Kevin Vliet serves as Director of Product Management for JAMS, an enterprise workload automation solution from HelpSystems. He has led more than 100 enterprise conversions to JAMS and is an expert on the nuances of scheduling on Task Scheduler, SQL Agent, Cron, and many business applications. Kevin has presented at numerous SQL, Microsoft, and PowerShell user group meetings on topics such as Enterprise Security for Batch Processes, PowerShell Automation, and Hybrid Cloud Automation. Kevin also co-authored the JAMS University curriculum, a comprehensive training program for training IT administrators to manage large-scale, cross-platform enterprise workflows.
Windows Task Scheduler from Microsoft is a native scheduling tool that enables users to automate basic tasks. Using Windows job scheduling offers limited automation capabilities and is included with multiple Microsoft operating systems like Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, or Windows Server 2019. The Task Scheduler can schedule simple tasks to run using event or time-specific triggers to perform actions, with each task able to specify at least one action to complete the job.
If you manage a Windows environment, there is a chance you might be using Windows Task Scheduler to automate tasks on your server. But if your goal is to build a more efficient enterprise from the ground up, then the native task scheduler may not be the ideal way to achieve your broader automation goals. That’s because Windows Task Scheduler offers limited scheduling options, which do not allow you to build and automate more complex tasks that streamline your business processes.
What’s more, each individual Windows machine has a separate Task Scheduler, so you will have little to no control for integrating automated tasks that happen on each workstation. As your environment becomes more complex and expands to require enterprise-wide processes, managing Windows job scheduling becomes extremely labor intensive. Let’s dig further into the challenges that arise from relying on Windows Task Scheduler on a large scale and consider how JAMS offers a more robust Windows Task Scheduler alternative for your organization.
What Are the Primary Challenges of Windows Task Scheduler?
#1: Maintaining Separate Schedulers on Multiple Servers
As a standalone solution, running individual tasks with Windows Task Scheduler works well, but when you have to maintain separate job schedulers on each Windows server, it becomes more challenging. Doing this requires you to log onto each server to view or schedule tasks, which is time-consuming and increases the likelihood for error. Individually managing each Task Scheduler impedes you from creating a well-orchestrated and automated environment. Even more, as your business grows, you will likely need to add more servers, creating a more diverse environment beyond Windows. So it’s essential to take a long-term view for scheduling tasks that will co-exist in a hybrid or mixed server infrastructure.
#2: Limited Scheduling Dependencies
Windows Task Scheduler works well as long as the schedule applying to a job is straightforward. In Task Scheduler, you can define a single job to run daily, weekly, or monthly. These settings work for simple tasks that need to be repeated on predictable schedules. But as scheduling requirements grow more advanced, there are no viable options.
When it comes to scheduling based on dependencies, Task Scheduler does not account for variability or potential failure. For example, imagine that you are scheduling a series of three tasks required to run one after the other. In Task Scheduler, you would be required to schedule the tasks based on how long the previous task takes. But if one task inadvertently fails or takes longer than expected, the job will not complete in the way you were expecting it—and that may impact the entire outcome of the business process across your organization.
Think of another scenario. What if you wanted to schedule a job to run on only the last workday of the month, so long as that day wasn’t a company recognized holiday? Simply said, it would not be feasible. While Windows Task Scheduler can cater to scheduling around the last day of each month based on a specific day, it lacks any connection to the concept of a workday. It also lacks connections to custom calendars, such as bank holidays and fiscal periods—calendars that are extremely relevant when automating business processes.
#3: Keeping Decentralized Script Log Information
Using Windows Task Scheduler requires that developers output script log information to a separate .log or .txt file to pull up and reference as needed. This not only creates a decentralized, disconnected approach, but it also makes it extremely difficult to triage failures. Creation of these separate files requires multiple touchpoints and offers little to no way to centrally manage the outputted files—causing additional complexity and diminishing returns as automation initiatives grow across your business.
#4: Insufficient Reporting Capabilities
Windows Task Scheduler software offers some standard reporting capabilities, but it is not configurable, making it difficult to assess the efficiency of scheduled tasks across different functions. For example, you cannot configure Windows Task Scheduler to send email notifications for tasks that have started or completed. You would need to create PowerShell scripts or use a third-party application in order to expand the reporting functionality of Windows Task Scheduler.
With each of these challenges in mind, let’s now take a look at how a Windows Task Scheduler alternative like JAMS workload automation software can help you move your enterprise automation strategy forward.
Benefits of JAMS as a Windows Task Scheduler Alternative
#1: JAMS Centralizes Automation and Enhances Batch Processes
As a Windows Task Scheduler alternative, JAMS centralizes batch processing in a single, easy-to-use interface, where Windows jobs can be extended with additional properties, and linked together with non-Windows processes to create cross-platform workflows. JAMS enables organizations that leverage Windows to preserve workflows developed with Windows Task Scheduler, resolve service issues quickly using reliable and actionable alerts, and enhance Windows batch processes with powerful business logic, such as custom calendars, exception handling, file dependencies, and more.
#2: JAMS Streamlines Triggers and Easily Expands Automation
Not only can JAMS help streamline the triggers you have set up under Windows Task Scheduler, but it also allows you to expand the scope of your automation goals. For example, below are critical functions you can perform with JAMS:
- Schedule tasks across various platforms in your environment
- Incorporate workflows from different applications into your enterprise schedule
- Create an electronic audit history report
- Perform PowerShell automation and .NET job scheduling
- Securely transfer files to any remote system
- Schedule jobs based on prerequisites and dependencies
- Customize and utilize job history reports to plan for future job schedules
#3: JAMS Makes Automation More Approachable and Scalable
As a scalable enterprise automation solution, JAMS fits the automation needs of a comprehensive array of business initiatives—providing a robust scheduling interface that is not present in many of the native tools used today. The JAMS job scheduler also bridges the gap between scheduled tasks and the business users that depend on them. Converting Windows tasks to JAMS jobs puts automation into the hands of the people that need it most and reduces the burden on your IT team. With JAMS, you can:
- Empower non-IT users to schedule and monitor their own jobs
- Easily capture change history of every job definition
- Get aggregate insights into the entire schedule of jobs to identify issues before they impact individual jobs
#4: JAMS Effortlessly Converts Tasks and Takes Windows Cross-Platform
With the built-in conversion utility from JAMS, you can easily migrate Windows scheduled tasks, including all their properties. Import jobs residing on any Windows server throughout your network. The conversion process takes just minutes and enables you to apply dozens of new properties to schedule and trigger jobs according to the unique requirements of your business.
JAMS also enables organizations to break down imposed barriers between Windows and other platforms, such as Linux, UNIX, i Series and z/OS. With JAMS software, you can transform isolated Windows processes into the building blocks of powerful cross-platform workflows for business intelligence, application deployment, ETL, and service management.
See How JAMS Offers a More Robust Job Scheduler for Your Business
While Task Scheduler offers a free, native tool for Windows operating systems, organizations that grow in complexity typically find that they need a more scalable, centralized job scheduling solution. The limited features and capabilities in Task Scheduler often accompany the higher, hidden costs to IT staff in terms of time and effort spent on automation. As you begin to move forward and expand your automation approach, consider seeing for yourself how top-rated JAMS stacks up to Windows Task Scheduler and can supercharge automation across your enterprise.