Some of the most important processes in the IT industry are the ones that help manage your infrastructure; whether you’re responsible for small local networks or massive national ones, automation can make your job easier and less stressful.
However, there are many different approaches to automation, each with its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to implement the right kind of automation within your organization to ensure that it’s implemented correctly, consistently, and for optimal benefit to everyone involved.
Here are some of the main types of automation and some best practices associated with them to help you implement an optimal automation strategy in your organization.
What Is Automation?
There are many ways to define automation. Some will tell you that it’s just a software program that automates repetitive processes. However, others say that automation is so much more than just a single application or technology. It’s about standardizing every procedure in order to streamline operations and reduce errors across multiple departments within an organization. This can be both internal and external departments.
In order to implement automation, you first need to determine what problems you’re trying to solve. Are there manual processes within your organization that can be replaced with a software application? Do people currently have multiple job titles because they have multiple responsibilities? Is there a single process that takes a long time and may introduce human error or other issues? By answering these questions, you can better understand what an automated solution could look like.
Types of Automation
There are numerous benefits to implementing automation solutions, but there is one primary reason – more time for you and your team. The less time you spend on repetitive tasks, such as changing BIOS settings on servers, the more time you can dedicate to more strategic tasks such as analyzing data or defining new processes.
Many of these tasks could be automated by a system or application that can save you time with a few clicks of a button. Not only does automation save companies significant money with its ability to complete tasks without human interaction, it also helps companies become better organized and reduce errors by streamlining business processes from start to finish. With automation best practices involved in every step of business management, there is no doubt that any company can be more productive.
When selecting an automation solution for your infrastructure, make sure that their software has been engineered based on best practices. A solid foundation is essential when building anything, especially technology platforms used throughout an organization. Understanding what makes up these platforms will help you ensure that they are built correctly so they won’t fail at a crucial moment down the road.
Business Process Automation
To begin with, it is important to outline why process automation is critical to business success. As an organization grows, more people are involved in managing different processes within that company. While it is true that humans are capable of handling many tasks simultaneously, they are not very efficient at it. This means there will be a lot of wasted time and resources if things are not automated. When you first implement process automation, you will see how much more efficient your business can become because of it.
While there are many different benefits to process automation, there are also drawbacks that you need to be aware of. The first thing to consider is that implementing new systems can be extremely costly and take a great deal of time without the proper expertise. As an alternative, you could work with a managed service provider like Axeleos who will do all your system management so that it works seamlessly with other internal processes. If you choose to go with managed services, they will also be responsible for maintaining updated applications and upgrading them as needed.
Next, you need to consider exactly what types of processes are ripe for automation. The first thing that needs to be understood is that not all processes are suited to being automated. If possible, look at setting up an ongoing process review so you can determine which processes are best suited for automation based on how often they occur and other factors.
Another thing you need to do is think about where you want to implement process automation. One of your options is to simply make it a company-wide effort, but another possibility is to create designated areas within your organization where automation is more heavily focused. If you don’t choose a specific focus area, there is a chance that some processes could be overlooked as they relate only to certain departments or business units. It may be helpful to map out exactly what needs to happen and then decide where automation would be most appropriate based on that information.
Resource Provisioning Automation
Provisioning is a resource lifecycle management process. At its most basic level, provisioning is about ensuring that you have everything you need to support current and future business requirements. The three key elements of provisioning are: identifying all needed resources; ensuring those resources are available and ready for use; and tracking how they’re used to optimize your organization’s performance. To ensure that your organization has all of the resources it needs, you need a resource provisioning automation solution that can quickly identify what needs to be procured and how many of each resource you require (no matter what they might be). This level of automation ensures consistency across your entire environment as well as reduced risk.
With automation, you can automate not only how many resources you need but also what kind of resources they are. You can even automate how these resources are deployed and decommissioned. This type of automation is crucial because it frees up more time for your team to focus on more important tasks, like ensuring that these resources are actually used in an efficient manner (which is often where many problems occur). The right resource provisioning automation solution will allow you to make quick adjustments as business needs change, making it easy to expand or shrink your environment with minimal effort.
At its core, resource provisioning is about ensuring that your organization has everything it needs at any given time to support current and future business requirements.
Configuration Management Automation
Is your organization still manually configuring servers or deploying applications? It’s time to move to Configuration Management. Today’s IT environments are dynamic and require automated processes to manage them effectively. To remain competitive, your organization must embrace automation across all aspects of its systems management. After all, manual process-based methods simply won’t cut it in today’s agile environment.
Configuration Management allows you to deploy applications and configurations across your infrastructure in a repeatable manner. You can manage thousands of servers through advanced provisioning automation or schedule tasks based on various triggers.
The industry standard for Configuration Management is Ansible, which can be used to automate all aspects of your systems management, including application deployment, network configuration, service deployment and software installation. When applied properly, Ansible can dramatically reduce resource requirements while improving efficiency and accuracy.
Best Practices for On-Premises Infrastructure
Infrastructure automation can be used to reduce costs and improve productivity. However, to reap these benefits you must take into account a few best practices when automating infrastructure management. Here are some common best practices associated with implementing automation for on-premises infrastructure:
Use standardized components – Standardized components will make it easier to automate processes since there are fewer variables. Additionally, standardized components are often cheaper because they are mass produced which reduces manufacturing costs. When using standardization, you should also define your interfaces between systems so that if one component breaks another can easily take its place.
Provide for fault tolerance – Consider how much failure will be tolerated within each layer of automation and don’t assume that all layers have 100% uptime or that failures won’t cascade up or down through multiple layers of your architecture. Ensure isolation of processes – If one part of your infrastructure becomes compromised it shouldn’t affect other parts (or at least make it very hard to do so).
Use abstraction to simplify interaction with systems – Abstractions make it possible to interact with many different systems without having deep knowledge about those systems. Take advantage of these abstractions, like REST interfaces, and start building more complex infrastructure tools by combining them together.
Automate in small steps – It’s easy to overestimate what can be accomplished in a short amount of time which leads teams to go off in too many directions at once instead of working on practical things they can accomplish quickly.
Where to Go from Here
If you’re ready to determine how automation can help your company save time, money, and resources, contact Axeleos today for an initial consultation.