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When most of us think about the term "cron," we think in terms of "Nix" environments. In keeping with a similar purpose, VisualCron is an automation and integration tool for Windows that uses a set of scheduling, triggers, scripts, and tasks that are orchestrated by the platform to automate processes. This includes using tasks to transfer, encrypt, compress, and transform data between systems. It supports an impressive number of protocols and services: SFTP, FTP, SCP, SSH, SQL, Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, GoogleDrive, OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, Slack, PeopleSoft, VMWare, SSRS, Exchange, WebDAV, Office365, Pushbullet, Crystal reports, Dynamic CRM, AS/400, IIS, Informatica, Azure Service Bus, Rabbit MQ, Telegram, SAP, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, MySQL, Twitter, Hyper-V, MSMQ, PDF, SharePoint, and others.
VisualCron provides many helpful features and capabilities out of the box, including the following:
- No need to know a programming language
- Intuitive, easy-to-use interface
- 100+ custom tasks for different technologies
- Extended logging for visibility into your jobs, tasks, and auditing
- Feature request-driven development
- Error handling and flow control built into the solution
- Affordable pricing
The VisualCron application is divided into three separate components: server, client, and the tray client. The VisualCron server component runs as a Windows service in the background. The client is a fat client application that interacts with and configures the server component and manually executes jobs. The tray client provides notification when a job is stalled or has completed. All three components are installed automatically when you choose to install both the server and the client components on the same machine.
Installation and interface ^
The installer is basically a "next, next, finish" operation. Note: It is important that you have .NET 4.8 installed as the installer will notify you that it cannot proceed without .NET 4.8 on the server/client. Below is a screenshot of after the installer finishes. You will be prompted to launch the VisualCron client after the installer completes successfully.
On first launch, the interface may feel a bit "busy" with many buttons and tabs. After I used the VisualCron client for a few minutes, everything made sense and it wasn't too difficult to find my way around. For the most part, everything is just "point and click" with very menu-driven workflows.
With VisualCron, you first create a job. The job holds tasks that work off of certain triggers. Once the specified conditions are met, the job performs an action.
Creating a VisualCron job ^
To create a new job, you can just right-click in the grid pane and select Add Job. This launches the Add Job dialog box. Use the Main settings tab to name the job, set any variables you want to use, and configure permissions.
The first thing you want to configure is Triggers. The trigger is the condition that has to be met or observed to kick off various actions and activities that you want to automate. As you can see, there are Time and Event triggers.
As an example, take a look at the multitude of events that you can trigger in VisualCron. The options are almost overwhelming. VisualCron has included just about anything you can think of to trigger in a Windows environment. This includes everything from file triggers, mail, SQL, services, registry, event logs, and many others.
Let's look at the File trigger event. As you can see, you have a lot of control over what you want to monitor in relation to files. You can watch certain directories for many types of behavior, including creating, changing, deleting, and renaming files. There are several logic operators here that can be watched for and set triggers on.
The task is the action that you want to perform when the specific condition you are watching for is observed. Again, there are many options to choose from. As an example, a common action would be messaging. There are many messaging options, including email, instant messaging, syslog, and others.
After creating the new job, I manually created a new file in the directory that VisualCron was monitoring. It immediately sent an alert. As you can see, this is a simple example of the powerful types of automation that you can perform with VisualCron in a Windows environment.
Web macro recorder automation ^
Not only does VisualCron interact with Windows environments, but a recently added capability called Web Macro Recorder Automation allows automating web interactions. This new feature performs automated web scraping or crawling of web content, which enables many powerful use cases. By using VisualCron Web Macro Automation, you can record mouse clicks and keyboard input on a web page.
It also allows for extracting information from web pages using the scraping ability. This allows taking information from an unstructured format such as HTML and transforming it into structured data that is stored in a database. Once in a database, the information can be queried and analyzed as needed.
While many new web-connected interfaces can be accessed via purpose-built APIs, there are many legacy systems that may not have API hooks into the backend data. Having the ability to scrape unstructured data from a web page using a tool like VisualCron can be extremely powerful, especially when working with these types of legacy systems.
Versions and pricing ^
There are two different versions of VisualCron available for download: Basic and Pro. What are the differences? The Basic edition has feature limitations compared to the Pro version. Both versions are paid products that require licensing for use. Licensing includes the product as well as maintenance and support.
You can check out the exact differences between the two licensed versions here:
All in all, I really like the automation potential of VisualCron. What is really great about the solution is that it is a totally turnkey way to start automating. You do not have to know PowerShell, batch scripting, or some other scripting syntax to start benefiting from automation in your Windows environment.
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The interface is a bit overwhelming at first with the numerous menus and options. However, it only takes a few minutes to feel at home in the interface and start creating jobs and task workflows. VisualCron has a generous 45-day trial download that will allow you to fully test the features and capabilities it offers in your own environment. Visit VisualCron to download the trial.