Workload automation and job scheduling assist IT departments to achieve a high volume of work. IT automation spreads efficiency to all departments of an organization and takes care of the tedious tasks that no one wants to do.
IT automation is a wide field and it ranges from small-batch files that any savvy IT worker puts together to speed up system investigation routines and regular admin tasks. The field also includes some very comprehensive system management tools and office data processing software.
We get into a lot of depth on each of the solutions we feture below, but if you only want a summary, here is our list of the ten best IT automation software:
- ActiveBatch Flexible workload automation and job scheduling tool.
- Control-M General job scheduler and batch file manager for IT departments.
- Redwood RunMyJobs Task automation for ERPs, reporting engines, and migration projects.
- JAMS Enterprise Job Scheduler Cross-platform batch job manager.
- Turbonomic Application Resource Management Automated system optimization tool that improves the delivery of software over a network or from the cloud.
- ConnectWise Automate Network management automation system aimed at MSPs.
- Atera Cloud-based software that supports MSP and includes workflow automation.
- BMC TrueSight Automation for Servers This tool automates many server security monitoring and maintenance tasks for on-site, remote, and cloud servers.
- Ansible Automates infrastructure management tasks.
- Automate A task scheduling system for endpoints and servers.
Automated IT processes
Many tools can be set up to run on a timed schedule. Running standard reports overnight saves having to sit and wait for the output and also reduces the load on the system during working hours. Job schedules are usually very easy to set up and just involve giving a batch job an execution start time.
A lot of data processing tasks, such as importing, indexing and sorting can only be carried out effectively by computers. However, these data processing tasks usually need a human to launch them. Consider the process of loading data into a database from a text file. The job requires several different processes to be launched in series, with the human operator having to wait for each stage to complete before running the next.
Getting an IT technician to sit in front of a computer waiting for each phase to complete is a waste of resources. It is just better to put those commands in a batch file and then let that file wait for each process to complete before moving on to execute the next command in the file.
Automated business processes
Business processes interconnect. The Accounts Receivable department needs to know if a job has been signed off before issuing an invoice; the Accounts Payable section needs to see goods received notes and purchase orders before paying incoming bills. Automating the data flows between departments cuts out time-consuming data entry tasks that can end up introducing human error into data transfers.
Moving repetitive, boring jobs over to automated processing frees up expensive human resources for more profitable work.
IT automation strategies
The concept of IT automation varies from simple batch jobs and technician tools to timed job scheduling and on to complete business ERP systems. Because, to some degree, all software represents an automation package, this report will focus on just one niche in the IT automation field: that of system administration tools.
Automation software exists in all corners of the IT department. The department has a deep pool of technical knowledge and usually, if the boss won’t supply the automation software that each technician wants, he’s likely to just write it himself. So, you probably have a lot more automation software running in your business than you know about.
If you provide professional IT automation software, your technicians will be less likely to go rogue and write their own.
The best IT automation software and tools
Looking at the field of automation for IT departments, the market is still very wide. However, we have investigated the options available and identified some real time-savers that are well worth paying for. This list includes complete system automation systems and smaller task automation tools.
ActiveBatch was originally called Batch Queue Management System, which was a job scheduler. The developer of ActiveBatch, Advanced Systems Concepts, developed the software further, adding cross-platform capabilities, the ability to schedule tasks in distributed environments, and a graphical user interface.
The front end enables the administrator to create a workflow. The ActiveBatch software interprets that workflow into command-line instructions for each of the applications involved in the workflow. This batch script is then available to implement the workflow and the administrator can specify a time and date for execution and whether the workflow should be executed periodically or one time only.
One of the main advantages that ActiveBatch has is its ease of use. The software is also able to operate on cloud servers and can optimize virtualization VM to server allocations dynamically. A reporting feature in the interface lets you see how many resources each batch run required, letting you know the load that each of your automated processes put on your server processors and network devices.
Control-M is a workflow orchestration tool from BMC Software. The administrator builds an automated script by creating a process workflow in the interface of Control-M. The system then interprets those graphical representations of required task steps into a script. That script can then be stored and executed on-demand or scheduled for later execution. The workflow can also be set as a repetitive process to be launched at regular intervals, such as every night at midnight.
Workflows can be executed across operating systems. They can also be applied to remote systems and cloud servers. Two important IT administration tasks that Control-M is suitable for are the automated transfer of files between different resources and the management of virtualizations.
The software for Control-M installs on Windows and Unix hosts. BMC offers a free trial of Control-M.
Redwood Workload Automation is a cloud-based service that can automate workflows across platforms and also run jobs on cloud servers. The tool is able to interface with ERP systems to automate many of the manual data management tasks that their data flow processes leave out.
RunMyJobs is also a useful tool to assist with migration projects. The transfer of data from one system to another can be particularly human resource-intensive, even though the process requires very few skills. RunMyJobs is an ideal tool for automating such tasks.
Other tasks that RunMyJobs frequently performs include regular file transfers for applications such as Syslog server and infrastructure optimization to improve the supporting infrastructure that delivers software and services to endpoints. It is also able to implement traffic shaping to prioritize applications on the network, such as VoIP, which requires extra speed.
Rather than charging a monthly subscription, Redwood operates a consumption-based pricing model, much like AWS. Redwood Software offers a 30-day free trial of RunMyJobs.
JAMS Enterprise Job Scheduler is able to launch scripts on a range of platforms and can even execute jobs that require lines to be run on different hosts.
The interface for JAMS is very easy to use. It employs natural language commands and conditions, so even non-technical staff could use the tool to launch batch scripts. The job launcher is also able to execute PowerShell scripts.
The system records metrics about the execution of each script and alerts an operator by leaving a message in the interface if processes don’t complete normally. A JAMS process is able to string jobs together, making each dependent on the completion of other jobs, or launching jobs that can run in parallel. All notifications that arise during the execution of a process get written to a log, together with operational details such as the start and end times of each job in the batch, and each script in the job.
JAMS is more focused on job scheduling and doesn’t have the extensive monitoring and remediation functions that some of the other tools on this list can perform.
Turbonomic is a very good monitor for Cloud-based resources and virtualizations. The tool will track the performance of onsite infrastructure WANs remote sites, and hybrid architectures. Turbonomic is itself is delivered as Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service.
The monitor uses an autodiscovery process to compile a list of infrastructure, services, and software. it also records all of the resources that support virtualizations and draws up a map of each VM implementation. Turbonomic creates a workflow from the relationship between VM resources and keeps an eye on each, displaying color-coded statuses in the system dashboard.
The monitor is compatible with VMWare, Hyper-V, and XenServer. After assessing the virtualizations, Turbonomic produces a list of configuration recommendations that would better deploy resources to provide those VMs.
Turbonomic keeps monitoring resource statuses and alerts where problems arise. The administrator can set automated remediation actions for Turbonomic to carry out for each potential problem.
This tool is suitable for use by managed service providers as well as IT departments. Higher plans of the system include self-service templates, which will greatly reduce the number of Help Desk calls from the user community. Turbonomic is available on a 30-day free trial.
ConnectWise Automate is a support package for managed service providers. The tool is a remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform that, as the name suggests, includes a lot of process automation. The tool starts off with a system sweep to discover and log all equipment on the client’s network.
The system automates technician action tracking and includes a library of scripts that automate workflows for standard support tasks. These extend to database value updates and also password resets. Monitoring tasks, such as the scanning of statuses on equipment are also automated.
Software updating and patching are also automated with this tool and it is possible to onboard new endpoints with a library of required software automatically. This is followed by an endpoint profile, which enables you to create groups of required software suites by user role.
ConnectWise Automate is a cloud-based package, so you don’t need to install any software to use it – access to the console is through any browser and the dashboard can be customized per technician role. All communication between the MSP offices, the ConnectWise server, and the client site is encrypted for privacy.
Atera is another cloud-based system automation service that is aimed at MSPs. This is the complete suite of software that any MSP would need, including an RMM suite and also the professional services automation (PSA) software that MSP management needs to monitor staff performance and run the business.
As a closed-loop system, Atera includes a lot of data flow automation. However, it also includes specific system investigation and task automation. The system starts up with its monitoring service when a new client is signed up by scanning that client’s system with a network discovery procedure. This automatically logs all equipment and generates a network map.
The network mapping processes continue to operate throughout Atera’s service life monitoring a remote client site. This notices when any equipment is added, removed, or moved.
The RMM package includes a library of scripts. These scripts perform the routine and mundane tasks of system management, freeing up human resources for more complicated tasks. Atera offers a 30-day free trial of the full RMM and PSA bundle.
The TrueSight system focuses on server monitoring and maintenance. It can manage servers on-site, at remote sites, and on the cloud. The Server automation tool deploys scripts that run periodically and automatically to gather status information about server attributes. This tool is particularly interested in security vulnerabilities.
The TrueSight system checks for software and operating system updates and patches and applies them automatically. The tool also includes configuration management that backs up configurations and restores them if any unauthorized changes are detected. The tool also functions as a threat remediation system, identifying vulnerabilities and monitoring them closely for suspicious activity.
TrueSight Automation for Servers will monitor servers, fix problems, prevent tampering and intrusion and restore authorized statuses where necessary without any human intervention. Effectively, this software allows businesses to safely secure and operate their servers without having to hire specialist technicians.
Ansible is a product of Red Hat, Inc. which is the organization behind Red Hat Enterprises Linux (RHEL). Ansible runs on that operating system. It will also install on CentOS and Ubuntu Linux. The tool is able to automate the monitoring and management of infrastructure, including networks, applications, and servers on-site and on the cloud.
The Ansible automation processes will enforce system security and manage containers and virtualizations. The tool has an attractive dashboard that presents status and performance visualizations. However, the system manager shouldn’t need to spend too much time watching the console because Ansible should automatically fix any problems that it detects.
The tool runs on Linux, but it is able to launch processes on servers with other operating systems. It is a useful tool for optimizing networks and internet connections through traffic shaping measures. It will keep the delivery of software and applications timely and it will monitor and support your firewall and IDS and SIEM security systems. Ansible is available on a free trial.
HelpSystems produces three editions of its Automate system. These are Automate Desktop, Automate Plus, and Automate Ultimate. All three involve “robotic process automation.”
Desktop automation includes software set up, data locating, file transfers, and web browser automation. Businesses are more likely to be interested in the Plus and Ultimate versions of Automate. Those versions include security procedures, action logging, and system auditing. They also include the facility to create workflows that string together actions and those get interpreted into automation scripts.
The Automate system is easy to use and it uses natural language in its screens rather than technical jargon. This means that the system can be administered by staff who do not have technical expertise.
Get into automation
Automating routine tasks will free up staff for more important and intelligent work. The everyday tasks of transferring log files, flushing memory and cleaning disks don’t need a human mind to carry out.
Do you use any automation tools for your IT support tasks? Do you use any of the tools on this list? Leave a message in the Comments section below to share your experience.