I use DreamHost to host my blog and while it’s a great and fairly inexpensive service, there are some limitations. One is that you cannot run cron jobs without a shell account, which I do not have. A cron job is a frequently executed task, mainly used for running scripts on a frequent basis for website maintenance. While I already do this on my Windows server and I could use it for my needs here at chrisTHIS.com, I wanted to see if there was another way to schedule a cron job for the average Joe Blogger.
I set out looking for web-based cron services and found a few. Here are my reviews of each. None of these are affiliate links, nor am I associated with any of these services. I am providing my honest personal opinions. If you know of more, please let me know!
Cons: Scheduling is super flaky. Administration of account is slow (pulling up “job log” takes anywhere from 1 second to 2 minutes), indicating they have some serious database performance issues. Minimum interval is 5 minutes.
There is no information at their site on what the cost is. There’s a PayPal donate button, but that’s it, which leads me to wonder if the owner is really serious about this service. I scheduled a job to run every 10 minutes, which it did for a day or so and then it got a little brain dead:
11:50:49 <110 mins>
10:00:09 <30 mins>
09:30:16 <40 mins>
08:50:43 <50 mins>
08:00:33 <20 mins>
I emailed the site owner about this problem and have not yet heard back.
Verdict: Give it a shot, but don’t expect great results. I discontinued it.
Cons: Misleading “Free” sales pitch. You only find out it’s not free after you have given them your information. “Your account status is: Unpaid (cron jobs you add to your account will not be run by our system until you fund your account).
Funding your account costs US$10 per month, which covers up to 10 active jobs (the maximum for each account). Plus, minimum interval is 5 minutes.
Verdict: At $10/month for 10 (maximum) jobs, it’s highway robbery for a cron service. Best take your business elsewhere.
Pros: Easy sign up, fast site.
Cons: Offers “free” cron jobs but upon sign-up it’s clear it’s not free. I created an account and after verifying my email I logged in. Their services page clears the air: Bronze account is free, and limits you to one job per week. Silver is $4.95/month and offers up to 10 daily cron jobs. Gold is $9.95/month and offers up to 25 hourly jobs.
In other words, if you want a job to run every 10 minutes, you can’t. Plus, many “My Account” links don’t work in FireFox.
Verdict: If you need a weekly cron job, it’s probably OK. Otherwise it’s bloody expensive and very limited. Don’t waste your time.
WebBasedCron (The Winner)
Pros: You can set up a job to run every minute, which none of the other services offer. The service has been in operation for over two years. I did get a response to my support email within a few hours, on a holiday no less!
Cons: Sign-up process required me to validate my email to get started. I got the email email two hours later. You get a free 15 day trial for up to 5 cron jobs. After that it costs you $24.95/year (for 5 jobs) which is affordable for me, but for most part-time bloggers it probably is not.
Verdict: While the $24.95/year price tag isn’t terrific and the web interface is crude, at least it works and it is fast. The interface is very “HTML 101” and confusing at times, but who cares, as long as it works! Try Remote-Cron if you’re looking for a free service (see notes above).
History logging is near non-existent, although they do offer you the ability to email you the output on every execution. The email is very detailed, but I wish that this information was stored on their server so I could refer to their server instead of my messy in-box.