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Cron Job: What It Is & Benefits

what is cron job

A cron or cron job refers to the process or tasks that run periodically on a Unix system. It is not the most fun thing to do the same tasks over and over again. Using cron jobs allows users to automate tasks instead of doing the same tasks. Scheduling cron jobs to run virtual private servers and any operating system. The main benefit of this is that it saves valuable time. It also lets users focus on other significant tasks. It is essential to learn the basics of cron jobs for anyone. In this article, you will learn about cron jobs and help you to use cron more efficiently.


Most cron jobs have three elements:
Cron jobs have the script to be called or executed.
They have a command to execute the script on a reoccurring basis. That usually sets in cPanel.
The script’s action depends on what the invoked script is doing. Scripts as cron jobs are replacing files or databases. They also change the data on the server, like sending email notifications. Moreover, scripts require cron jobs and will instruct you on what to set up.

Benefits
Learning to schedule with cron repeated tasks will boost your work efficiency as an administrator.

What Is a Cron Job?

Cron is for repeated tasks. It provides users to schedule repetitive tasks. Cron is a utility for entering an easy, simple command for unwanted jobs in a given time. Any task scheduled with a cron is called a cron job. Users can set a specific task to automate or when to run. Cron runs in the background for non-interactive jobs. It is like services you might know in Windows, running background processes. A background process is also known as a daemon. It is inactive and waiting for the command. Once it gets a request, it will perform a task.

Any input can be a command on the computer to start the process. Therefore, cron is a file that contains commands to be ready to run at a given time periodically. A default cron configuration file is /etc/crontab, in /etc/cron.*/, crontab directory. The system crontab file is restricted access, and only the system administrators can edit it. It’s common to have multiple administrators on Unix-like operating systems. Each of the managers can write commands and also create crontabs.

What Is a Cron Command?

Cron jobs can maintain the system since it automates the process of repeated tasks. It allows to control the disk space and monitor and manage the backups. The crontab command is to edit or create a crontab file, list, remove files, set up the cron jobs. Use the crontab command to edit and set up your cron jobs.

Who Should Use Cron Jobs?

Although cron jobs are mainly used among system administrators, it also useful for web developers. Cron jobs are especially perfect for computers running 24/7, just as servers.

What Are the Restrictions in Cron Jobs?

Here there are a few things to consider about cron jobs:

  • There are 60 seconds between each interval. It is the shortest amount of time to wait. You need to run a job after 60 seconds with cron.
  • One main computer. Cron jobs in a network can not be distributed to multiple computers. Therefore, if the computer runs cron crashes, it will affect the scheduled tasks in progress. Scheduled tasks cannot run, and missed jobs will only run.
  • Not have a re-enter mechanism. Cron is created to run precisely at selected times. If any cron job fails to run, it will run at the next scheduled time. This shows the cron is not used for incremental jobs. That reason makes cron best with the basic tasks to run in intervals.
  • You might change your mind to use another method for a single and one-time job to schedule.

What to Know Before Scheduling Cron Jobs

Before scheduling your tasks with cron, it will be great to know about some basics in cron job configuration files:

  • Use the crontab system to schedule basic system-wide jobs. That kind of job only changed with root privileges.
  • The user adding cron jobs has to root access to the directory. Besides, the user needs to conform to the run-parts naming convention.

Learn Crontab Syntax

Learn about cron syntax and formatting for creating a cron job. Understanding these will help you to set up cron jobs more accurately.
Crontab syntax has five fields. You must fill in each of the fields.

Hour

It will range from 0 to 23. It shows the hour that the command will run.

Minute

It will range from 0 to 59. It shows the minute of the hour when the command will run.

Day of the month

It will range from 1 to 21. It shows the day of the month the command will run.

Month

It will range from 1 to 12. It refers to the months the command will run.

Day of the week

It will range from 0 to 6. It shows the day of the week the command will run.

crontab guru tool

Note:
Use tools such as Crontab generator or Crontab.guru if you do not want to type cron syntax manually. The tools generate commands for the time and date you want.
If you want to write your command manually, you need to have basic knowledge about cron job operators. So, you can set the correct time for your cron jobs. Familiarity with the cron job operators lets you specify the values to enter for each field. Use the most appropriate operators in crontab files.

Cron Job Special Characters

  • Asterisk (*)
    Signify possible values in a field with this operator.
  • The comma (,)
    List the multiple values with this operator.
  • The hyphen (-)
    Determine a range of values using this operator.
  • Separator (/)
    Divide values using this operator.
  • Last (L)
    Use this command to show the day of the week and day of the month fields.
  • Weekday (W)
    Determine the closest day of the week at a given time using this command.
  • Hash #
    Determine the day of the week using this command. It will range from 1 to 5.
  • Question mark?
    To show no value for the day of the week and the day of the month fields.

Basics about Cron Job Commands

Let’s review some basics about cron to schedule cron jobs with commands. You will learn to enter commands in a shell program like Bash on Linux or another Unix-like operating system.
The VPS command line is accessible via PuTTY SSH.

  • The user crontab
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This only allows users to create and edit cron jobs. The jobs are only valid at the user level. To use user crontab, make sure that your current has a root privilege.

Some examples of primary operations that cron can run:

  • crontab -e

This command creates or edits a crontab file. If there is no crontab file, it will create a new one. It also provides you to edit or delete a crontab file. However, you need to text editor to edit on a crontab file such as vi or nano.
When you enter this command for the first time, you need to choose the editor you want to edit your file.

  • crontab -l

This lets you see a list of ongoing scheduled tasks.

  • crontab -u username -l

If you set your system for multiple users, view their crontab file lists with this command.

  • sudo su crontab -u username -e

This command allows for editing other users’ scheduled jobs. Add sudo su to the beginning of the command to give yourself root privileges. Like this command, some commands can be run by a root privilege.

  • crontab -v

It will show the last time you made changes to the crontab file.

  • crontab -r

With this command, delete all cron jobs in the crontab file.

  • crontab -i

It alternative to crontab -r. It will ask the user with a yes/no option before removing the crontab:

The root user also can add cron jobs in the etc/cron.d directory. It is the best automatic installation and updates.

crontab generator tool

Other Directories for Scheduling

Root users also keep the following directories to schedule:

  • /etc/cron.daily/

To run tasks once a day.

  • /etc/cron.hourly/

To run all scripts once an hour.

  • /etc/cron.weekly/

To run tasks once a week.

  • /etc/cron.monthly/

To run tasks once a month.

Special Strings in Cron

Special strings are used to run intervals of cron jobs, so there is no specific set of rational numbers to enter.
Use special strings with the following @ with a phrase.

  • @reboot

To run for a system reboot.

  • @daily or @midnight

To run tasks daily.

  • @weekly

To run jobs once per week.

  • @yearly

Once per year. we can use the @annually keyword also.

  • @hourly

To run tasks once an hour.

  • @monthly

To run tasks time on the first day of the month.

  • @yearly

To run tasks once a year.

Create Cron on Linux or Unix

A cron daemon is a process that works with commands in the background. It doesn’t require being controlled by an active user.
The cron daemon monitors the following file:
/etc/crontab
The con daemon checks the location of the files or the directories:
/etc/cron.*/
/var/spool/cron/
/var/spool/cron/crontabs

Before you can make changes to cron jobs, you need to add Crontab commands.

Use cPanel for Setting Cron Jobs

cpanel cron

Add your cron jobs with cPanel. Follow the steps again if you want to set up and change the command. Here is how you can set it up:

  • Log in to cPanel.
  • Search for Cron Job or go to the advanced menu and click on the Cron jobs icon on the dashboard.
  • Type a valid email to receive cron output. Then save the changes.
  • Specify a command you want to run and its frequency in the Add New Cron Job. Enter your command in the Command section. List any command here or edit it to specify the time or file to run.
  • On the Command Settings, select the frequency you want to run the command. Choose the available options in the menu.
  • You can enter your recurring frequency manually by modifying the time settings. Change the minute, hour, day, month, and weekday as you’d like to.
  • Once you choose, click the Add New Cron Job option.

Use Plesk for Setting Cron Jobs

Add cron jobs with Plesk. Here are some steps to set up Plesk:

  • Log in to the Plesk control panel.
  • On the dashboard, click the option for Tool & Settings
  • Click on the Scheduled Tasks on the right-side panel.
  • Click on Plesk Administrator User on the next screen.
  • On the Scheduled Tasks screen, click on Add New Task.
  • Fill out all the information on the following screen.
  • Scroll down the page; in the Task Priority, there is a calendar. Select the frequency to run your command.
  • To choose a different frequency for your command, select the corresponding checkboxes.
  • After you plan your command for each requirement, click OK.

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FAQs about Cron Job

What is a cron job?

The cron job is a long-term process that runs tasks periodically on a Unix system. It is a daemon program that manages commands at specific times. It allows you to schedule activities for one-time or recurring tasks.

What is a cron command?

Cron job commands maintain the system when it automates the process of repeated tasks. It lets you manage the disk space and the backups. You can edit or create a crontab file, list and do any settings on the cron jobs.

What are some cron job examples?

It can be syncing the time and date periodically on the Internet, sending an email daily, or running some other directories for a month.

Why should we use cron jobs?

Cron jobs are very popular among system administrators, but web developers also can benefit from them. Though anyone that runs computers 24/7 should set up cron jobs.

What are basic crontab commands?

crontab -e for creating or editing a file, crontab -l for listing ongoing tasks, crontab -v to see last changes, crontab -r for deleting all commands.

Conclusion about Cron Job

In this article, you can find the basics of a cron job. Setting up cron jobs helps you manage the repetitive tasks you have to do. Cron jobs provide a great way to maintain your essential administration tasks. Cron jobs are especially for system administrators and web developers that have to handle repetitive tasks. To start scheduling your tasks, all you need to do is type the commands. We hope this article helps you learn about cron jobs and scheduling your tasks.

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