Is Cron Scheduling Holding You Back? Find Out With These Resources

If you have any UNIX machines, the chances are you’re familiar with cron. Cron comes built into UNIX and is relatively easy to use, making it one of the most common job scheduling tools out there. If you were previously running tasks like backups and data transfers manually, cron feels like a big step up.

But today’s IT departments face complex requirements, and cron just doesn’t have the sophisticated features necessary for a modern automation strategy. If you already know that your organization is ready to move to an advanced enterprise job scheduler and would like some expert advice on the migration, jump straight to our special offer of a 30-minute Cron Migration Consultation. If you’re still wondering whether or not cron can meet your needs, read on.

What’s Wrong with Using Cron?

We’re not here to tell you that cron is bad at what it does. It’s a very reliable tool if you only need to run a few time-based jobs on one or two servers. The first major problems tend to come up if you have any dependencies in your schedule, like a job that can’t kick off until a certain file arrives. In the following recorded webinar, Pat Cameron, Director of Automation Technology at HelpSystems, explains some of the other limitations of cron and what you can do about them.



Cron is missing a lot of modern features that make end users’ lives easier when they are interacting with a job schedule. For example, cron lacks robust error handling and reporting, features that help programmers and executives rest easy knowing that their job schedule is in good hands. To read more and watch a short video with a member of the HelpSystems development team, check out Cron Scheduling: An Old Fallback.

Has Your Business Moved Beyond Cron?

Sure, the sophisticated features of an enterprise job scheduler sound nice, but cron is free and it’s hard to argue with that. So how do you know if your organization really needs to replace con? This guide gives a few examples of situations you might be running into if it’s time to move beyond cron.

Have you ever:

  • Distributed a crontab file to multiple servers via scp, only to have to update those files later on?
  • Forgotten which column you were editing and inadvertently scheduled a daily job to run every hour or vice versa?
  • Had a job start before the previous instance of the same job had finished from the last run?
  • Had to explain to your manager what jobs ran where and when, via cron?
  • Received 15 e-mail messages in one morning telling you that everything ran properly the night before, only to miss the one message warning of an impending disk failure?

Read the full list.

Cron and Your Automation Strategy

Automating a few simple tasks used to be enough to give your company a competitive edge. These days it’s necessary to have a comprehensive automation strategy spanning the entire enterprise. This requires IT solutions with certain features.

Do you have multiple servers and disparate operating systems? Business processes have to be able to span systems and applications, and you will want to be able to monitor and manage all of them from a central console. With cron, you need to log into each UNIX server separately and use a command line program to review or edit your jobs. For Windows or other types of servers, you will probably have a different tool altogether. As your business grows, your sprawling schedule will take more and more time to manage and update.

Another essential consideration for a growing enterprise is security. If your team is managing multiple UNIX servers, it is likely that different users are building their own cron job schedules across the organization. This means that you have no way to track or monitor the entire schedule—or who is doing what. Role-based security ensures that users have access to only the parts of the product they need to perform their jobs. It also makes managing user privileges easier for system administrators, because they can change privileges for a large group of users on one screen.

To learn more about how cron affects your automation potential, read the guide: Is Cron Limiting Your Automation Strategy?

What to Do Next

Replacing cron with a true enterprise-class job scheduling solution can streamline operations and give you a competitive edge. But how do you make the switch? In this recorded webinar, Pat Cameron from HelpSystems and Mike Diehl from Linux Journal present a planning and implementation framework for moving beyond cron.


We Can Help

Enterprise job scheduling with Automate Schedule provides centralized, scalable automation for modern businesses. But your critical cron jobs won’t be lost when you make the switch to Automate Schedule—we’ll make sure of it. Sign up for a cron migration consultation to learn how to move your existing jobs to your new solution. During the 30-minute call with one of our experts, you will discuss:

  • How Automate Schedule can meet your unique automation needs
  • How to easily move your essential cron jobs to Automate Schedule
  • Opportunities to improve on your current automation with Automate Schedule's more advanced features