Best IT Automation Tools out there For MSPs

Boosting MSP Efficiency: A Comprehensive Guide to the Top IT Automation Tools for Streamlining Operations and Maximising Productivity

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In the mid-90s, we had IT handling a room or an office full of PCs. Their weapon of choice - a set of batch files either stored on a floppy disk or the desktop or in the folder which when clicked will complete a couple of IT maintenance tasks on the system in a predetermined sequence. This would be a simpler way of looking at IT automation and its use in offices.

But that was decades ago. Today a multitude of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) depend on IT automation for enabling them to deliver better, more responsive, and well-rounded services to their clients with lesser effort and better efficiency. From small maintenance routines, automation has today grown into complex systems delivering varied results and functions to IT MSPs.

Here, we will try to understand what IT automation tools are,  along with their functions and benefits, and then do a deeper comparison between various IT automation tools available for MSPs and possibly help you choose one which suits you. Let’s start

IT Automation - What, why, and how

What is IT automation?

IT automation is the process of creating or deploying software systems to take over repeatable processes and reduce manual intervention in IT systems. This is done by creating rules for IT tasks so that they can be initiated and completed automatically or upon a time-based or action-based trigger by the machine with little to no human input. 

IT automation can involve simple standalone programs, software tools, elaborate systems, and hardware components. The scope of such automation can range from a single function and part of a workflow or process to the whole IT deployment that uses user behaviors and other events as triggers for taking action.

Scope of IT automation

The beauty of IT automation lies in the fact that it can be deployed in any function, to any department and workflow where a repetitive task may consume a lot of human effort which can be utilized elsewhere. Thus automation saves effort, time, and costs. It also reduces the chances of possible human errors that can happen due to fatigue or other such reasons.

Due to its large scope and benefits, IT automation is used across multiple IT sectors now including cloud computing, software development, business process automation, and more. But for the sake of our article today we will be concentrating on the use of IT automation software for IT MSPs – IT support, helpdesk and ilk.

IT automation for MSPs'

At an IT MSP, automation can be used to improve quality and speed of IT support to clients. Automation can impact multiple avenues from ticket handling to customer management , SLA compliance and record keeping apart from automating repetitive tasks such as network scanning, update/patch management and more.

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Benefits of IT Automation

This means IT automation can help you 

  1. Save money - As more and more repetitive tasks are automated, resources get freed and their hours can be used for other tasks. Thus better resource allocation leads to better cost savings.

  2. Deliver faster and better service - As repetitive tasks are automated and done totally by machines, the response speed improves and overall efficiency also goes up. With automation, we get consistent results and standards which also means better overall services.

  3. Deliver better network upkeep and security - As maintenance and monitoring activities are automated, security improves. Time-triggered or action triggered (like a new device getting plugged in) scans can detect threats and then take action to prevent security incidents. Also, automated monitoring and network discovery can find outdated devices and update them as need be.

  4. Improved support quality- All processes that are automated are totally dependent on machines and hence free of any human errors that may otherwise creep in. In case an error does occur due to faulty automation, it can be tracked down and rectified in initial cycles of testing.

  5. Improved scalability - Now that you have better resource utilization and more leeway in putting money into scaling your business, you can grow faster. The money saved via automation can be utilized in business development, training and other avenues which will help you deliver good quality of service even as you add more business at a brisk pace.

  6. Achieve orchestration and hyperautomation - orchestration is when a set of tasks are automated together in a proper sequence to automate an entire process or workflow. Hyperautomation is just the next level of this which involves integration with artificial intelligence and analytics - something that you can learn how to do via our demo at SuperOps.ai

All these are improvements that are easy to notice and quantify, but automation will bring about many more subtle yet profitable changesall over. So, unless you, or your MSP, feels that saving money and scaling faster are bad things, you will be thinking about employing IT automation. But then the main question arises - How to go about it? The answer is simple - depending on the size, client needs and other tools used by them, MSPs have many options to choose from when it comes to cloud-based IT automation software. But, how to choose the right cloud-based IT automation tool for your MSP? 

Now, in our efforts of becoming the chosen tool - or the weapon of choice we claim to be - for MSPs, we tried to understand the IT automation needs of IT MSPs and also scour the field of competition to see what works and what doesn’t. In the next section, we will share our learnings and in due course answer this question for you.

The right IT Automation tool for your MSP

⁠Methodology

As discussed earlier, the cost, domain and integration with other tools are the prime considerations when searching for the right IT automation tool but there are other considerations too. This includes the options and levels of automation available, the ability to link multiple software in one automation or orchestration, scheduled tasks and service desk quality, other use cases and most importantly UI.

We will go through individual considerations and rank various IT automation software available for IT MSPs in each section to finally select one overall winner who will set the right benchmark for all others to catch up.

The contenders

IT automation is a large domain with hundreds of offerings - new and legacy. But when we narrow it down to one's best useful to IT MSPs, the list shrinks down. Along with SuperOps.ai, we chose to select six more IT automation tools for this comparison and then finally give you the 5 best IT Automation tools available for IT MSPs in 2022. These are:

  • Autotask

  • Syncro

  • Atera 

  • HaloPSA

  • NinjaOne

  • ConnectWise Automate ( we will call it Connectwise here)

Connectwise has been around for a long time and has provided automation features for quite some time too. Autotask was one of the most popular tools under the much-loved Datto brand and is now part of Kaseya’s product family. Atera and Syncro are modern-day champions while NinjaOne is a product of much loved NinjaOne RMM looking to expand its capabilities and provide more to its users. SuperOps is trying to create differentiation by providing smart, ai-based automation which learns and improves with time. HaloPSA may be the youngest of the lot, but it's garnering some great reviews too.

Now that we have the brackets in place. Let the battles begin - step 1 - the battle of pricing

Comparing the best IT automation tools for MSPs

Cost & Free Trial

We split the price part into two. We will be looking at two important considerations. One is the availability of free trials and the second is the overall cost to the company. 

The availability of a free trial is a really important consideration. Without it, an MSP will not be able to test and understand whether an IT automation tool is a good fit for them. If there is no free trial and only a long-term commitment, it will be a deterrent for someone to make that commitment, and therefore it will either be based on a presumption of successful integration or an assumption that it's either the best product out there or the cheapest. 

The best companies will always provide you with a trial because they're sure of the product. I know that they are capable of building solutions to any major issue that you may report. In our research, we found that compared to the completely free 21-day trial provided by SuperOps, Atera, Syncro, and Halo, provide slightly longer 30-day free trials. NinjaOne provides a shorter 14-day trial. Connectwise does not allow a trial of its automation capabilities and Autotask offers no trial at all.

Coming to pricing. We believe that standard, transparent pricing is the right model and one that will be preferred by all in the years to come. This being our belief SuperOps starts at a lowly $29/agent per month which includes our PSA-only package. 

There's always an option to add more functionalities and take it up to $45 or $99 if you want to include our industry-leading RMM solution. Syncro provides similar services but is slightly costlier at $129/agent per month. 

Atera will cost you anywhere between $99 and $169 per agent per month depending on the features that you will choose to include. Though we feel that Atera is being too stingy about features and do not advocate for this kind of a-la-carte system, we think every option must exist for it to even be tried.

Halo takes the cake over here with incredible pricing that comes between $45 and $95 depending on your company size. It costs around $95/agent per month if you are just starting up with up to 3 agents but as you cross 100 agents or more, it can be as low as $45 per agent/ month. Remember Halo is only a PSA and any further integration will cost you more.

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*Connectwise offers a trial but not for the automation module.

** 15 user minimum per month billed annually at $35/user

Considering all these factors, our top three contenders on the basis of pricing are:

  1. SuperOps

  2. HaloPSA

  3. Atera

Next up we take a look at the….

Automation capabilities

⁠To be fair, all our contenders have really good IT automation capabilities. 

But with automation comes the much-talked-about Integration capabilities. An automation tool is only as good as the number of processes it can help automate and this depends on its ability to integrate with the tools that are running those processes. This is a combination of functions and depends on the tool's ability to understand the data coming from one tool and then create a system by which the necessary part of this data is translated and provided to the other. 

As almost all our contenders deliver on this we dig deeper at the capabilities based on how much of an MSPs business they can actually help automate.

Autotask is the big winner here. A product built solely for the purpose of automation can actually help you run things in multiple departments – from your service desk to accounts and sales and marketing. It has an open architecture and enables over 200 + leading tools to improve business efficiency. It integrates well with most of the software in and outside Datto’s product suite.

Connectwise Automate and NinjaOne are part of larger suites and have a decent showing in automation.

Atera is known not just for its automation capabilities but also for its “add-ons” which improve on integration and provide extra functionality but must be purchased separately.

Syncro also has a lot of integration options that are loved by its users and it's a platform that constantly delivers new features for automations and integrations.

HaloPSA is another one that boasts of the ability to help create your own solutions for your automation needs. It integrates well with a lot of tools and helps you automate a lot of processes which are not possible in other IT automation tools.

Finally, at SuperOps our PSA solution is aimed at both customization and improvement. We do not just want to give you customizable solutions, we want them to learn, adapt and improve over time with your processes and thus we are proud of our ai-powered intelligent automation.

We feel that while everyone brings its own share of great ideas here, the ranking based on our research and reviews online will be

  1. Autotask

  2. HaloPSA - SuperOps - Atera

  3.   Syncro

  4.   NinjaOne - Connectwise

We move on to the next crucial element…….

User Interface

This involves the overall look and feel of the tool and ease of use and responsiveness of the dashboard to show results for any queries.

Autotask and Connectwise both use interfaces that - though quite robust - have not kept up with the times and feel a bit archaic. NinjaOne meanwhile has a similar boxy approach but a better UI feel.

Atera and Syncro have a much more updated look and feel more modern. At SuperOps, we pride ourselves on having a very human-centric and modern UI that is intuitive and responsive. HaloPSA, the latest entry, on the charts is the closest competitor with an ultra-modern and refreshing UI.

The rankings for UI are

  1. SuperOps
    1.5 - HaloPSA (yep, that's close)

  2. Syncro

  3. Atera

  4. NinjaONe

  5. Connectwise - Autotask

Next we see if this IT automation software includes any service desk or helpdesk functionalities.

Service Desk

A service desk or help desk is an essential function as far as IT MSPs are considered.

Let's take a look at our various contenders here. SuperOps, Halo, Atera, and Syncro provide robust service desk and ticket management systems as part of their offering. 

NinjaOne has started doing it but the system is still developing and most users still use other ticketing systems integrated with NinjaOne. Autotask works with other Datto solutions and its ticketing interface is not that great as per users. Connectwise is even worse in their ticket management.

Useful tools and features for IT MSPs

Many extra features are part of these IT automation tools that are helpful to IT MSPs. Remember more functions that one tool can provide - the more the cost-savings for an MSP, the better the overall service delivery experience and speed, and the lesser the need for integrations and the chances of any issues cropping up.

The most important of these is an RMM - i.e. a Remote Monitoring and Management System. This helps you keep track of your client’s network, pre-empt and prevent any possible tech issues and provide solutions remotely in real time. This is the ultimate tool in the repertoire of any IT MSP and most of our contenders either have an RMM module or integrate with the best of them. Project management and CRM are some of the other important features provided.

Here’s a table of useful features provided by our contenders. If a function is not inbuilt but found as part of a suite that includes our IT automation tool, it’s marked as just a check and not in green. In case an external tool needs integration we mark it with an ❌.

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Now most of these things can still be automated via these tools by the means of integrations with popular function-specific tools. For instance, a lot of these integrate with Teamviewer for remote desktop support and with Quickbooks for accounts management. So they can still do automation very well. Some of these tools charge extra for a particular module. However, the greater the functions of a single tool - the better the coordination and overall lower costs.

Finally, we look at 

The common complaints

These are not the issues we found but rather the common issues faced by regular users of the platform as observed in online communities.

Atera - Mostly positive reviews are peppered with calls for Atera to improve its iOS and Android apps and improve functionality. We can see over time that they are listening and improving too. Some people called out unequal support for macs compared to windows.

Syncro-  A lot of users are reporting that features are released at a good pace but they are not completely smooth or well-tested. Mac support also finds mentions many times - though improvement is noted.

HaloPSA - Some users were waiting for some legacy features to be added to the cloud based system which seems to be resolved now. Also the only major issue we found was that there were too many customization options which led to a need of more training and familiarization which we thought was a good problem to have.

NinjaOne- The fairly young ticketing system needs improvement and so is the patchy integration with remote desktop.

SuperOps - A lot of users noted that the product missed some features or they were not developed fully. But to their delight and ours, they noted that we have a quick turnaround time for any request for new features. Also, we have worked on our onboarding and training over the last two years based on feedback.

Autotask- The layout and interface is the main gripe that most users complain about. Also feature requests were not received with much fanfare. Slower support was another gripe.

Connectwise Automate - It integrates well with their own suite of products like remote desktop (Connectwise Control) and invoicing system but they are not necessarily best for the user. Meanwhile 3rd party integrations are garnering some negative attention from the user base along with lack of good reporting.

Verdict - 5 best automation tools for IT MSPs

So now that we have seen most pros and cons, here’s our final list of top 5 IT automation tools that IT MSPs can opt for today.

  1. Autotask - Datto’s Autotask has remained a favorite for years because of its huge repertoire of automation options and if you want a product to automate all or most functions at your office, go for it. However, the pricing is not transparent and you do not get a free trial. Bigger company with deep pockets- try it out.

  2. SuperOps -  Our modern and intuitive take on automation involves a lot of self-learning artificial intelligence. The benefits of which will surely be seen over time as processes evolve and automation mature. A power-packed features involving one of the best RMMs, human-centric responsive UI, project management tools, IT documentation management, and more. With a

    21-day free trial and low pricing, there are just no reasons for you not to try this tool.

  3. HaloPSA - With a refreshing user interface and a lot of options for customized automation, Halo PSA is a great IT automation tool. As its price decreases with the size of the MSP, it's ideal for any MSP larger than 20 users and you can also take its 30-day trial. It doesn’t have an RMM though and relies on integrations for most tasks.

  4. Atera-  One of the stalwarts of the genre scores highly on ease of use lists due to people’s familiarity with the product. “Add-ons” remain a key benefit. It had originally set the benchmarks for products like ours and continues to do well. A slightly higher price point is a deterrent but they don’t have any endpoint cap for users.

  5. NinjaOne - When the much loved NinjaRMM decided to expand its functionalities and become a full-fledged suite for IT MSPs, we were sure it would be something great. It's a suite that is still evolving but users are showing patience and acceptance. Pricing is not transparent and that is one of the issues. Also, a poor ticketing system needs to be worked upon

Syncro could have easily been on #4 or #5 here because it gets so many things right and a few things can improve. However, the price point was higher. Connectwise needs to improve its archaic UI drastically to come back into contention.

So that’s our list but you need not agree with it. You can do your research and let us know where we went wrong if we did. As for SuperOps, we would love to know your opinion and you can take our 21-day trial and try it out.

Till next time, happy automation!



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