Make extensive jobhistory more readable

In SQL Server backups and maintenance of databases is usually managed using jobs.
In this article I’ll explain how the history of these jobs can be read, and what you can do if the output is too long or hardly readable.

In the example below you’ll see the job that makes backups of the systemdatabases. I you, like me, are using the maintenance scripts made by Ola Hallengren then the job should look familiar to you. Of course this example works with all jobs.

Request the properties of the job ‘DatabaseBackup – SYSTEM_DATABASES – FULL’:

Click ‘View Job History’.
Click the plus-sign in front of the runtime you want to investigate to see the history of the step:

In the bottom of the screen you see the details of the run. The scripts of OLA provide extensive logging but it has a side-effect: it is sometimes hard to read the long text properly.

By default Ola configures logging to file, and I am a big fan of that feature. It makes troubleshooting a jobrun much easier.

However, sometimes I work at a client that does not allow me access to the underlying operating sytem. In those cases I need another way to get this important info. And (of course) that is possible, I just need to make a small adjustment to the job.

Open the job you want to adjust:

Click ‘Steps’

Select the job-step you need to adjust and click Edit (or doubleclick the job-step) to open the properties:

Click ‘Advanced’

Put checkmarks in front of ‘Log to table’ and ‘Append output to existing entry in table’
The second option is neede in jobs with more than one step to make sure you get the histrory of all jobsteps in the table (instead of just the latest one).
Click OK to save your jobupdate.

Now the fun part, read the history from our new source.
You just need a query to do that. Of course you’ll have to wait for the job to run to see any data, so you may need some patience.

select * from msdb.dbo.sysjobstepslogs
order by log_id desc

Find the log_id of the run you want to check out and copy it to the clipboard.
Adjust the output of the query so that it outputs to text instead of grid by clicking the button in the GUI or just type CTRL+T.
Next, execute the following query:

select log_id, [log] from msdb.dbo.sysjobstepslogs
where log_id=<gekopieerde log_id>
order by log_id desc

Sometimes you still don’t see the whole text; results to text by default only shows max 256 characters.
You can change that for this query to the max value of 8192 in the query-options:
Click in the main menu of SSMS ‘Query’ and ‘Query Options’:

Adjust the indicated field to the max value of 8192.
If you want to set this for all queries to come, set this using ‘Tools’ in the menu and then ‘Options’:

Of course there are cases when 8192 characters is not enough. We can use the  import-export wizard to export the output of the query to a destination we want, for example a textfile on the machine you use to run SSMS.
Click the right mousebutton on the MSDB-database that contains all jobrelated info:

Select ‘Tasks’, ‘Export Data…’

Select as a source ‘SQL Server Native Client’ and click ‘Next’

Select as ‘Destination’ the ‘Flat File Destination’ and enter a filename and path.
Don’t forget the set the checkmarks in front of  ‘Unicode’ en ‘Column names in the first datarow’ as shown above!
Click ‘Next’

Select ‘Write a query…..’ and click ‘Next’.

Fill in the query we used before and click ‘Next’.

Click ‘Finish’
The export is executed:

The results of the query can be found in the file you set as ‘Destination’.

Good luck!