As an IT professional, your job can be boring at times. This could be because your current role doesn’t challenge you, or because you’ve put in a lot of effort and infrastructure into preventing the majority of nasty surprises that many people in IT experience on a daily basis.
There’s a big difference between the two, and the latter is definitely the gold standard that you should aim for. Here’s what you can do to make your day a little less exciting — in the best way possible.
Automate everything you can
Daily tasks can become a real chore, especially if you need to have them completed by a certain time. Similarly, intermittent, repetitive tasks can simply be soul-sucking. Luckily, there’s a way to make the boring stuff (mostly) go away, so you can focus on the fun stuff like scripting.
Here are a few examples of scripting from CBT Nuggets, Reddit, and beyond:
Reporting. Data is the lifeblood of any organization and it typically comes in the form of reporting, which can easily be automated. For instance, whipping up a script in PowerShell and automating it within Windows Scheduler will turn reporting tasks into a thing of the past. You can even use the PowerShell cmdlet Send-MailMessage to have files and messages sent automatically to your mailbox.
Printer mapping. I think we all agree that printers are among the most problematic pieces of equipment. Let’s say you have to manually set up users with an IP address and point them to a driver like this one Redditor had to do. No problem. Script that problem away. Apparently, he set up his script and didn’t have to touch it for two years.
Spreadsheets. Be careful with how you wield your scripting skills in Excel. Once it’s out that you’re a VB wizard, there’s no going back. Our Excel trainer Simona Millham has dealt with this for years. Now, she’s dedicated to helping people — how shall we say this nicely — figure it out themselves.
Other popular automated tasks include network drive mapping, printer mapping, and desktop shortcut creation. These tasks are especially handy when you find yourself rolling out tens or even hundreds of new workstations for your company: a simple login will get your users set up and ready to go without you having to do anything, for the most part.
A final note: Be careful with this power. Don’t be the person who wears the shirt: “Go away or I’ll replace you with a very small shell script.” Think it. Don’t wear it. With great power, comes great responsibility.
Create a ticketing system — and stick with it
The days of manning a mailbox for your organization’s help desk ticketing system are well and truly over. Or they should be. There are so many ticketing-system products available on the market. Many of them are actually free.
Perhaps the most well-known free ticketing system is Spiceworks Helpdesk. This system lets you manage IT requests, support tickets, and more. The system runs through email, meaning that your email@example.com email address can become the hub of your helpdesk operation. Speaking of automation, most platforms allow you to automatically detect specific keywords and assign tickets to certain technicians. Or you can manually assign tickets to the right people, yourself.
Technicians who need to access the help desk from outside of the organization can also do so, all you need to do is forward the ports to your server and create the necessary logins. Status changes will inform your users of any changes that are made to their outstanding tickets, keeping them informed about progress changes to their outstanding issues, which will make them happy.
Train your users on the most common problems
When a new user joins the company, their onboarding should include some training on a few key areas relating to your IT equipment.
Teach them how to be helped. The very first thing on your list should be showing them how to log support tickets with your help desk. Even if you have a developed help desk operation, you’ll need to point people in the right direction. This ensures that the proper procedures are always followed when they need support.
Security awareness training. If you really want to make your IT job exciting, then skimp on the security training. But, you probably don’t want things to remain good and boring. Many companies rely on IT to train everyone on security for regulatory compliance — or just to maintain good security practices. Luckily, you can automate this, as well, with mandatory online security training during onboarding.
Finally, it’s perhaps a pipedream, but it would be great if your users knew how to perform basic tasks such as rebooting PCs, re-plugging in network cables, and loading paper in the printer. You’ll probably never get a total reprieve from these routine tasks, but sometimes it’s nice to have a boring task or two.
Develop an adequate disaster relief plan
There’s nothing boring about things going wrong — horribly wrong. But you can still make things a little less exciting when things turn sideways with an adequate disaster relief program.
Building a disaster recovery plan allows you to be prepared when disaster strikes. Whether you run physical servers or virtual machines, you want to ensure that you have adequate backup routines in place. In situations where physical servers are running, it is possible to automate backups over the network to a storage device or to remote media. However, if you are backing up to physical media such as DVD, tape, or USB, then some human intervention is going to be required.
Virtual environments are a much easier platform to automate your backups and replications on. Most major virtualization systems have their own backup features, so all you need to do is sit down and schedule your backups to run at times when you wish to have your backup jobs run. Keep in mind that the backing up process will usually put extra load on your host resources, so keep your backup schedule after hours to avoid performance degradation for your users.
Once you are happy that you have sufficiently covered your backups, you will need to formulate the rest of your DR process, and this will involve many other factors that you will need to consider, chief among which will be testing the restoration of your backups to a test system. DR is one area that you absolutely do not want to fail, so regular testing and dummy runs should be conducted on an ongoing basis.
Minimize workstation downtime with system imaging
There’s a reason the Window 10 70-698 certification exam exists. It’s to validate that you know all the shortcuts when having to set up or reload multiple PCs with identical hardware specs. You probably know how long it takes to do one. Multiply the time taken to reload one PC by the total number of computers in your company and you can quickly see why a shortcut is needed.
Vendors usually sell products with volume licensing (VLM), which means that certain products can be installed a certain number of times with the same product license key. This means that you can load a PC so that it contains all of the necessary drivers and applications, with the latest software updates before you create a master system image using a single license key. This model of licensing is great because cloning this image to other systems will not cause issues with your licensing agreements.
The time that you save by learning to image systems instead of individually installing each software component is monumental. There are plenty of free and paid software imaging solutions on the market, so finding the right fit for your specific requirements is really easy — with a little research and testing.
Be sure to label and back up your networking equipment
If you have been unfortunate enough to experience downtime due to network infrastructure failure, then you are familiar with that sinking feeling. It’s even worse when you’re replacing a failed switch, and you realize that none of the cables that you just disconnected were labeled. This can lead to extended periods of downtime as you manually trace out cables and re-configure ports on your switch or router.
Backing up your managed switches will ensure that a direct unit swap out can be performed in the event of a system failure, with the configuration restore taking just a few minutes once you have the new unit installed.
Enjoy being bored — just not too much
Once you master your environment, you will find that you have much more time on your hands. You can use all your free time to:
Oh sure, you could quietly script your way into boredom. Or you could increase your value as an IT professional, learn every day, and maybe even provide your company with added value while making your life much easier at work.