NodeJS – Running Jobs Periodically

How to run NodeJS commands over time.

The Problem

While creating a NodeJS server, you may have encountered situations where you have to execute particular actions over time, running jobs periodically.

It is possible to tackle this problem in several distinct ways: let's take a look at some of them.

Using JavaScript – setInterval

Immediately, one of the resolutions would be using the setInterval function, running an action every set amount of time.

Although being easily implemented, this method comes with some pitfalls:

  • It begins as soon as the program runs, which makes setting a different starting time a lot more complicated.
  • It will eventually run out of sync, making perfectly timed events impossible.
  • The interval time is in milliseconds. You can't specify a distinct timestamp.

Using setInterval is the easiest way to solve this problem, considering you don't need that much control over it.

The syntax for setInterval is the following. You have to pass a callback and an integer corresponding to the number of milliseconds between every execution.

// 1 second interval
const MILLISECONDS = 1000;

const interval = setInterval(() => {
  console.log('Job Executed!');

You can stop the interval by using the clearInterval() method. Therefore, you must use a variable to keep track of the interval, as seen above.


Using Cron Jobs

Cron jobs are a utility found in Unix-like operating systems. They provide a useful way to schedule events and running commands over time.

In our case, we would like to implement this service generically on a NodeJS server running jobs periodically on any OS.

As a result, node-cron (an NPM package) comes in handy. This package uses the cron syntax to run tasks over time in pure JavaScript.

Using node-cron offer many advantages:

  • t uses less memory, resulting in a lightweight method to implement on a server.
  • It maintains its sync with the local server time, providing well-timed events.
  • You can have more control over every action tick: you could run an action every 5 minutes, specifically on Monday, every minute 1, 4, 8, etc.
  • You can set the timezone.

Before setting up this method, you need to install the node package in your project.

npm install node-cron

The syntax for node-cron it's more complicated than other methods, but it doesn't take long to understand.

Supported options

 # ┌────────────── second (optional)
 # │ ┌──────────── minute
 # │ │ ┌────────── hour
 # │ │ │ ┌──────── day of month
 # │ │ │ │ ┌────── month
 # │ │ │ │ │ ┌──── day of week
 # │ │ │ │ │ │
 # │ │ │ │ │ │
 # * * * * * *

Basic syntax

Running Tasks every minute

// Importing the package
const cron = require('node-cron');

// Creating a schedule
cron.schedule('* * * * *', () => {
  console.log('Running every minute');

Running Tasks every set amount of time

All you have to do is using this syntax */TIME, you can also separate values with commas, and creating ranges with –, for instance:

cron.schedule('2,4,5 */1 * * *', () => {
  console.log('Running every 1 hour and from minutes 2, 4, 5');

Using names

You can also use common English names for days of the week and months:

cron.schedule('* * * January,September Sunday', () => {
  console.log('running on Sundays of January and September');

Furthermore, you can change the timezone, start and stop the scheduled tasks, etc. You can check out more on their NPM page.

Expanding your application

Finally, you could implement ReactJS for the client-side of your Web App, learn how here.