All of the year’s most-viewed articles on the site have one thing in common: They focus on system administrators developing their skills and using tools more effectively. Several of the PowerShell tutorials linked below show administrators how to take the initiative to design their own scripts and get the job done.
5. Clean up PowerShell scripts
Even seasoned IT pros don’t know every PowerShell trick in the book. Admins of all levels should explore the undocumented features that help them create cleaner PowerShell code more efficiently.
For example, an if statement — such as a script to check and capture the presence of a certain element in an array — reduces an administrator’s work because it strings outputs together, eliminating the need to look up variable elements twice. Using if statements with the ValidateScript parameter attribute can prevent script problems because the parameter checks that values fit what admins expect and that they return clearer error messages.
4. The top 5 unheralded Windows Server 2016 features
Some lesser-known Windows Server 2016 features, such as improved IP Address Management, can encourage administrators to seek out new ways to handle ponderous chores or utilize some new functionality to make their lives easier.
Admins of all levels should explore the undocumented features that help them create cleaner PowerShell code more efficiently.
Administrators should learn how to use the enhanced IP Address Management feature, which improves security in Windows Server 2016 by adding automation to domain name system management. The feature manages domain name system and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol services in one management window for better control over IP security.
For storage, Microsoft updated the Resilient File System in this release with integrity checks, data removal scrubbing and data recovery from corruption. The new file system also improved the capacity for virtualization workloads. These are just two features this tip suggests administrators add to their repertoire.
3. Skills for system administrators to learn in 2018
The never-ending development of technology requires administrators to keep learning to remain relevant. At the beginning of 2018, expert Brian Kirsch recommended five key skills admins should learn to improve how they manage Windows systems and stay on top of an evolving industry.
Admins can benefit from developing their automation skills, particularly with PowerShell. The PowerShell scripting language and tools, such as Ansible, help IT workers avoid repetitive work and save time for other tasks. Microsoft further cemented the need to learn PowerShell by adding more cmdlets to administer Server Core, the default installation option in Windows Server 2016, which has no GUI.
2. Create PowerShell scripts for task automation
Once administrators get a feel for PowerShell through one-liners, they can progress to developing their own scripts to automate different jobs. Repetitive actions, such as transferring files or getting operating system information from servers, are ideal for PowerShell automation.
Turning a string of commands into a cohesive script starts with saving those commands to a text file for repeated use. Commands become scripts when administrators add a way to automatically adjust variables that change, such as server names or credentials. The scripting process has three steps: removing any administrator interaction, separating the changing variables from the commands and expanding the code to incorporate new parameters and variables.
1. Design a patching tool with PowerShell
Tools such as Windows Server Update Services help admins with the patching process, but building an automation tool from scratch allows administrators to tailor it to their organization’s needs. To start on this project, administrators must know the steps in the process, including how to target systems, which patches to apply and how to deliver them. Expert Adam Bertram created a PowerShell module, WindowsUpdate, to help identify the information you need. This tip will take you step by step through the process.