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Data Import Functionality Using SQL Server

By Jayram Tallamraju, (first published: 2002/10/25)

Applications that provide services like data analysis, projections and any other data services on client specific data are required to support, data import/upload feature. Frequently clients of the application, upload data files to update the application with client specific data. Supporting data import functionality is common requirement for most of the financial applications.  This is more the case with web-based applications supporting many clients with ASP architecture. Building robust functionality with maximum re-use of existing infrastructure and investment with little or no development is the goal for many businesses.  This article is about using SQL Server DTS packages to achieve this goal. With minimum development, all the functionality required for data imports can be achieved with DTS programming in SQL Server.


Environment required for running the samples:

-          Windows NT/2000

-          SQL Server 2000

-          Microsoft Excel 97/2000



-          Readers should be familiar with Databases and little bit of SQL/VB script.


Author information:

                -               Please see the at the end of article for more information on author


What is included in the sample download file?


-          README.TXT file with instructions on installing sample

-          Trade Analysis sample database with key tables (SQL Script)

-          Sample import .xls file

-          Sample Import DTS package that can be used as starting point for all import functionality. (DTS package is in structured storage file format and can be opened by Enterprise manager)


SQL Server DTS programming:


                DTS (Data Transformation Services) in SQL Server is very powerful feature and can be used to solve many database related issues starting from data migration, conversion and import/export. Even content publication/management applications can be developed easily using DTS. SQL Server’s DTS support is extended with latest version of SQL Server 2000. This article’s main goal is not only to expose the DTS functionality of SQL Server but also to show the simplicity in using DTS packages to implement core functionality.


General Business Requirement: Common functionality required for Data imports:


-          Get client files through FTP

-          Schedule imports to run regularly (mostly every night)

-          Read client data files and validate data formats

-          Apply any business rules on data

-          Calculated any required columns, convert import data and massage data to fit to application supported data format.

-          Import the final massaged data into application database conditionally:

-          Insert if data is not present (based on certain key information)

-          Update existing records, in case if data is present

-          Delete records based on some criteria (Not a frequent requirement though)

-          Clean up files that are imported once data import is done

-          Error/Log information on each row imported

-          Email/Notify administrators of any critical errors.

All above functionality can be achieved with SQL Server, using DTS packages and SQL Agent (following list shows some key items that can be used to achieve this):


-          DTS FTP Task

-          SQL Agent ( for scheduling any DTS package)

-          Text drivers to read data files (Ex: Excel or .csv)

-          DTS Data Transfer task with ActiveX Script tasks

-          Business validation/conversion logic can be implemented in COM objects, which can be called from ActiveX script tasks.

-          Conditional Data Pump constants returned by ActiveX script to handle Insert/Update/Delete

-          Error/Log support through database log table

-          Email notification using DTS Email task



Case study:


This case study takes up a sample financial web application “Trade Analysis” designed and developed by Prakash Financials.  Trade Analysis application supports trade analysis for client specific trade data. Client in this article represents mostly an organization. ‘User’ is any user that uses the services of “Trade Analysis”. There may be many users from one single organization/client and there may be more than one client registered for the using “Trade Analysis”. When an organization decides to use “Trade Analysis”, few users from the organization are registered with “Prakash Financials”, with same or different access privileges.


Note: There is no organization really exists like ‘Prakash Financials’. Any and all names are used in this document as an example and do not refer any real entity.


Trade data for analysis:


“Trade analysis” provides analysis on trade data. But trade data is specific to each client. Also for each client Trade data changes daily depending on the client business. Clients use their own trade applications to post trades. So this data has to be uploaded to “Trade Analysis” application so that client can see the reports/analysis on their latest data.  Mostly client reporting or data analysis requirements do not need to be online or in sync with Trade postings. After trades are posted, client is interested is seeing results from “Trade Analysis” at the end of the day.


Need for automation:


“Trade analysis” product currently supports similar functionality through manual feeds, with business users in “Prakash Financials” manually entering data for different clients. With few clients accessing the system it was acceptable before. But now the number of clients using the application is growing and few clients have requirements to see the changes as quickly as possible. Also there is no consistent way of importing data with manual data-entry as it depends on the skill levels of business uses. All this is pushing “Prakash Financials” to automate the process of client data import.


Goal for data import:

-          Solution needs to be implemented in aggressive schedule

-          There is no room for error

-          It should be very cost effective and easy to maintain

-          Should support all the functionality for data import specified in “Common functionality required for Data imports” section above.

Design approach:

                Prakash Financials Design team evaluated existing infrastructure and did a gap analysis. Current application uses SQL Server for all its data requirements. Considering this it seemed appropriate to use SQL Server DTS package and SQL Agent to support data import functionality. Seeing that this approach can achieve all the above goals for business, project is approved for development.


“Trade Analysis” database: 


                Trade analysis database has a main table “Trades” which will be used in data import and other details are ignored in this article for simplicity. There is also a new table added for the purpose of error/status logging. Following are details of main tables in “Trade Analysis” database:


Fig.1 : “Trade Analysis” application database with key tables.




Client import data format:


                Clients are expected to provide “Trade” files from client systems in a specific format that is acceptable by “Prakash Financials”.  .CSV/Text format files and Excel files are very widely used data files in the industry for data import/export. Many clients of Prakash Financials have applications that import/export data to excel files. So it is agreed to support excel files with trade data in excel tab with name “TRADES”. There may be more tabs in excel file imported from client but they may not be used currently in data import.

Fig. 2: Sample Client trade import file format





Client FTP Configuration:


                Clients will configure FTP sites and give access information to Prakash Financials so that client data files can be imported through FTP.


Fig. 3 Data import functionality details



Implementing Data Import functionality:


                Fig.3 shows high level details of data import functionality. There are existing COM components that are used in business logic block to calculate some trade data elements (ex. Yield). Following are the details of building DTS package:




Following section assumes that SQL Server 2000 is used for implementing DTS packages and user creating DTS package has required access/admin privileges to do that.




Creating DTS Package:


Step 1: Create new directory to store the imported trade files locally. (Ex: C:\TA_Imports directory)


Step 2: Create new DTS Package (‘TA_DBImport’)

-          Open SQL Server Enterprise manager

-          Open the SQL Server where Trade Analysis database resides (Register the SQL Server is not already present in the enterprise manager)

-          Under “Data Transformation Services” -> Local packages” -> Right click->Select “New package”.


Step 2: Create FTP Task

-          Drag and drop “File Transfer Protocol task” from left side icon list, below “Task” heading.

-          When prompted with FTP Properties, ignore


NOTE: We will see how to change these attributes dynamically later.


Step 3: Create Dynamic Properties Task

-          Drag and drop “Dynamic Properties task” from left side icon list, below “Task” heading.

-          When prompted with popup window, click ‘Add’ button

-          In the new window opened, Expand ‘Task’ node in the left side tree.

-          Select item that says ‘DTSTask_DTSDynamicProperties_Task…

-          Select the property item on right side that says something like ‘Description’

-          Click ‘Set’ button at the bottom of the window.

-          Now in the popup: Select ‘Global Variables’ option in ‘Source’ combo box

-          Click on ‘Create Global Variables’ button

-          Add following variables (all string datatype)

1.        FTPIPAddress

2.        FTPRootDir

3.        FTPUser

4.        FTPPassword

5.        ImportFileNames

6.        LocalImportDir

-          Now click ->OK ->Cancel->Close->OK buttons, so that you will be in the package main window. (Careful, don’t close the package yet)


Step 4: Create a temporary trade import excel file (Ex: Trades.xls)  under C:\TA_Import directory

-          Enter column headings for all the required columns for import, in the first line

-          You can enter some test data in the second line

-          Name the tab where this information is entered as “TRADES”.


Please see section “Client Data Import format” above for more details.


Step 5: Create connection object “Excel 97-2000”

-          Drag and drop “Microsoft Excel 97-2000” connection icon from left side icon list, below “Connection” heading.

-          In the popup window for “File Name” prompt enter “C:\TA_Import\Trades.xls” (created in step 4).



Step 6: Create connection object - “OLEDB Provider for SQL Server”

-          Drag and drop “Microsoft OLEDB Provider for SQL Server” connection icon from left side icon list, below “Connection” heading.

-          In the popup window enter following details

-          Select database server where “Trade Analysis” database resides

-          Select proper authentication scheme

-          Select “Trade Analysis” database from the list


Step 7: Create “Data Driven Query Task”  (This is the import task that implements a lot of functionality)

-          Drag and drop “Data Driven Query Task” icon from left side icon list below ‘Task’ heading.

-          In the Source Tab:

-          Connection: Select “Microsoft Excel 97-200” connection

-          Table/View: Select “TRADES$” from the combo box. (Try Preview to see test data)


-          In Bindings Tab:

-          Connection: Select “Microsoft OLEDB provider for SQL Server” connection

-          Table name combo box: Select “Trades” table


-          In Transformations Tab:

-          Name: Select “DTSTransformation__1” item

-          (This should show Type grayed as ‘ActiveX task’)

-          Click ‘Edit’ button on this

-          Now you see window with Transformation Options. Do the following

-          Select ‘SourceColumns’ tab - click button “<<” first and click “>>” button

-          Select ‘Binding Columns’ tab- click button “<<” first and click “>>” button

-          Select ‘General Tab’ and click ‘Properties’ – you will now see the ActiveX script where you can decide the fate of each row imported.

Select OK->OK->OK and come back to the main package window.


NOTE: It is easier to see the details from DTS sample supplied with this article. Also please see SQL Server documentation for better understanding of this task.


Fig. 4. ActiveX script window with sample Code for transformation





Step 8: Create Queries for Insert/Update/Delete in “Data Driven Query Task”/ Queries tab

-          Double click the “Data Driven Query Task” created in Step 6.

-          You will need to enter queries for Insert/Update/Delete with ‘?” as placeholders where you expect values to be filled up by ActiveX script in Step 6.


                Fig. 5: Sample Query entry for Insert Query type




NOTE: It is easier to see the details from DTS sample supplied with document for this. Also please see SQL Server documentation for better understanding of this task.


Step 9: Create “Send Mail Task”

-          Drag and drop “Send Mail Task” icon from left side icon list below ‘Task’ heading.

-          Configure mail task with status details and list of support email ids. (Machine should be configured correctly so that mail is delivered to target users).



Fig. 6: DTS Package : Designer diagram





Above diagrams shows the main tasks linked using DTS Designer (SQL Server Enterprise manager). Green lines represent (On Success) and Red Lines for “On Failure” paths.


As you see from Fig.6, Dynamic Properties task is executed first so that it will read FTP properties and Local import directory settings from “ClientImportRules” table.  FTP Task and Excel Connection Object are configured in “Dynamic Properties task” to have correct values at runtime. See the sample DTS package supplied with this article for more details on this.


TIP: Reading more than one file with FTP task:  ClientImportRules.ImportFileName1 column can have more than one file specified using the format ‘<Name of the file>’;’<Ftp dir path – excl. root path>’;’’;….  If FileName1 column is not enough to enter all details you can continue it in FileName2, FileName3 columns of ClientImportRules table. In this case change necessary logic in “Dynamic Properties Task” to read “FTPImportFileNames” variable.


                FTP File name format:  <FileName> ; <Path> ; ’<size>’ ;  ‘<FileName>’ ; ’<path>’ ; ’<size>’

                Size can be empty ‘’, but need to be specified in the string.


Configuring each task:


                There are few tasks that are required to configure FTP task and ‘Excel Connection’ object. Error handling and logging also need to be incorporated in “Data Driven Query” and “Send Mail” tasks.  Following are high level details of how this is done. Attached DTS file should give more details.


-          Open ‘Dynamic Properties’ and read all Global variables from Query type using ‘ClientImportRules’ table.


Workflow implementation:


All the tasks created above, should be linked properly so that only on success next task is called. It is very easy to create workflow and linking tasks conditionally.


-          Press “Shift key” - select  “Source Task” and “Target Task” > Select “Workflow” menu and select appropriate connection (On Success, On Complete, On Failure).



Saving DTS Pakage:


                Now we are done with creating DTS Package. Select ‘Package->Save’ menu option. Select ‘SQL Server’ as default in ‘Location’ and give some package name. (Please see SQL Server documentation for other types of storate).


Debugging and testing DTS package


To debug and test DTS package do the following:


-          Verfiy the data in all the tables and make sure that ClientImportRules table has correct information.

-          Check FTP site to see if it is running and userid/password has access to specific resources

-          Executing Entire package:  Right click on the package in SQL Enterprise Manager and select “Execute Package”. You will see the result window showing exact tasks that are executed with the status iformation.

TIP: It is not recommended that you execute the whole package at once, if you are testing it for the first time. Best approach is to test individual tasks and execute each tasks manually, to see if each tasks works the way it is inteneded.

-          To execute each individual task in the package separately: Open the Package in SQL Enterprise manager, right click on each task and select “Execute task” menu option.


Scheduling DTS Package:


-          Select “Data Transformation Services”->Local Packages-> and select “DTS Package” created above.

-          Right click on the package and select “Schedule package” option and select the scheduling options.


                NOTE: For scheduler to work correctly you need to have “SQL Agent” service running. To check this :

                -      Login to the machine where SQL Server is running

-          Open Start->Program Files->Administrative Tools->Services (open Services window)

-          Make sure that service named “SQL Agent” has status “Started” and settings as “Automatic” start option.



Calling business components to calculate data elements or manipulate data: 


                Before inserting imported data many applications might require calculating some values or manipulating data, using few business components. Also depending on the data elements, imported data needs to be either inserted as new row or update existing row. This logic can be implemented in the “ActiveX script window” in “Transformation” tab of “Data Driven Query Task”. Please see Step: 7 for mote info.


                ActiveX Script method “Main” (In ActiveX script of  “Data Driven Query task”) is called each time a new row is imported. Depending on what value the “Main” method returns, data is either inserted or updated. For each return type there should be respective Query type defined with actual database query in “Query” tab of “Data Driven Query Task”.


Sample Code listing:


Example ActiveX script is presented below:


'  Visual Basic Transformation Script


'  Copy each source column to the destination column

Function Main()


                ‘COMMENT: Map source columns to Destinationcolums here.

                ‘All destination columns can be used as parameters in queries entered in ‘Query’ tab later.

                DTSDestination("ClientID") = DTSSource("ClientID")

                DTSDestination("TransactionNumber") = DTSSource("TransactionNumber")

                DTSDestination("TradeDate") = DTSSource("TradeDate")

                DTSDestination("SettleDate ") = DTSSource("SettleDate")

                DTSDestination("Price ") = DTSSource("Price")

                DTSDestination("Shares ") = DTSSource("Shares")

                DTSDestination("TransactionType ") = DTSSource("TransactionType")


                ‘ COMMENT: Call any business components here. Following is only a sample.

                Dim oBusObj

                Set oBusObj = CreateObject(“PKBus.CalcEng”)

                DTSDestination(“Yield”) = oBusObj.CalcYield


                ' COMMENT:IF Current row is new row (Check using SQL/Business logic)

                ' RETURN : DTSTransformstat_InsertQuery


                ' COMMENT: IF Current row is existing row (Check using SQL/Business logic)

                ' RETURN : DTSTransformstat_UpdateQuery


                ' COMMENT: IF Current row is for delete (Check using SQL/Business logic)

                ' RETURN : DTSTransformstat_DeleteQuery


                ' COMMENT:Default return

                Main = DTSTransformstat_InsertQuery


End Function


Logging status information for each row:


            As you see from above ActiveX script that, for every row “Main” method is called and return type of the script decides which query to run from pre-defined set of queries. So it is possible to handle logging as a part of queries in “Queries” tab or through script.


TIP: You can create stored procedure in and call the stored procedure in “Queries” tab with different parameters, instead of using SQL directly.




            Article tries to cover key features of DTS without losing focus on minute details. Sample code is supplied for this purpose, so that more implementation details can be presented. Please use the sample code to learn more about DTS. Code supplied is not of production quality and it is written only to show how to use specific feature/functionality.

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