In my company we use SQL Server Reporting Services extensively for operational reporting and so far, it has been well received As part of my job I also conduct trainings and workshops evangelizing the company’s BI offerings to our business users globally. There is one question that is being asked fairly often:
Why did we chose SQL Server Reporting Services as our main reporting platform?
I reply to this question by highlighting some key benefits and the business users are usually nodding happily looking content with my answer. Also because it’s a decision made by the team in Group IT, the users tend to assume that we (I and my team) are skilled enough to make the right choice for them :-).
I did a training session last week and this question was asked again. I felt that now the question deserves a blog post.
Here are some reasons why SSRS is a good choice for a corporate reporting platform.
1. The report development environment is a Standard Microsoft Platform
SSRS Reports are developed in BIDS (Business Intelligence Development Studio). BIDS environment runs in the shell of Visual Studio (devenv.exe). Microsoft included BIDS with SQL Server 2005 as a free report designer and it has been available ever since. Anyone who learns to design reports with BIDS will have the advantage of a consistent interface when they move to the full version of Visual Studio.
In SQL Server 2012, the free report development environment has been renamed as Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT).
2. No ADDITIONAL COST
SSRS is an integral part of the SQL Server suite of products and is available in all additions from Express to Advanced to Enterprise. When you purchase SQL Server, you get SSRS as well. Look at the list of the Reporting Features Supported by the Editions of SQL Server 2012.
3. Browser Based Interface
SSRS is a web based reporting solution. The reports, once published on SSRS are available to a variety of clients from the browser to custom Windows Forms. SSRS reports are primarily accessed via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) or HTTPS (HTTP Secure), you can view reports from any location that has access to the SSRS Web Server. Unless the reports are part of the thick client application and are expected to be available locally, you can have one central repository of reports to be consumed across the organization.
In my company we have a central repository and no local copies of the reports are downloaded anywhere. This works seamlessly for us.
4. Customizable Report Rendering
SSRS provides a .NET Web Service programmatically accessible to extend the delivery of reports beyond the browser. The SSRS reports can be rendered to HTML. PDF(Portable Document Format), Microsoft Excel, XML, MHTML (MIME HTML), TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). Microsoft Word, and ATOM. The SSRS .NET Web Service allows embedding reports in custom applications where the look and feel of the report viewer can be easily controlled and customized.
Like I mentioned above, in my company we don’t have any client applications that need report rendering but in the my past consulting assignments I have used the SSRS .NET Web Service to embed report viewers in the thick client applications both accessing them over HTTP or HTTPS and having a local copy of the report installed as the part of the client application installation package.
The report delivery via email or file sharing, as well as off-peak processing, caching and creating report snapshots for historical information give a huge advantage to our business users and end customers. We can create Standard Subscriptions (Statically set up for one or more users) and/or Data-driven subscriptions (Subscriber lists that can be derived from multiple data source locations and can be generated from a custom query). SSRS subscriptions provide features such as scheduled report execution, report subscription services, snapshots, content caching and on-demand Web access.
6. Fully Integrated with SharePoint
We use SharePoint as a corporate collaboration platform and SSRS Reports can now be directly deployed, managed and viewed all within SharePoint. Additionally, sections of reports can be created as SharePoint Web Parts.
7. Integrated Security with Windows Authentication
Security ranks as one of the highest priorities for businesses today. SSRS is a role-based application that provided access to the objects it stores through the use of pre-defined roles such as Browser Role, Publisher Role, and Content Manager Role etc. The roles are associated with Windows-based login accounts so SSRS relies on Windows Authentication. It is possible to extend the security model for SSRS to support other methods of authentication, such as form-based authentication allowing users to connect directly to SSRS via the internet. At my company we use Windows Authentication and that works with our architecture and internal BI Strategy.
8. Self-Service Alerting (a new feature in SQL Server 2012)
Self-service alerting is a new feature in SQL Server 2012. It allows users to define alerts to monitor a set of conditions within a report for any change. When these conditions are met, an alert is automatically sent to notify users with the changes. Conditions can be Boolean in nature and set against report data feeds. Flexible scheduling options enable just-in-time alerting to meet user and business requirements without requiring users to manually monitor the conditions. This feature is only available when SSRS is configured in SharePoint integrated mode.
9. Mobile Support
Starting SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1), SSRS supports viewing and basic interactivity with reports on Microsoft Surface devices and devices with Apple iOS6 and Apple Safari Browser such as iPAD. SSRS reports can also be view on Windows 8 devices. For more details regarding Browsers, Operating Systems, Devices, Supported Authentication checkout the follwing link:
Other related links:
View Reporting Services Reports on Microsoft Surface Devices and Apple iOS Devices
Viewing Reports and Scorecards on Apple iPAD devices (SharePoint Server 2010)
10. Rendering to DOCX and XSLX formats
With SQL Server 2012, users can export the reports generated, using SSRS, to Microsoft Office file formats (.docx and .xlsx). Rendering to these formats gives users increased column and row limits, reduced document size, and more colors.
For more details on rendering to Microsoft Excel® and Microsoft Word, see Riccardo Muti’s Blog post, “Announcing Open XML Rendering Extensions for Microsoft Word and Excel”
Have you been using SSRS in your company or in your client projects? What has been your experience? Do you see any big limitations with the platform that could hinder in choosing SSRS as the corporate reporting platform? How has your experience been with rendering reports on Mobile Devices? As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
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