Product Reviews

Job Scheduling Made Easy

ActiveBatch helps shore up one of Windows' big weaknesses—scheduling batch files.

Scheduling batch files and other jobs has always been a “challenge” with Windows. Most administrators have spent plenty of time wrestling with the good, old AT command from early Windows NT days. The AT command wasn't completely reliable, and it had very few scheduling options. With Windows 2000, the Scheduled Tasks Accessory provides some enhancements. But what if you need a scheduler with extras such as cross-platform support, script independence, SMS support, built-in security, logging and reporting, and notification capabilities? Turn to ActiveBatch v3.

In about two hitch-free minutes, I'd installed ActiveBatch on my Win2K server. After a required restart, I had a shortcut on my desktop to run the ABATAdmin, which is the ActiveBatch GUI interface. ABATAdmin presented four windowpanes, including the ActiveBatch Bar, the Navigation Bar, the Navigation View and the Log Viewer. As a bonus, I also had a Wizard Help Screen. After spending a few minutes with these views and then scheduling some jobs, I was pleased with ActiveBatch's clever front-end design. Alternatively, a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Snap-In interface can be used to manage ActiveBatch. There's also a command-line interface and full support for COM so you can use scripting tools such as VBScript or JScript.

To test this tool, I created a job with a simple batch file to make a directory listing. My first task was to create an execution queue. This is basically a place on some machine from where jobs will be executed. Next, it was time to create and schedule my job, either by using the menus or using the Job Wizard for assistance. The multitude of job options you can apply is mind-boggling. Tabs on the job properties include dependencies, security, scheduling and logging. You can even run benchmarks and simulations to find out upon which machine it would be ideal to run jobs.

ActiveBatch 3
There is a plethora of scheduling and execution options to choose from within ActiveBatch's job properties. (Click image to view larger version.)

I created my job, and ActiveBatch filled the various pane views with information about it. As my job executed and finished, I could easily monitor its progress and results from the pane views. Afterward, I inspected the log file to verify completion.

I then pushed ActiveBatch a little harder by modifying the existing job. I selected my job, pressed the F10 key to bring up the properties dialog box, and highlighted the completion tab. This time I utilized the Messenger service to alert me upon completion. In addition, I decided not to run the job on certain days. I was easily able to create a special calendar to use with this particular job. Having applied these changes, I scheduled the job and waited. The Messenger service delivered the news of a successfully completed job.

Not only does ActiveBatch work well, it also tells you how it works, with great documentation and online help. I confess that I'm one of those people who just can't wait to pop in the CD, install and go; I usually reach for the manual only after I can't figure something out. I did have some difficulty getting my first job to run, until I grasped the concept of needing the execution queue on Win2K Server. Had I read the well-written manual first or launched the New Job Wizard, I could have avoided some early fumbling. The product also boasts full support for Microsoft's Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and runs on Windows NT, Unix and OpenVMS. If you routinely need to schedule jobs but are out of options, you should seriously consider ActiveBatch.

About the Author

Michael Feuda, MCSE, NNCDS, is an independent writer. He has worked with Microsoft products since the days of LAN Manager.

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