Despite technology advances in the computer world today, there are still some maintenance processes for computer systems that we are not able to keep up with on a consistent schedule, despite our intentions. Time intensive tasks are avoided because they are time consuming, are generally repetitive and are uninspiring. What this effectively accomplishes, however, is that our systems are one quick crash away from losing our valuable information. One easy tool, for any Unix-like system, is a cron job. This function will help keep your system running efficiently without having manually scheduled maintenance and system backups.
A cron job can be programmed to run important functions at a specified times, removing guesswork from the user equation. Although mainly used for system maintenance and administration, it is possible to use a cron job for menial tasks such as Internet connections and emails. The ability to run multiple functions concurrently is one facet that saves users valuable time and resources.
Cron Jobs And Your cPanel Interface
Cron jobs can be scheduled through your cPanel interface under text links similar to “Cron Manager.” Websites that feature cPanel make setting up a cron job easy. Go to the tab, set up dates, times and frequency, and enter the code for the task. By making the process a simple interface function, the guesswork is removed and you can easily use cPanel to set up multiple jobs. If similar text links are not readily visible, contact your web host to verify availability.
Exactly How Does A Cron Job Work?
Proper programming of a cron job is important for it to work properly for your system. A cron job is a script that tells your system to run a specified function at a given time. Always included in the script, in order for it to perform properly, are six items: the command line to be executed, the day of the week, the day (date), the minute, and the hour. Any unknown values are shown as asterisks and referred to as “wildcards.” The cron job process tells your system the what, when, and where of automated processes. However, the script still has to be written correctly for the cron job to be able to read it and perform as intended.
There are certain processes that are important in helping your system perform at its optimal level. Consistent backups of your MySQL databases as well as all website content should be performed at least once daily. Sitemap generation enhances search engine optimization (SEO), and is a process that should be performed at least monthly. Another process that is important to efficient performance of your system is deletion of unnecessary files including old backups. Deletion of any file requires an advanced user however, as deleting a necessary file can create a catastrophe.
An Important Note: Use Caution
All automated processes such as backups, sitemap generation or deletion of unnecessary files should always be performed during an off-peak hour. Cron job processes that are scheduled during peak hours can slow a server dramatically if the server has resources directed elsewhere. Likewise, cron jobs that run excessively or too often will also greatly decrease your server’s available resources. To eliminate the possibility of a cron job creating problems rather than helping them, it is important to double-check scripts so that they run properly.
Remove The Manual Element With Cron Jobs
Instructions for writing executable cron job scripts are available from multiple online sources such as APLawrence.com and NixCraft. Many of these sources include examples to help you get started.
Arranging the scheduled jobs properly is easy with a little study; simply set them up and then relax while the cron job does the work for you. Your system will be at peak performance without you supplying daily, weekly or monthly manual work to the process.
Brian Flores is a SEO and blogger for InMotion Hosting, one of the top vps hosting providers in the United States. You can follow him on Twitter @BrianAFlores.