SQL Server

SQL Server 2008 Scheduling and Notification : Managing Jobs

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A job is a container for operations that can be executed by the SQL Server Agent. Jobs can be run once or scheduled to run on a regular basis. Jobs provide the basis for SQL Server automation and allow for the execution of many different types of operations, including T-SQL, SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) packages, and operating system commands.

Defining Job Properties

The Jobs node is located under SQL Server Agent in the Object Explorer. You right-click the Jobs node and select New Job to create a new SQL Server Agent job. A New Job dialog like the one shown in Figure 1 appears.

Figure 1. The New Job dialog.


Only logins that are part of one of the msdb fixed database roles or are members of the sysadmin fixed server role are able to create or modify jobs.

The General properties page shown in Figure 16.8 contains the basic information about the job, including the name and description. The owner of the job defaults to the login for the person creating the job; however, if the login of the person creating the job is part of the sysadmin fixed server role, the default can be changed. You use the Category selection to group or organize jobs. There are several predefined categories for selection, including Database Maintenance and Log Shipping. The default category is set to [Uncategorized(local)].

Defining Job Steps

After you add the general information for a new job, you are ready to add the job steps that actually perform the work. To do this, you select the Steps page on the left side of the New Job dialog, and the job steps for this job are listed. To create a new job step, you click the New button, and a New Job Step dialog like the one shown in Figure 2 appears.

Figure 2. The New Job Step dialog.

A step name is the first piece of information you need to provide for the job step. It can be up to 128 characters long and must be unique within the job. Then you need to select a job step type. The SQL Server Agent can run a variety of types of job steps, including the following:

  • ActiveX script (Visual Basic, Java, Perl script)

  • Operating System (CmdExec)

  • PowerShell

  • Replication Distributor

  • Replication Merge

  • Replication Queue Reader

  • Replication Snapshot

  • Replication Transaction Log Reader

  • SQL Server Analysis Services Command

  • SQL Server Analysis Services Query

  • SQL Server Integration Services Package

  • Transact-SQL script (T-SQL)

SQL Server Analysis Services Command, Server Analysis Services Query, and SQL Server Integration Services Package are types that were added in SQL Server 2005. They provide integration with SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and SSIS.

The Step properties page displays different information, depending on the type of step selected. When the Transact-SQL script (T-SQL) type is selected, you see a window similar to the one shown in Figure 16.9. If you choose the SQL Server Integration Services Package type, the Step properties page changes to allow you to enter all the relevant information needed to execute an SSIS package.

In many cases (including T-SQL), a command window is available to input the step commands. With a T-SQL command, you can enter the same type of commands you would enter in a query window. You click the Parse button to validate the SQL and ensure proper syntax. The Operating system (CmdExec) type allows you to enter the same types of commands that you can enter in a command prompt window. Each step type has its own command syntax that you can test in the native environment to ensure proper operation.

You can select the Advanced page to configure job flow information and other information related to the job step. On Success Action allows you to specify the action to perform when the current job step completes. Actions include the execution of the next job step (if one exists) and the ability to set job status based on the step completion. The same selection options also exist for On Failure Action.

The Retry options define the options that relate to retrying the job step in the event that the job step fails. Retry Attempts defines the number of times the job step will be re-executed if it fails. Retry Intervals (Minutes) defines the amount of time (in minutes) between retry attempts.


The Retry options are useful for polling scenarios. For example, you might have a job step that tests for the existence of a file during a given period of the day. The job can be scheduled to start at a time of day when the file is expected. If the file is not there and the step fails, Retry Attempts can be set to poll again for the file. Retry Interval determines how often it retries, and the combination of Retry Attempts and Retry Interval determines the total polling window. For example, if you want to check for the file for 2 hours, you can set Retry Attempts to 24 with a Retry Interval of 5 minutes. If the job step fails more than the number of retries, the step completes in failure.

The last set of options on the Advanced page relate to the output from the job step. Job step output can be saved to an output file that can be overwritten each time the job step is run, or the output can be appended each time. The Log to Table option writes the job step output to the sysjobstepslogs table in the msdb database. The table contains one row for each job step with the Log to Table option enabled. If Append Output to Existing Entry in Table is enabled, the sysjobstepslogs data row for the step can contain output for more than one execution. If this option is not selected, the table contains only execution history for the last execution of the step.


If you choose the Append Output to Existing Entry in Table option, the size of the sysjobstepslogs table will grow over time. You should consider using the sp_delete_jobsteplog stored procedure to remove data from the sysjobstepslogs table. This stored procedure has several different parameters that allow you to filter the data that will be removed. You can use these parameters to remove log data by job, job step, date, or size of the log for the job step.

Defining Multiple Jobs Steps

You can define multiple jobs steps in a single job. This allows you to execute multiple dependent job actions. The job steps run one at a time (serially), and you can specify the order of the job steps. The job order and the related dependencies are called control of flow.

Figure 3 shows an example of a job that has multiple dependent job steps. Take note of the On Success and On Failure columns, which define the control of flow. For example, if step 1 succeeds, the next step occurs. If step 1 fails, no further steps are executed, and the job quits, reporting a job failure. The control of flow is slightly different for the second step, whereby the control of flow passes to the next step on success but flows to the fourth step if a failure occurs.

Figure 3. Multiple job steps.

The control of flow is defined on each job step. The Advanced tab of the New Job Step dialog provides drop-down lists that allow you to specify the actions to take on success and on failure. In addition, the Steps page that lists all of a job’s steps allows you to specify the start step for the job. The drop-down box at the bottom of the Steps page provides this function. You can also use the Move Step arrows to change the start step. Manipulating the start step is useful when you’re restarting a job manually, as in the case of a job failure; in this situation, you might want to set the job to start on a step other than the first step.


SSIS provides the same type of flow control capabilities as the SQL Server Agent. In fact, maintenance plans that contain multiple related actions (such as optimization, backup, and reporting) utilize SSIS packages. A scheduled job starts an SSIS package, which executes the package in a single step, but the actual maintenance steps are defined within the package. The SSIS Designer utilizes a graphical tool that depicts the flow of control and allows you to modify the individual steps.

Defining Job Schedules

The SQL Server Agent contains a comprehensive scheduling mechanism you can use to automate the execution of your jobs. A job can have zero, one, or more schedules assigned to it. You can view the schedules associated with a job by selecting the Schedules page of the Job Properties screen. To create a new schedule for a job, you can click the New button at the bottom of the Schedules page. Figure 4 shows the New Job Schedule Properties page, with a sample schedule and options defined. The options on this screen vary, depending on the frequency of the job schedule. For example, if the frequency of the schedule shown in Figure 4 were changed from daily to weekly, the screen would change to allow for the selection of specific days during the week to run the job.

Figure 4. The New Job Schedule Properties page.

You have the ability to share job schedules so that one job schedule can be utilized by more than one job. When you select the Schedule page, a Pick button is available at the bottom of the page. If you click the Pick button, a screen appears showing all the defined schedules. If you highlight one of the schedules in the list and click OK, the schedule is linked to the related job. You can also view all the jobs associated with a particular schedule by editing the schedule and clicking the Jobs in Schedule button in the top-right portion of the Job Schedule Properties screen.

Tracking multiple job schedules and schedule execution can be challenging in an environment that has many jobs and schedules. The sp_help_jobs_in_schedule, and sp_help_jobactivity stored procedures are helpful system stored procedures that are found in the msdb database. The sp_help_jobs_in_schedule stored procedure provides information about the relationship between jobs and schedules. The sp_help_jobactivity stored procedure provides point-in-time information about the runtime state of SQL Server jobs. This stored procedure returns a lot of information, including recent job executions, the status of those executions, and the next scheduled run date.

Defining Job Notifications

The Notifications page of the Job Properties dialog, as shown in Figure 5, allows you to define the notification actions to perform when a job completes.

Figure 5. The Notifications page of the Job Properties dialog.

Notifications can be sent via email, pager, or NET SEND command. The notifications for a Schedule Job can be sent based on the following events:

  • When the job succeeds

  • When the job fails

  • When the job completes

Each of these events can have a different notification action defined for it. For example, a notification might send an email if the job succeeds but page someone if it fails.

You also have the option of writing notification information into the Windows Application event log or automatically deleting the job when it completes. These two options are also available on the Notifications page. Writing events to the Application log is a useful tracking mechanism. Monitoring software is often triggered by events in the application log. The automatic job deletion options are useful for jobs that will be run only once. As with the other notification options, you can set up the delete job action such that it is deleted only when a specific job event occurs. For example, you might want to delete the job only if the job succeeds.

Viewing Job History

You view job history via the Log File Viewer, which is a comprehensive application that allows for many different types of logs to be viewed. You right-click a job in the SQL Server Agent and select History to display the Log File Viewer. Figure 6 shows the Log File Viewer with several examples of job history selected for viewing.

Figure 6. Job history shown in the Log File Viewer.

Compared to viewing job history in SQL Server versions prior to SQL Server 2005, the current form of the Log File Viewer has some distinct advantages for viewing job history. In the Log File Viewer, you can select multiple jobs for viewing at one time. To view job step details, you expand the job entries and select a job step. You can use the row details shown below the log file summary to troubleshoot job errors and isolate problems. The Log File Viewer also has filtering capabilities that allow you to isolate the jobs to view. Click on the Filter button and the Filter Settings dialog appears. You can filter jobs by using a number of different settings, including User, Start Date, and Message Text. You must click the Apply Filter button for the selected filtering option to take effect.

The amount of history that is kept is based on the history settings defined for the SQL Server Agent. You access the history settings by right-clicking the SQL Server Agent node, selecting Properties, and then selecting the History page on the left part of the screen. The settings available on the History page are shown in Figure 7. By default, the job history log is limited to 1,000 rows, with a maximum of 100 rows per job. You can also select the Automatically Remove Agent History option and select a period of time to retain history. This setting causes the SQL Server Agent to periodically remove job history from the log. This is a good approach for keeping the size of the log manageable.

Figure 7. Job history settings.
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