Recently, I started regularly examining some log files from a manufacturing plant in South Korea. We have two computers, one Dell and one Sony, at that manufacturing facility that run through a test procedure at the end of the manufacturing process. The software that automates this test procedure writes out an extensive log of everything it does into dated files in a folder on that computer.
Every few days I would remotely log onto the computers at the manufacturing facility, navigate to the folders with the logs and transfer the logs to my own computer for examination. Due to slower network speeds and the manual steps involved in the process, I could easily spend 10 minutes getting the files before I even started to examine them.
There must be a simpler way to get these logs automatically so that I could spend my time on more productive tasks. So, the question was: how do I use off-the-shelf software to get the files to my computer without writing software or scripts?
After examining several different options, I implemented a solution using the following tools:
- Dropbox – for synchronizing the files.
- SyncToy – for copying the log files into the correct Dropbox folder. The help file describes how to schedule SyncToy to run automatically with the Task Scheduler in Windows.
To implement the solution, I did the following:
- Created a new Dropbox account so that other work files were not mistakenly synchronized to the computers at the manufacturing facility.
- Installed Dropbox on one of the manufacturing computers and created Logs\Dell and Logs\Sony folders under the Dropbox folder.
- After confirming the email address for the new Dropbox account, I shared the Logs folder with the Dropbox account that I use on my computer.
- Installed SyncToy on that computer and created a folder pair as follows:
- The original logs folder is the Left Folder and the Dropbox\Logs\Sony folder is the Right Folder.
- In the second step, selected “Echo,” which echos changes from the Left Folder into the Right Folder. This allows for the changes to only go one way. Mistakenly making changes in the Dropbox folder will not affect the original files.
- Gave the pair a name and finished creating the pair.
- Once the pair was created, I clicked on the “Change options…” link and selected “Check file contents” since we want any changes in the content of files to be echoed to the Dropbox folder.
- Followed instructions in the help file to set up an automated task to run SyncToy at midnight. Here are the instructions from the help file:
Windows Vista/ Win7
To schedule a task using the operating system:
- From the Start menu, select All Programs – Accessories – System Tools – Task Scheduler.
- Select Create Basic Task in the Actions pane on the right.
- Add a Name and Description and select Next.
- Choose when you want the task to start and select Next.
- Choose date/times (if applicable) to run task and select Next.
- Choose Start a Program option and select Next.
- Select Browse and locate the SyncToyCmd.exe.
- Type “-R” in the Add Arguments textbox. –R all by itself will run all folder pairs that are active for run all. If you want to run just a single folder pair, add –R “My Pair” to the end of the command line.
On Windows 8/8.1, you can find the Task Scheduler by pressing <WindowsKey> + x, selecting Control Panel, selecting Administrative Tools, then Task Scheduler.
I repeated the installation of Dropbox and SyncToy on the other computer and set up the folder pair and task scheduling.
Viola! Every night at midnight (South Korea time), files are copied from the Logs folder on both computers at the manufacturing facility to the appropriate folder in Dropbox. Dropbox then synchronizes the files to my computer and I have access to the files without the manual work.
If you would like me to automate manual tasks for you please contact me at wbayever(at)wboptimum.com or 773-433-8114. I look forward to helping you become more productive!