Considering IT automation? Keep these 4 things in mind…

Considering IT automation? Keep these 4 things in mindIT automation isn’t a fix-all for everything, and it’s not necessarily appropriate in every situation. When used in the right instance, however, automation can help you avoid doing double the work, saving you both time and money in the process. When determining whether automation is a good fit, there are four main areas that must be taken into consideration. Let’s take a closer look at each of these key factors.

1 – What task are you thinking about automating?

There are ultimately three driving forces behind the decision to automate: repetition, simplicity and need. If there are certain tasks that are performed repetitively – especially those that don’t require much human input or a high degree of variation – chances are you can turn them over to technology. Likewise, if there is a clear business need for introducing automation into a certain process or workflow, doing so can improve performance and efficiency, making it well worth it. In other words, look for tasks that are relatively straightforward, occur frequently and repetitively, and present a real opportunity for improvement.

2 – What software, systems and data are required?

Once you’ve determined what tasks you’d like to automate, the next step is figuring out which systems and software products will allow you to achieve this goal most effectively, and at what cost. If you’re looking for something simple, like data entry automation, the options will be many. More complex processes and workflows will obviously require more robust technology. Additionally, you will also need to consider what other systems will need to be integrated into the process so that you can determine compatibility before making a final decision.

3 – Do you possess the bandwidth and adequate skill sets to get the job done?

What type of impact will automation have on the proposed task and is it worth it? If there’s just one person handling the manual, repetitive duty, perhaps it’s not worth the investment of time, money and other resources to introduce an advanced automation product. On the other hand, if there are dozens, hundreds or even thousands of workers churning out the same task, over and over, automation can present a truly beneficial solution by boosting efficiency and improving overall output. You’ll also need to determine whether those charged with implementing an automation tool possess the right skill sets to get the job done right.

4 – Will it help or hurt you in the long run?

When done right, and under the appropriate circumstances, automation should make life easier for yourself and your workers. To the contrary, if automation does nothing but create more processes, the end result can sometimes become more complicated and burdensome. The best approach is to weigh the risks and benefits, and take the process one step at a time. Automate one or two simple tasks, and then build from there until you’ve successfully taken advantage of the true value of automation. Remember, the goal is not necessarily to reach 100% automation, but rather to optimize processes to make them most effective for the business.

If you’ve considered these 4 things and you’re still not completely convinced that automation would be the right fit for your organization, perhaps our free eBook – 10 Time Consuming Tasks You Should Automate – can help you make a more informed decision. You can grab your free copy below. Or better yet, give us a call directly at 1-800-652-5601 to discuss your needs on a more specific level.

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

Ayehu Insider – Meet Ayala Zimner, Technical Support Leader

Welcome to Ayehu Insider – a series of blog posts that cover expert tips, behind-the-scenes stories and interviews from inside our company. Learn about the people behind the Ayehu brand and get to know what goes into making such an innovative product. Enjoy!

We’ve written a lot of posts about how other organizations can use the Ayehu platform to automate their IT operations, optimize their cybersecurity incident response strategy and maximize their efficiency and productivity levels. But what we haven’t shared is how we use the Ayehu platform in our own company.

ayala zimnerMeet Ayala Zimner, Leader of QA and Technical Support at Ayehu. Not only is Ayala an expert at providing support to clients who use the platform, but she’s also a pro at using it herself. We asked her to share a few use cases that she felt would demonstrate how the platform has been beneficial to herself and her team. Here’s what she had to say.

Escalation to the support team when a notification comes from Zendesk about a new urgent ticket…

“By automating the escalation process, we are better able to maintain service level agreements (SLAs) with our customers. Before the automatic escalations, we used to miss SLAs on urgent tickets almost 100% of the time, particularly when they were opened outside of our working hours. Since we started using the escalation feature, we’ve been able to maintain our SLA at 80% for tickets opened outside our working hours by alerting our on-calls on time.”

Automatic license expiration report…

“This report helps our sales and account managers know when they need to contact their customers to renew their licenses. Before that report, the support team wasted about 30 minutes a week on generating this information.”

Generating reports on-demand using self-service (multiple types of reports)…

“These self-service forms allow anyone at Ayehu that has access to the site to easily generate any custom report they need. Not only does this save the support team about 2 hours a week of handling requests from management, account managers and sales, but it has also dramatically improved the user experience. Now when someone needs a report, they can simply use the platform to run it themselves without having to open a ticket and wait for resolution.”

Ayehu website availability checks…

“This was a test that wasn’t routinely performed in the past, and as a result we were not aware when there was a problem with the website. Now, the site administrators are notified instantly upon automatic detection of a problem so it can be immediately addressed and quickly resolved.”

The beauty of these features is that they can be leveraged in any organization of any size and in any industry. Ayala and her team are much more efficient and effective at their jobs thanks to these simple yet highly impactful automated platform features. We invite you to experience these benefits for yourself by downloading your free trial of Ayehu today. And remember to stay tuned for our next installment of Ayehu Insider coming soon!

If Only HBO Had Automation…

If Only HBO Had Automation

Photo: HBO

A few days ago, cable television network HBO confirmed that someone had hacked into their servers and gained access to a significant amount of data. Among other things, the cyber sleuths appear to have gotten their hands on scripts for upcoming episodes of the wildly popular series Game of Thrones. Unfortunately for network (and its droves of faithful followers), details of never-before-seen footage has now been published all over the internet.

“HBO recently experienced a cyber incident, which resulted in the compromise of proprietary information,” the company said in a statement.“We immediately began investigating the incident and are working with law enforcement and outside cybersecurity firms. Data protection is a top priority at HBO, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect the data we hold.”

The total extent of the damage has yet to be discovered, but according to the hackers, the amount of data stolen is upwards of 1.5 terabytes. This would indicate that the Game of Thrones script isn’t all the company has to worry about. Chances are these criminals also got ahold of other sensitive data, including that associated with employees and other financials. So far, those behind the attack have been leaking the data online in dribs and drabs. It also appears they’re taunting the network in the process:

“Hi to all mankind. The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!! You are lucky to be the first pioneers to witness and download the leak. Enjoy it & spread the words. Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him. HBO is falling.”

Obviously HBO executives aren’t thrilled about having the plot line of one of their biggest shows leaked for all to see, but in reality the real problem they’re facing is what will happen should things like internal emails and personal information of employees and possibly even customers also end up being leveraged. A similar situation occurred just a few years ago when Sony was hacked, and the company is still cleaning up the mess. If HBO’s hackers are telling the truth, this breach could be much more significant.

Had HBO employed the use of automated cybersecurity incident response, there’s a good chance that we wouldn’t be writing about this situation right now. The fact is, as many big name corporations have learned the hard way, monitoring systems simply aren’t enough. And while the details of exactly how the hackers were able to gain access haven’t yet been released, if the network had a more sophisticated defense in place, chances are they would have been discovered and stopped right away – possibly before they had the opportunity to grab the data and go.

With a cybersecurity strategy that’s powered by intelligent automation, HBO could have deployed an army of robots, standing watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This technology is capable of fielding hundreds of thousands of incidents with speed and precision, quickly detecting potential attacks and automatically responding to eradicate the problem and mitigate damages. Savvy hackers who manage to find their way in are stopped in their tracks, before they have the chance to wreak havoc.

These situations serve as an important reminder that nobody is safe from cyber-attacks. They also serve as a great opportunity for business leaders to reevaluate the current state of their cybersecurity posture.

If you aren’t 100% positive that your defense is strong enough to withstand an attack like the one that HBO has suffered, the time to take action is now – before you end up becoming a victim. You can start by laying a strong foundation and using technology to fight fire with fire. Click here to launch your free 30 day trial of Ayehu and be proactive about keeping your organization safe.

What Happens in a Ransomware Attack?

What Happens in a Ransomware Attack?According to Cisco, ransomware is the most lucrative form of malware in history, and attacks are only expected to get worse, both in terms of the number as well as complexity. Hackers who once used ransomware as a tool to extort money from individuals are now leveraging advanced tactics to compromise data from large corporations with the intention of selling it for a profit.

We’ve talked at length about how to respond and recover to a ransomware attack, but it can helpful to understand what exactly such an attack entails. Insight like this can improve employee education. Knowing the various phases of an attack, along with best practices for preventing them, is key to avoiding costly and time consuming remediation.

That said, let’s take a look, step by step, at what happens when a ransomware attack is initiated.

Step 1 – Initial Infection (Estimated time: 1-2 seconds)

Most ransomware hackers gain access to a target network via social engineering, such as a phishing email. Educating employees on how to spot a phishing scam can dramatically reduce the risk to your organization by preventing successful breaches before they occur.

Step 2 – Execution (Estimated time: 0 – 5 seconds)

Once a malicious link is clicked or infected file opened, the ransomware is able to gain a foothold, quickly infiltrating the network and locking up files. In a matter of seconds, malware executables are released into the victim’s system where they begin to quickly wreak havoc.

Step 3 – Backup Corruption (Estimated time: 5-10 seconds)

The next step involves the ransomware virus targeting backup files and folders. This prevents the user from being able to backup corrupted files, which is what makes this type of malware so profitable. Victims often have no choice but to pay the fee or risk losing all of their data with no way to replace or restore it.

Step 4 – File Encryption (Estimated time: 10 seconds – 2 minutes)

Once the victim’s backups are successfully removed, the ransomware then executes a secure key exchange with the server, thereby putting encryption keys in place.

Step 5 – User Notification (Estimated time: 2-15 minutes)

With the victim’s backup files gone and the encryption successfully established, the final phase involves notification to the user and demand for the proposed ransom. In many cases, the user is given a specified amount of time in which to pay the fee or the amount will begin to increase.

Ultimately, your organization’s defense against these attacks will depend on your level of preparedness. Along with employee education, it’s equally critical to employ the right tools that will allow you to effectively monitor, detect, respond and eradicate these threats. Automated security playbooks, for example, initiate workflows which remediate affected devices while also preventing further propagation. Suspected attacks immediately trigger the playbook to automatically initiate remediation and mitigation procedures.

Best of all, you can try these playbooks for yourself, absolutely free of charge for 30 days. Simply click here to launch your Ayehu trial today.

How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes

Addressing the Big “What Ifs” of Your IT Automation Project

Addressing the Big "What Ifs" of Your IT Automation ProjectOne of the biggest hurdles of convincing businesses that IT automation is the way of the future is the age-old question, “what if….” Many IT professionals and other key decision makers within an organization carry the fear that automated tasks that are put in place to solve a problem may actually end up causing more harm than good. What could go wrong? What if the whole thing blows up in our faces and we end up with an even bigger mess on our hands? The answer is simple: when IT automation is designed and tested properly, everything should work just as planned.

Creating and Designing Your Workflow

The first step in setting up IT automation so that it works properly is creating and designing your workflows. You have to have your end result in mind, and then figure out the steps necessary to achieve that end result. Various criteria will need to be identified, so that you know whenever a certain function or task occurs, the next step in the workflow will automatically be triggered. So, to summarize, establish your desired end result, and then develop a list of steps to help you achieve that result. List each criterion in the process and determine what next step each criterion would trigger.

Testing 123…

The next important step, once you’ve created your workflow, is to try it out in a controlled environment. Test each step in the process to verify that the desired result for each is achieved. If something isn’t working properly, re-evaluate to determine why and then work to fix that piece until the entire process is functioning correctly. We recommend testing a variety of situations and scenarios to really be sure everything is working properly. Continue this process until you are confident that your automated workflow is working precisely as it should.

Implement

Once you’ve tested your automated workflow enough to be confident that it’s functioning as it is meant to function, it’s time to put it into action. It can be a bit nerve wracking to implement a workflow for the first time live, but once you see it in action, you’ll become that much more confident that it will be there to meet your needs whenever necessary.

Call on the Experts

If, at any time during the above outlined process, you feel as though you’re not getting the results you’re looking for, or you need some guidance and support, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts. Remember, part of choosing the right IT automation platform is choosing a company that offers plenty of training and support to its customers. Any company will be there for you when you’re in the process of making a purchasing decision, but you want to make sure that you choose someone that will also be there for you after the fact. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just have a few questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to your software vender for assistance.

The hands-off nature of IT automation can make some professionals feel uneasy. They may wonder if the very system that’s being put in place to solve a particular problem within the organization will actually end up causing more harm than good. The truth is when you know the steps to take, and you’re careful to work through each step just as you should, the result will be exactly what you’re hoping for. When automation is created, developed, tested and supported properly, there is no longer the need to ask “what if”, but rather “why did I wait so long to do this?”

What are YOU waiting for? Give us a call today at 1-800-652-5601 or click here to start your free trial of Ayehu and start putting the power of IT automation to work for your organization.

EBOOK: HOW TO MEASURE IT PROCESS AUTOMATION RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)