Managing automation

Every IT department seems to have those annoying one or two (or 25) tasks that have to be done, but seem like time-wasters. You know the ones, the jobs that make you say, "I went to college for this?" However for many, automation is the answer.

Those who benefit from automation say that previous dozens of hours were lost weekly to mind-numbing to-dos. In these days of doing more with less, you know if staffers had several extra hours on their hands due to automation, you could find more important jobs for them to do. However, those who have tried the concept offer up several points to ponder before you set about automating everything:

* Choose carefully. When deciding what to automate, make sure you choose tasks that will save you time and not cause more problems. Don't automate a task just because you can or because it's cool.

* Keep security in mind. When choosing jobs to automate make sure you don't unwittingly open a hole in your network. Off- the-shelf automation software could start actions without your knowledge, ones that could cause security breeches.

* Think everyday over exotic. Many net executives decide to automate simple, repetitive tasks such as rebooting servers or data collection. Anything mission-critical or tied to an outside network or Web server is off limits.

* Test, test, test. This seems like a simplistic piece of advice, but it needs to be said: Test any new automation programs thoroughly before they go live. To play it safe, roll out the program incrementally to ensure you avoid any network- halting, headache inducing disasters.

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