IT managers are constantly on the lookout for more efficient — and effective — ways to run their data centers. You can try different tools and setups to help things run more smoothly, but at the end of the day, sometimes you just need to let go and automate.

System administrators who do everything manually are wasting their time — and yours. Tasks that are performed repeatedly can, and should be, automated. Doing so can save you money and prevent mistakes due to human error.

To create a better data center, consider automating the following system administrator tasks:

Security Sweeps

You probably know that you should be performing regular, automated security sweeps on your network. These sweeps will expose and fix any wire-borne vulnerabilities in your system; their frequency and intensity will depend on the complexity of your network. Automated security sweeps enable you to set up scheduled scans, send the output to a database, extract a post-scan report from the database, and create an HTML version of the report for online viewing. Nmap is a free network security scanner designed to scan large networks and report vulnerabilities.

Disk Usage Scans

System admins must always watch out for disk space gluttons — users who go beyond their allotted disk space. You can conduct scans, or regular audits of disk space usage by user. Offenders will receive a warning before personal contact from a system admin is necessary. Remedies include temporary account suspension, removal of files, or an extension of the user’s space quota. Perform these automated scans about once per week to keep users apprised of their disk use.

Performance Monitoring

Monitor performance by taking an occasional “snapshot” for a single point-in-time glance at your system’s performance. However, this peek is only a glimpse into the entire performance picture. For something with more depth and breadth that will show trends and predictive peaks and valleys, set up a monitoring system with Orca. This tool compiles performance data from disparate sources and creates performance graphs that are easy to read. Its automated system gathers data, performs calculations, and generates and displays graphs.

High-Level Administration

Save time and effort by performing housekeeping duties, service restarts, and maintenance notices through automation. You can set up scripts to fire during low-use hours to clear temporary file dumps, restart your favorite services, and send out any maintenance or downtime notices through email. Automating these duties will take some of the pressure off of you to remember which day certain tasks need to be done — no need to keep a calendar; just let the system handle it for you.