SSIS: Zipping files with WinRAR

One of the strengths of SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services), is that’s it’s really powerful with the components available. But it’s easy to use the “Execute Process Task” to execute external tools. One of these tools can be WinRAR.

Zip file task
By default, SSIS doesn’t have a zip file task. There are some 3rd party components, like the one Joost van Rossum (Blog | @ssisjoost) built. You can find his custom task here. But what if you don’t to use 3rd party components? You can create your own zip task, by using an “Execute Process Task”.

Variables and Parameters
Because I want to keep this as easy as possible, and I might want to reuse this later in another package, I started by creating 2 parameters and 1 local variable:

To generating a unique zipfile name per day, I decided to add the date to the zipfile name


(DT_WSTR, 50) YEAR((DT_DBTIMESTAMP) @[System::StartTime]) + “_” +
RIGHT(“00″ + (DT_WSTR, 50) MONTH((DT_DBTIMESTAMP) @[System::StartTime]), 2) + “_” +
RIGHT(“00″ + (DT_WSTR, 50) DAY((DT_DBTIMESTAMP) @[System::StartTime]), 2) +

This expression will evaluate to:

Parameter 1
Point the “Execute Process Task” to the folder of the files that need to be zipped



Parameter 2
Tell WinRAR which files to zip in which directory



When you added these Variable and Parameters, you should have this Variable:

And this Parameters:

Once that is done, you can add an “Execute Process Task” to the Control Flow. When you open the component you just added, go to the executable textbox, and point it to the WinRAR executable on your disk”:

Now you need to add the arguments that tell WinRAR what files to zip, where to zip them, and which files need to be zipped. In the “Execute Process Task”, click on Expressions, and on the dotted button:

In the next window, select “Arguments” under Property, and press the dotted button again:

Now paste the string below in this window:

“a -df ” + @[$Package::FilePath] + @[User::ZipName] + ” ” + @[$Package::FilesToZip]

If you press the evaluate button, you’ll see this result:


The command line switches we use are:

a: Archive files (or x for Extract files)
-df: Delete files after archiving

So once you know how it’s done, this is pretty easy, and does what it has to: zip your files without any issues. One thing to remember, is that SSIS can’t throw the exceptions WinRAR throws. So I tested this before, and didn’t notice the directory didn’t exist. My SSIS package kept on failing, and I didn’t know why. But after trying the expression we put into the expression textbox of the “Execute Process Task” in a command prompt, I did see the actual error.

So even though it’s easy to use, it’s not always easy to debug when it fails. But as long as you can execute it via command line yourself, you’re just a few steps away from seeing the actual error.

If you want to read more about SSIS, don’t forget to check out these blog posts:

- Julie Koesmarno: On sabbatical
Mickey Stuewe: SQL Server data transferred to a sqlite database using ssis
Chris Yates: ISPACs – Got To Love Em

T-SQL Tuesday #57 – SQL Family and community – RECAP

Last week I had the privilege to host this months T-SQL Tuesday blog party. The subject was SQL Family and community, and a lot of people participated. There were a lot of great blog posts, and I wanted to make a complete list for you that contains all the blog posts of this month:

Warwick Rudd (Blog | @Warwick_Rudd) posted: SQL Family and community

Boris Hristov (Blog | @BorisHristov) posted: SQL Family and SQLHangouts

Cathrine Wilhelmsen (Blog | @cathrinew) posted: #SQLFamily – Pay It Forward

Mickey Stuewe (Blog | @SQLMickey) posted: SQL Family to the Rescue of a Local Community

Chris Yates (Blog | @YatesSQL) posted: SQL Family and Community

Ed Watson (Blog | @SQLGator) posted: SQL Family and Tripping the Light Fantastique

Aaron Bertrand (Blog | @AaronBertrand) posted: A SQL _VARIANT Use Case (No Pun Intended)

Jason Brimhall (Blog | @sqlrnnr) posted: SQL Family and

Adam Mikolaj (Blog | @SqlSandwiches) posted: SQL Family and community

Glenda Gable (Blog | @ggable313) posted: TSQL Tuesdays # 57

Andy Yun (Blog | @SQLBek) posted: A #SQLFamily Story

Wayne Sheffield (Blog | @DBAWayne) posted: SQL Family and Community

Steve Jones (Blog | @way0utwest) posted: SQL Family and Community

Kenneth Fisher (Blog | @sqlstudent144) posted: SQL Family

Rob Farley (Blog | @rob_farley) posted: Nepotism In The SQL Family

Ricardo Leka (Blog | @BigLeka) posted: SQL Family and community

Jeffrey Verheul (Blog | @DevJef) posted: SQL Family and community

I want to thank all participants for their beautiful posts for T-SQL Tuesday. And thank you Adam, for allowing me to host this month!

If I missed your post, please let me know, and I’ll add it to this post.

T-SQL Tuesday #57 – SQL Family and community

T-SQL Tuesday is a recurring blog party, that is started by Adam Machanic (Blog | @AdamMachanic). Each month a blog will host the party, and everyone that want’s to can write a blog about a specific subject.

This month the subject is “SQLFamily and community”. If you want to read the opening post, please click the image below to go to the party-starter: Jeffrey Verheul (Blog | @DevJef).

This months topic is SQL Family and community. The reason I chose this topic is the great SQL Server community. As I mentioned in my opening post, at first I didn’t know what to expect from the community, when I first started working with SQL Server. But it didn’t take long to notice the reason why everyone was to enthusiastic about it. They say the SQL Server community is friendlier and more helpful than all other communities. But it is?

It’s all about helping
A few years back, I attended a developer conference in the Netherlands called TechDays. One of the session I got to see was a session about spatial data by Bob Beauchemin (Blog | @bobbeauch). And yes, here is where the obsession for spatial data started I think. After the conference I started to play around with spatial data, and eventually I ran into a problem. At that moment I couldn’t find any useful resources online, and I knew Bob would know the answer.

After thinking about it a day or 2, I finally decided to mail Bob. This was a big step for me, because I was about to email one of the people I highly respect and look up to. The expectancy wasn’t too high, because he couldn’t possibly have the time to answer my stupid email. So I took the bull by the horns anyway and pressed send.. But to my surprise, it didn’t even take an hour before I received an answer. From Bob. THE Bob. I couldn’t believe it! The big Bob Beauchemin took the time to not only read my email, but even provide me with an answer to my question. And of course the answer was spot on, and precisely I needed to overcome my problem.

After that, I regularly emailed Bob about questions, interesting cases I came across, and many more things. But I didn’t send him an email for too long now, and I still hope I get to thank him for this in person one day. But this is where the community-vibe hit me.

From knowledge base to blog
When you get to work on all different kinds of projects, you end up with notepad files all over your desktop, USB hard drives, etc. At least, in my case that’s where it started. In order to create a structure in all these small solutions and notes, I decided to put them online. So basically I wanted to create a small knowledge base and one location where I could save scripts for myself, that I wrote before and might need in the future again. But after a few months, people started to thank me for my posts. I couldn’t understand why, because the posts were so basic, and sometimes totally gibberish in my opinion.

But after a while, I started to like the “blogging” (which was just brain-dumping until then). The blog posts became more coherent, written for a broader audience, and they were easier to follow and implement for readers. So the brain dumps grew into something new: useful information that other people could actually use! One of the things I’m most proud of until now is the spatial data series I wrote (yes, again spatial data). It grew from just 1 post (the basics of spatial data) to a series of 11 posts where I guide readers from the basics to building their own reports. This series was inspired by readers and colleagues that asked questions, and questions I had myself.

Online community
One of the greatest discoveries for me was the community on Twitter. Anyone you can imagine from the community is on Twitter, and available within a few clicks. And they all take the time to answer questions! This came as a big surprise to me at first. There are so much interesting people you can follow, interact with, and that can help you with technical challenges you have. In most cases, when you post a question with the hashtag #SQLHelp, you’ll get an answer within minutes. And you answer could come from anybody: An MCM from the UK, MVP from Australia, DBA from the US, a BI guy from South Africa, etc. All kinds of people with different skill sets and technical interests. And the variety of people make it worth while to follow and interact with them.

When strangers become friends
After being “active” in the community for a while, I started talking to some people of the SQL Server community online. At one moment I asked one of them to review a blog post, to see what she thought. That was the start of a friendship that brought me a lot the last couple of years. She introduced me to some other SQL Server professionals, that I consider close friends now. These friends support me, push me to do stuff when I need it, and help me in any way possible. They inspire me to do better, and take the extra step to achieve the goals I set myself. They are there when I need them, and that is the most important thing. And all of that because of SQL Family and the community! The community that I couldn’t believe to be more than a bunch of people with the same job and technical interests.

Being involved in the community is really cool, and there are benefits of that. For example, Red Gate gave me the opportunity to become a member of the Friends of Red Gate program, which was and is a great honor for me. I’ve loved using their tools for years, and now they gave me the opportunity to help make these tools better, by being part of this program. And hopefully there are a lot of cool things coming up, because I still have a lot of dreams and goals I set myself when I became a part of this program.

If you’re not involved yet, get involved!
The reason you should get involved in the community, is the fact that it’s really nice to help people, and you get so much in return. Getting help from someone is great, but helping other people makes you feel even better. At least, that’s my experience. So if you’re not already involved, start visiting local events like SQL Saturdays or online events like virtual users groups. It’ll give you insight in other SQL Server subjects, and show you that other people struggle with the same problems you do!

T-SQL Tuesday #57 – SQL Family and community

T-SQL Tuesday is a recurring blog party, that is started by Adam Machanic (Blog | @AdamMachanic). Each month a blog will host the party, and everyone that want’s to can write a blog about a specific subject.

This month I’ll be the T-SQL Tuesday host, and I’m really honored! Thanks Adam, for this opportunity!

The topic
This month I would like to give everyone the opportunity to write about SQL Family. The first time I heard of SQL Family, was on Twitter where someone mentioned this. At first I didn’t know what to think about this. I wasn’t really active in the community, and I thought it was a little weird. They were just people you meet on the internet, and might meet in person at a conference some day. But I couldn’t be more wrong about that!

Once you start visiting events, forums, or any other involvement with the community, you’ll see I was totally wrong. I want to hear those stories. How do you feel about SQL Family? Did they help you, or did you help someone in the SQL Family? I would love to hear the stories of support, how it helped you grow and evolve, or how you would explain SQL Family to your friends and family (which I find hard). Just write about whatever topic you want, as long as it’s related to SQL Family or community.

The rules
– Your post must be published between 00:00:00 UTC and 23:59:59 UTC on Tuesday 12th of August
– Include the T-SQL Tuesday logo in the top of your post, and your post must link back to this one (trackback and comments are moderated, so it might take some time before they’re visible) or tweet about it using the hashtag #TSQL2sDay
– If you like this, check Steve Jones’ (Blog | @way0utwest) blog post that contains the list of topics, and contact Adam Machanic (Blog | @AdamMachanic) if you’d like to host

SQLBits: The new standard

Normally I don’t write blog posts about events I visit. But last week I attended my first SQLBits, and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s just another conference I thought, with a lot of interesting sessions, nothing fancy. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong than that! SQLBits isn’t just a conference, it’s a cool event where you get to meet new people, see famous speakers talk, interact with them, and they organized an AWESOME party!

SQLBits was held in Telford, UK, close to Birmingham. By train it took about an hour away from the airport in Birmingham to Telford. The conference center was a beautiful location, with hotels close by. So you didn’t have to travel in the morning to go to the conference center. You just needed to cross the parking lot to get to the location.

On Thursday they organized pre-cons, which are full day instructor led training sessions. You need to pay for these pre-cons, but they’re definitely worth the money. You could choose a session from a list of 11, and I attended a pre-con led by Brent Ozar (Blog | @BrentO) about Virtualization, SANs, and Hardware for SQL Server.

Brent talked about how RPO and RTO are the starting points of any SQL Server architecture. He advises that the business needs to fill out a form about RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective), so they start thinking about what they ask IT people. After that, he discussed backup strategies, HA (High Availability) and DR (Disaster Recovery) designs, SAN’s and SQL Server hardware. And even though I was familiar with some of the subjects he talked about, it was definitely a good way to look at certain things again from another perspective.

Both Friday and Saturday were filled with good sessions . It started with a keynote from Nigel Ellis (Blog | @chillidemon) about Azure. It was a really interesting talk, and a good start of the day.

After that I saw some very interesting sessions about various subjects. The rooms were good, and all on 1 floor. So no huge groups that want to change floors, which I’ve seen at other conferences. This meant that rooms were easily accessible, and you could switch rooms between sessions very quick.

The party
On Friday night there was a party, organized by the SQLBits team. And while I’m writing this, I’m still impressed when I look back at the party. They had it all sorted out: great food, great people, great theme! Just perfect! The theme of the party was steampunk. They arranged for a carousel, huge slide (the Helter Skelter), and various carnival booths with games and entertainment. You can find pictures of the party on Twitter.

Looking back at the party, it was the best post-conference party I’ve ever seen so far. EVER!

Food and drinks
Just a small thing, but this really shows that the SQLBits crew really had it sorted out: the food could be found on several locations, and there were people that carried trays with food on it. They served the food in small, square bowls which were pretty handy to hold. Also, they served a number of different dishes, so you could pick whatever you liked.

The drinks were available throughout the conference center. So if you walked from one session to another, you could grab a coffee, tea, water or juice. It was really nice that they choose this setup, instead of 1 or 2 locations, which would’ve resulted in an endless line of people.

If you attended SQLBits, one of the ways to let the organizers know how you think, is by filling out the feedback forms. Even if you have any negative feedback, please let them know. You can fill in the form in the links below:

If you attended any of the days at SQLBits please can you all fill out the following survey:

If you attended the Thursday Training Day then please fill out the following survey:

If you attended the Friday Deep Dives Day then please fill out the following survey:

If you attended the Saturday Community Day then please fill out the following survey:

You’ll help the organizers with your feedback, so they can make the next SQLBits even better (if that’s possible), and you get a chance to win a £100 Amazon voucher!

The last thing I wanted to do is give a HUGE compliment to the organizers of SQLBits, the volunteers and all attendees that made this an awesome event! I’m already looking forward to next year!

Become a T-SQL Hero with SQL Prompt

Since 1999, Red Gate Software has produced ingeniously simple and effective tools for over 500,000 technology professionals worldwide. From their HQ in Cambridge UK, they create a number of great tools for MS SQL Server, .NET, and Oracle. The philosophy of Red Gate is to design highly usable, reliable tools that solve the problems of DBAs and developers.

Every year Red Gate selects a number of active and influential community members (such as popular blog writers and community site owners) as well as SQL and .NET MVPs who are experts in their respective fields, to be part of the Friends of Red Gate (FORG) program. I’m proud to announce that I’m part of the 2014 FORG selection. This post is a part of a series of post, in which I try to explain and show you why the tools of Red Gate are so loved by the community.

What SSMS misses
The tool that Microsoft provides you with when you install SQL Server is pretty nice. It’s nicely designed (even though I’ve heard other opinions), it’s stable, and it does what it should do: it allows you to administer your servers. But that’s not the only thing that it should do in my opinion. If you take a look at Visual Studio as an example, that studio contains more options that helps developers do their job. And remember, SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) is actually a Visual Studio instance with a different layout (just check the Ssms.exe.config)…

So why doesn’t SSMS have a schema compare option, like Visual Studio has? Visual Studio is no longer the environment that is used only by developers that work with ASP.NET and C#, but it evolved to much more the last few years. It’s now the tool for working with Data Quality Services (DQS) and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS). So let’s talk about some other features that SSMS misses in my opinion, and let’s see how SQL Prompt can fill that gap.

SSMS ships with a default intelliSense, but this isn’t an implementation that I would like to see. It misses a few vital features. For example, the fact that SSMS IntelliSense doesn’t take relations between objects into account, is one of the biggest shortcomings. One of the companies that created a tool to fix that is Red Gate. If you install SQL Prompt, you get IntelliSense 2.0, or IntelliSense on steroids if you like.

When you installed SQL Prompt, it gives you suggestions when you write a JOIN clause. This means that it scans column names, and traces primary- and foreign key relationships on the tables you are joining. The join suggestion based on keys can be recognized by the little key symbol in front of it:

Object discovery
Whenever you’re working in a database, and you’re writing your queries, there comes a point that you can’t remember a column name or datatype. In SSMS you need to navigate the object explorer to the object (let’s say a table), and generate a create script, or click on the table to get to the column list. SQL Prompt allows you to hover your mouse over an object, and see some extra information:

If you click on the popup, you’ll get another popup window with the creation script (by default), or a summary of the object:

Scripting options
Whenever you need to script an object, or want to see the contents of for example a Stored Procedure, you need to navigate to the object in your object explorer. With SQL Prompt, you can also use the mouse context menu to script objects. Just right-click an object you referenced in your query, and choose the “Script Object as ALTER” option:

This will generate an alter script for the object you selected. This makes it a lot easier to see the contents of a Stored Procedure or View, and change it when needed.

Useful functions
The last feature I want to show you is the menu of SQL Prompt. This shows you another set of useful tools and functions. For example, how do you format your T-SQL query? SQL Prompt can do that for you with a few mouse clicks, or if you press the hotkey combination. Another great feature is the “Find Unused Variables and Parameters”. This saves you time when you try to find out which declared variables you don’t use anymore, in a very large query. All of these options can be found in the SQL Prompt menu:

If you want, you can also create a style-export for all your colleagues, so your entire department or company formats queries according to the same layout. You can find out more about this in the SQL Prompt menu, under Options -> Format -> Styles. You can export your formatting options as a .sqlpromptstyle file, or import one.

Is it worth it?
If you would ask me, my answer would be: yes! Even though it’ll cost you about €285,- (or $390,-), it’s definitely worth it. It saves you a lot of time, and it adds a lot of useful (and needed) features to SSMS.

If you want to try it out, just go to, or the product site for SQL Prompt. You can download a trial there that contains all features, for a limited time.

If you want to read more about this topic, don’t forget to check out these blog posts:

- Julie Koesmarno: Clean And Tidy SQL With SQL Prompt
Mickey Stuewe: Becoming a SQL Prompt Power User
Chris Yates: SQL Prompt – The Power Within

T-SQL Tuesday #56 – Assumptions

T-SQL Tuesday is a recurring blog party, that is started by Adam Machanic (Blog | @AdamMachanic). Each month a blog will host the party, and everyone that want’s to can write a blog about a specific subject.

This month the subject is “Assumptions “. If you want to read the opening post, please click the image below to go to the party-starter: Dev Nambi (Blog | @DevNambi).

This months topic is about assumptions. A few years back, I worked in a team that consisted of mainly .NET developers. Every time we mentioned “I think so…”, “I assume it works like this…” or “I think we should…”, one of them used the quote: “Assumption is the mother of all f*ck ups!”, which is a quote from the movie Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. But he was right. The moment you assume something, it’s going to blow up in your face in the end.

I tested it, and it works
Working for larger organizations should mean they are more prepared to certain things then smaller organizations. But I’ve seen large organization being badly prepared, or just plain unprepared. They assume their processes work, or they will never encounter failure at all.

One of the companies I worked for, took backups every night. Full backups. Of databases there were between 100 GB and 500+ GB… And they never tested a restore… Why? They used the default maintenance functionality with “Verify Backup Integrity” enabled, and they never needed to restore a database before. So they only took backups because management wanted that. They didn’t understand why, because their processes never failed, and would never fail in the future.

But one day, it wasn’t their processes that failed. A LUN went offline during the ETL process, and SQL Server naturally detected that. SQL Server put a database into suspect mode, because of database corruption. But because there were no backups, they needed to move to plan B: process about 2+ years of data (stored in XML files) again.

Eventually I solved it and recovered the database without the need of a restore, but it scared them. They now saw why they needed backups, and why they needed to test the restore on a regular basis. But they forgot about it after a few days, and we never got the time to change the maintenance processes or test any restore. After that, I made the best choice possible in my opinion: I found myself a new challenge.

If you don’t know what you’re talking about…
Another example of assumption I have seen a lot over the years, is people explaining stuff to other people, without any proper knowledge about a certain subject. I can recall a conversation between me and an intern. He was a .NET developer, and had some questions about how a T-SQL feature worked. Another junior BI developer started laughing, when the intern asked his question. “What a stupid question, everybody knows the answer to that!” he said. Kind of irritated by that, I asked him to provide the answer to that question. He didn’t want to. I asked him again: “you answer the question, because you laughed about it, and I want to hear the answer from you.”

He started to stutter, and he explained the functionality all wrong. When I explained it the right way, the .NET intern thanked me, and walked away with his new knowledge, ready to bring it into practice. The BI developer wanted to continue the discussion. “You’re all wrong! That feature doesn’t work that way!”. I nicely told him, that I used this feature on a daily basis, and that he was wrong. The discussion went on a little more, but I stopped the discussion by telling him: “I’m doing this for a number of years now, and working with SQL Server is what I do. You just started, and wrote your first query a few months ago. If you find any resources that show me being wrong, I’ll be happy to quit my job. Until then, please don’t explain T-SQL to other people if you don’t know what you’re talking about.”. Until this day, he never got back to me on this discussion.

I don’t need to check that!
Another great assumption you’ll see in several companies, are IT people that trust their own automation a little bit too much. The rule in IT is that if you need to do something more than once or a couple of times, you need to automate it. Automation is a good thing, and it can save you time. But who checks if your process doesn’t fail? You don’t want to build a system, that checks another system for you. One of the things I’ve seen is a developer that created an automated process, that checked a log table on a database server, and mailed new errors to the developer. Looking at this, it’s a perfect solution. You don’t have to monitor the log table by yourself, but an automated process does that for you.

At one moment, an application seemed to fail. It threw exceptions, and the end-users weren’t able to do anything with the application. The developer was called, and he told the users to contact the system administrator, because it must have been a server- or hardware problem. The system administrator called the developer after a few minutes, and told him the server and hardware were in perfect condition. The developer insisted his software wasn’t failing, because he didn’t receive any errors by email. But after a quick check, the developer came to the conclusion his automated process failed. The developer lost a lot of credits because of this attitude. As you see, this is another example of an assumption that went wrong.

Never stop asking questions
One of the most important things I wanted to show you with this blog post, is that if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to ask someone. The same goes for processes, tools, functionality, or any other question you want to ask. If people mock you for asking questions, they are the ones that are wrong. You’re just trying to learn and grow, so don’t feel bad about yourself!


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