In his latest blog, N-able’s Marc-Andre Tanguay suggests some of the most common tools he advises MSPs to use when they are looking for help automating tasks.
One of the questions I regularly get asked is what common automation tools do I use or what do I advise people to use for various use cases? I thought I’d put this information into a blog for easy reference for our partners and others.
Note: None of the recommendations below are commercial endorsements, but they are suggestions based on what I’ve used personally in the past. You are welcome to use whatever you want since most of the things below have other options, free or paid.
We’ll start simple.
Everyone should at least have PowerShell ISE installed on their computer. This comes with Windows unless you choose to remove it. However, not everyone uses Visual Studio code. This is another IDE (integrated development environment) that allows you to write, modify, or read code in various languages, including PowerShell. In my opinion, everyone should install VS Code.
You can get it for free at https://code.visualstudio.com
This second one is something that I use from time to time. Did you ever come across a need to click “tab” twice then “enter”, and repeat 100 or more times to check a box on something on a website or in some tool. This is usually because the tool doesn’t allow bulk processing. There are several RPA tools but Macrorecorder is one of the simplest and cheapest at around $50 USD—it also has a completely free-to-use unlocked demo version that allows you to try/use it for a short period of time too.
Macrorecorder can be found here https://www.macrorecorder.com/
Power Automate is another Microsoft product. The company is starting to position it as a new platform that you can use to integrate with web services, desktops, databases, office, email, etc. If you’re not familiar with it, you should definitely look into it. In fact, depending on your Office subscription, you may already own licenses to use some of it. The learning curve is fairly low, and you can start getting along with it fairly quickly.
Go here to learn more: https://powerautomate.microsoft.com
I’m going to change gears and talk about a use case that I have from time to time. Sometimes I need to run some conversion, or process on a server and need to prevent the screen from locking up. In those cases, I use tools like movemouse.
Download it here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/p/move-mouse/9nq4ql59xlbf
Low-code development environment
Finally, I recommend using a low-code development environment. Depending on what RMM or internal IT management tool you use, you should look at whether they offer an option for this. For example, Automation Manager in N-able™ N-central® and N-able RMM allows you to use pre-made code snippets to automate things in minutes instead of hours and reduces thousands of line of code in little building blocks.
The takeaway here is to look for tools that will make your life easier. No matter what you need to do, options exist for it!
Marc-Andre Tanguay is head automation nerd at N-able. You can follow him on Twitter at @automation_nerd.