First Look: N-able's N-central 9.0 Automates Common Tasks4:00 PM EST Wed. Jul. 11, 2012
In a move that's sure to curry favor with its MSP customers, N-able Technologies on Tuesday released N-central 9.0, the latest version of its remote management and monitoring tool that now includes the ability to automate many common management tasks without the need for scripting.
In a first look at the software today, the CRN Test Center was impressed with its ease of use and flexibility of Automation Manager, a main new component in N-central 9.0. Here's a peek at what's inside.
We were impressed with the stability of N-central's drag-and-drop environment for creating scripts to automate mundane tasks such as updating software and checking for virus protection. To build a "policy," simply drag one or more script objects from the list (near left). Hundreds of script objects are included with the tool and organized neatly by type. Objects can be used as-is, modified and saved as a new object, or created from scratch. Scripts can even determine whether a user is logged in and, if so, communicate with them in real time.
The best part? Automation Manager scripts are written in Microsoft PowerShell and are compatible with all current and future versions of Windows. Plus, an organization's existing PowerShell scripts can be imported and used along with N-able's pre-developed ones. With Automation Manager, MSPs can leverage existing knowledge of PowerShell scripting or have none at all; the tool is effective either way.
Included scripts will initially cover the most common basic tasks such as file transfers, software checks, installations and the like. Later, N-able will add scripts for more complex and powerful access to Active Directory, SQL Server and other enterprise resources. Shown here is the filtering capability that can be applied to scripts and policies, making it quick and simple to locate and use just the one that's needed.
While the filtering of devices and other network resources isn't new to N-central, N-able MSPs have been clamoring for the ability to filter active issues. New in N-central 9.0, IT admins now can narrow an unfiltered list of active issues (shown) containing many hundreds of items...
...to a list that's filtered to display only backup manager events and status reports. The list that contained many items is pared down to only five, making them far easier to identify and address (upper left corner). There are close to 200 service filter parameters, plus the ability to also filter by customer site and status.
N-able has developed a series of automation policies based on industry best practices and standard procedures. Included with N-central 9.0 is an MSP Technical Runbook, in which the script collections have been pre-tested and can be modified to suit any organization. Robert Grapes, N-able Technologies' director of product management and marketing, told CRN that the idea of Runbook is to "give junior technicians the ability to launch and monitor tasks so that senior staff is free to handle more advanced duties."
N-able's Automation Manager is the culmination of years of effort and reseller input, said Grapes. "The problem with automation in the past has been the requirement of scripting or coding. Most companies don't have access to [these skills], particularly in smaller organizations." Many companies regardless of size also don't have knowledge of some of the best practices available. "We've focused on the front-end to allow companies to quickly create policies and automate."