PowerShell serves as the Swiss army knife of MSP automation.
Indeed, Microsoft’s PowerShell scripting language has become a highly versatile tool for managed service providers (MSPs). PowerShell scripts plays multiple roles, including in software installation and integration, report creation, policy enforcement, customer onboarding and new user account creation. An MSP’s imagination is perhaps the only limit on PowerShell’s applicability.
Wider use of PowerShell and automation, in general, has critical implications for MSPs. A service provider’s efficiency and profitability increasingly depends on its ability to minimize manual tasks. Automation’s benefits cut to the bottom line when MSPs devote fewer technician-hours to on-site client work or shrink the volume of mundane administrative chores. MSP automation also helps service providers manage the daily challenge of juggling multiple customers and their varied IT environments.
Shawn Sachs, senior solutions architect at Generation IX, an MSP based in Culver City, Calif., has written numerous PowerShell scripts, covering use cases such as software integration and reporting. But his use of PowerShell continues to evolve. Sachs said he is now considering pursuing configuration management through PowerShell.
To that end, Microsoft offers Desired State Configuration (DSC) as a configuration management tool within PowerShell. DSC, which Sachs likened to Ansible and Chef, revolves around PowerShell scripts that describe an IT environment — devices such as servers and their particular attributes. DSC’s monitoring capabilities check the configuration for continued compliance.
In addition, Sachs said he plans to look into PowerShell for Mac OS X. “I’m very curious to see how that is going to change the game as far as Mac management and bringing Macs into enterprise environments,” he said.
Cultural change via MSP automation
PowerShell’s use as an MSP automation multi-tool marks a cultural shift. Many MSPs originally pursued a break/fix business model: they waited for something at the customer’s location to fail and then provided services. That approach encouraged service providers to focus on hourly rates and making sure technicians were as close to 100% billable as possible. Automation wasn’t particularly essential to that formula.
MSPs, however, are transitioning from a billable-hours mentality to “all-you-can-eat” pricing and monthly recurring revenue, noted Brett Cheloff, vice president for ConnectWise’s Automate remote monitoring and management product. The emphasis now is on spending the least amount of time with customers, while still making sure their systems are well-maintained and running properly.
“It’s completely inverted,” Cheloff said, referring to MSPs’ business philosophy.
Automation works in lockstep with MSPs’ emerging service-delivery methods and pricing models. Look for PowerShell, low-code/no-code offerings and robotic process automation to grow in importance among service providers.