Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Simplify, Standardize, and Automate

On my Coaching Buttons blog, I sometimes write about "Simplify, Standardize, and Automate." I have reiterated this mantra in my professional career since 2008, when I worked in higher ed. A challenge that constantly faces higher ed is limited budgets; we often had to "do more with less." One way to respond to shrinking budgets was to become more efficient, which we did through a three-pronged approach of simplifying our environment, standardizing our systems, and automating tasks.

The concept of automation was always very important to me. Automation is very powerful. It can remove drudgery work from the shoulders of our staff. By allowing a machine to do repetitive tasks, we free up our staff to do more valuable tasks.

What common tasks do you do every day that could be automated, and turned into a script or program? When I worked in higher ed, I shared this comment about automation:
"If you need a report from the Data Warehouse every month, documenting the steps is certainly a good first step. But it's much better to create a script to generate it for you automatically. The file just appears when you need it, without having to repeat the steps to create it manually. That's less time to manage an individual thing, leaving you more time to work on other tasks."
Kyle Rankin recently wrote at Linux Journal about the importance of automation, part of "Sysadmin 101." Kyle identifies several types of tasks you should automate, including routine and repeatable tasks, then goes on to discuss when you should automate and how you should automate.

If you are a systems administrator, and especially if you are new to systems administration, I encourage you to read Kyle's article. Then, learn about the automation available on your system. I leverage cron and (mostly) Bash scripts on my own Linux systems. I don't have very complex tasks that have dependencies on other jobs, so that works well for me. If you have such a need for more complex automation, you can find them.

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