

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