11 July 2023

10 Network Automation Ideas for MSPs 

10 Network Automation Ideas for MSPs 

IT Process Automation and Operational Process Automation (OPA) is about getting the right systems in place to automate repetitive operational tasks to improve efficiency and ensure consistency in operations teams. OPA delivers process automation specifically to IT and network operations teams. As well as emulating actions that network engineers take within a network management system, OPA can also perform advanced maintenance tasks, assist in the interpretation of network data and communicate effectively with other digital systems to categorize, resolve and escalate potential network issues. 

OPA is like having another team member that doesn’t take time off. They complete tasks accurately and the same way each time, and like a human – learn and become more efficient as time goes on. However, they can also be trained to take on more complex tasks that are specific to your network, or to your MSP environment to support your end-users through automated RMM.

Here are some suggestions for automating your network management to improve mean time to resolution and decrease the costs of operations:  

1.     Manage IP addresses 

Whether you’re a small organization or an enterprise, efficient management of IP addresses can be the difference between a functional network and an inaccessible service. Network automation can allocate and track IP addresses dynamically. Search, view and manage address information, ensuring a critical information baseline is established. 

2.     Check for connectivity 

Network automation can help you check connections such as router to switch, switch to switch or EtherChannel groups. For example, you can automate a check to make sure that all your devices, whether they are routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers or otherwise, are all connecting accurately. 

3.     Password management 

Having to manually reset passwords for your devices can be tedious and time consuming. Automation can speed up this task by implementing rules that automate password resets, including two-factor authentication, policies for user activity and a way to store passwords securely. 

4.   Maintain compliance 

Ensuring that your network configurations are compliant with your configuration standards is of critical importance to organizations with regulatory responsibilities. Network Configuration Management (NCM) systems work closely with all devices in a set network, transmitting and receiving data from a wide range of devices to ensure that everything is acting in a compliant manner. In addition to this, an NCM which supports Configuration and Compliance Management can ensure that your devices are configured correctly, and in the case that they are not, can schedule reconfigurations at a time that is convenient to the user. 

5.     Network and server performance management 

In addition to tracking the configuration of your devices, network automation can also be used as a performance tracking tool. By performing automated network management, the system is also taking in significant amounts of data, including the levels of packet loss within the network over a set period of time, as well as the performance of servers. This can help you in an audit to establish whether the performance of a particular server is degrading. If the performance declines, you can compare this data with configuration changes to ensure that your network is using the optimal settings and resolve the issue without having to go through a more thorough investigation of your network. The data is already collected and ready to be analyzed. 

6.     Improve operations efficiency and consistency 

By performing common network engineer actions in a network management system, OPA ensures the actions are completed consistently and frees up staff to focus on more complex tasks. Additionally, OPA interprets network data and communicates with connected digital systems to categorize, resolve and escalate potential network issues as soon as possible to reduce network downtime. Ultimately, OPA is about improving the mean time to resolve (MTTR) and decreasing the cost of operations. 

7.     Identify trends 

OPA tools can identify future organizational requirements and network trends through trending dashboards that help to pinpoint new patterns as they begin occurring. This allows you to streamline budgeting, planning and the implementation of upgrades with new insight into network usage patterns and changes. Additionally, it can improve and optimize service delivery using trend data and event triggers to alert staff when a performance issue is at risk of occurring. 

8.     Event management 

Having unnecessary events show up in an alarm display creates a lot of “noise” and “false positives” on the network that don’t require action. A lot of these extraneous events can be caused by upstream outages. In support of your event and incident management processes, OPA tools can be used for event correlation and suppressing downstream alerts automatically, minimizing the alarm display and unnecessary incident tickets. 

Automation tools can also help identify the majority of the events seen on the network so you can decide on which ones to initially focus on. Once you have identified actionable events, you can set up email notifications and customize the email template if you like.  

9.     Ticket resolution 

The opening and closing of tickets can be automated. Your tool can be set up to automatically close events if a cause has been resolved. You can also customize your setup to resolve events automatically. Meanwhile, escalation policies will stop if the issue is resolved. 

10.Policy-based management systems 

There are many common network administration activities which should be handled by the network management system automatically. These systems should not require repeated configuration but instead be configured through policy which captures the business rules and ensures that devices are handled consistently. Automated device discovery and classification is another important aspect, automatically determining what the device is, what to monitor and what type of alerts and events will be generated, all without human intervention. 

According to Gartner, “the undisputed number one cause of network outages is human error.” As humans, we all make mistakes, which is why it’s necessary for businesses to have comprehensive automation in place. Automation can reduce the likelihood of issues being missed by ensuring consistency and reducing the need for tedious manual configuration. It can also save time and money and improve productivity. 

Combining People and Process Automation 

According to Forrester, 56% of global infrastructure technology decision makers have implemented/are implementing or are expanding/upgrading their implementation of automation software. It’s important to note that automation does not mean the replacement of individuals. Instead, it can benefit IT workers by transferring routine and tedious elements of managing networks to machine learning models that can reduce the noise from the vast number of alerts and notifications. For organizations that are looking to scale, a combination of people and process automation will yield the best results. 

Ready to see how OPA can make your organization future fit? Speak to our experts about your requirements and learn more about automation. We’re a technically led team, so prepare for a conversation about solutions, not sales.