Meet Ted, an IT pro at a medium-sized business. One of Ted’s responsibilities involves managing the Azure virtual machines (VM’s) his company uses. Since his firm pays Microsoft whenever the VM’s are in use, it is only sensible to turn those machines off at night and over the weekends to save money.

In theory, the task shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes of Ted’s time each day. But he is busy and there are occasions when it’s just not possible. He might be on holiday, in a long meeting, or it might simply slip his mind. And this is where process automation in Azure could be very helpful.

Within Microsoft Azure, administrators can automate a huge number of processes and tasks. Azure Process Automation could potentially save businesses a lot of time when it comes to managing the platform, meaning IT admins can avoid tedious jobs, and not least, save companies money too.

Process automation in Azure is relatively straightforward – although it does require a knowledge of PowerShell. If you are new to automating processes in Azure, the following tips will show you where to begin.

What is Azure Automation?

Azure Automation gives you a powerful way of managing your Azure resources according to your requirements. You can set up Azure runbooks which will complete a wide variety of tasks for you, in the same way, at pre-programmed intervals.

As with the example described at the beginning of this article, you can use Azure Automation to schedule tasks such as pausing virtual machines at night. It can also be used for gathering data from across your Azure environment to produce reports, maintaining your environment or responding to alerts – and much more.

Azure Automations fall broadly into the following five categories:

  • Process automations (such as closing down a virtual machine every night)
  • Configuration management (changing security settings across your cloud environment, for instance)
  • Update management (useful in hybrid cloud/on-prem environments – allows you to roll out updates across your estate)
  • Shared capabilities (lets you share resources and manage scheduling, auditing and tagging)
  • Heterogenous support (Microsoft lets you automate processes across physical servers and VM’s outside Azure, including your corporate network and other cloud providers).

Where to begin with Azure Automation

Before you start trying to automate processes in Azure, it is useful to first reflect on which processes need to be automated. There is a good chance you are already doing a handful of repetitive tasks that could be automated. To make the learning curve less steep, we’d recommend choosing a simple task which is relatively straightforward.

Before you begin automating anything in Azure, you will need a working knowledge of the platform and be able to read and write PowerShell scripts.

To begin creating automated processes in Azure, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Look into your Azure admin account.
  2. Create an automation account – you can search for this within the portal.
  3. Next, create an Azure runbook account and choose a location for it to be stored in.
  4. You can now select the runbook and add code using PowerShell.
  5. Test your runbook and monitor the results.
  6. Once you are happy with your Azure Automation you simply need to schedule it or set it off manually whenever required.

Examples of Azure Automations

You can automate all manner of processes with Azure Automation. Here are just a couple of processes you might want to consider:

  • Scheduling tasks: You might want to set up a daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance workflow.
  • Retrieve inventory: Using Azure Automation, you can collect a complete inventory of all the resources your organisation is running in the cloud. This can be useful for reporting, audits and compliance.
  • Periodic maintenance: Do you need to delete batches of unimportant business data every six months? With Azure Automation you can periodically purge content you no longer need and save on your cloud usage costs.
  • Reports: As part of your Azure management plan, you might need to create a monthly report about how your company is using Azure or a specific feature of the platform – with Azure Automation this can be done manually.

Help with Azure Automation

Azure Automation provides a set of powerful tools to automate a wide variety of tasks and configurations across Microsoft’s cloud. While it is a useful tool, it can be challenging to use and does take time to learn.

At FITTS, we have years of experience creating Azure Automations that help our customers to manage the platform more efficiently, whilst saving time and energy for their IT teams.

To begin automating tasks, processes and configurations in Microsoft Azure, contact us today.