Control batch processing around the clock

Are you struggling to keep track of your batch processing because you must run so many batch jobs at night? Are your operator expenses spiraling out of control because the number of batch jobs your users run is increasing? Vinzant's Event Control Server (ECS) 5.0 can help you manage your batch-processing environment.

ECS is an enterprise-level job-scheduling package that automates batch processing. A job server program monitors a queue for pending work and automatically launches jobs, which can contain batch files or executable programs. Vinzant recommends that you execute one batch file per job for optimal control of scheduling and dependencies. For example, if a job crashes halfway through completing multiple batch files, you can't easily restart the job. But if you divide a job into several files, you can restart the process at the crash point after you make the necessary adjustments.

Setting Up the Software
ECS is easy to set up and configure, but installation takes 15 minutes. My software test copy came on thirteen 3.5" disks rather than one CD-ROM, so I had to manually feed my system a disk every few minutes.

For my test, I installed ECS on a Digital Prioris HX590 dual-processor Pentium system. This system contains many of the software packages I use to run my business, so it was a good test platform for ECS. I determined how well the software automatically ran batch jobs against the accounting database at night and checked that jobs completed successfully.

When you run the setup program, you must indicate whether you're installing the ECS software and data or only the software (if you're upgrading your system). After the software completes the file copy process, you must perform some configuration (i.e., provide your company's name and serial number). ECS supports multiple networks. You must indicate which network you want to use, and you must identify the job server. You need to edit your user security database to add authorized users to the ECS for Windows NT group. You can then start the job server.

Special Features
Some scheduling programs rely on Microsoft SQL Server to store information about jobs, logs, and dependencies. ECS uses Btrieve data files, which are cheaper to implement than SQL Server files. You can access data in the Btrieve files through an Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) report writer (e.g., Seagate Software's Crystal Reports), so you can build your own reports.

ECS lets you schedule jobs. For example, you can implement vacation periods per job classification (i.e., the software lets you classify jobs into groups according to a common identifier). If you set up a vacation period, ECS won't run jobs during the specified time period. You can also create calendars that define how to run jobs. Each calendar you create includes business and nonbusiness days. If you schedule a job to run on a business day that overlaps a vacation period, ECS won't run the job because a vacation period has precedence over a regular business day. Screen 1 shows how to use ECS's Batch Detail Edit feature to run a daily accounting job.

The Learning Curve
Although ECS is excellent job-scheduling software, it has a significant learning curve. You need time to learn the product's capabilities. Learning how to schedule jobs was easy, but I needed more time to learn how to implement dependencies and use the advanced features. ECS's limited documentation increased my frustration. The inch-thick book contained information about the different versions of ECS (e.g., DOS, Novell NetWare loadable module--NLM, and NT), but the information was difficult to follow.

Small businesses can handle ECS's price. If you manage an enterprise environment and require the full capabilities of a job-control system, consider ECS.

Event Control Server 5.0
Contact: Vinzant * 219-942-9544 or 800-355-3443
Web: http://www.vinsoft.com
Price: $4995 for one license
System Requirements: Windows NT Server 3.51 or 4.0, 466MHz processor or better (Pentium recommended), 32MB of RAM (64MB recommended)