When users are faced with reporting software options, there will most likely have to decide whether to go with SAP’s Crystal Reports or Microsoft’s SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) Reports.
At remiWare, we have extensive experience working with both Crystal Reports and SSRS Reports. We have built hundreds of reports using both tools and integrated them into remiCrystal. It is with this understanding that we feel we can help in deciphering the major differences between the two reporting platforms.
Of course its no secret that Crystal Reports goes back a long way.
From Wikipedia: Terry Cunningham and the Cunningham Group originated the software in 1991. Crystal Services Inc. marketed the product (originally called “Quick Reports”) when they couldn’t find a suitable commercial report writer for their accounting software. After producing versions 1.0 through 3.0, Crystal Services was acquired in 1994 by Seagate Technology. Crystal Services was combined with Holistic Systems to form the Information Management Group of Seagate Software, which later rebranded as Crystal Decisions and produced versions 4.0 through 9.0. Crystal Decisions was acquired in December 2003 by BusinessObjects, which produced versions 10, 11 (XI) and version 12 (2008). SAP acquired BusinessObjects on October 8, 2007 and released Crystal Reports 2011 (version 14) on May 3, 2011.
OEMs such as Microsoft, IBM, Sage, Goldmine included Crystal Reports as part of their reporting functionality.
Microsoft debuted its own reporting solution, SQL Server Reporting Service, in 2004 as an add-on to SQL Server 2000. They released SSRS 2005 in November 2005 and SSRS 2008 R2 in April 2010. A fourth version, SSRS 2012 was released in March 2012. The latest version of SSRS, 2016, was released in March 2016 and includes a more robust BI platform that encompasses dashboards and KPIs.
Crystal Report’s hallmark has always been its report designer. It has a fairly steep learning curve however once the user grasps the concepts, they can create very good looking reports easily. SSRS reports can be designed using Visual Studio or using the free Microsoft Report Builder. You however have to use a specific version of Report Builder for every version of SSRS. Record selection in Crystal Reports can be done via the built-in “record selection formula” that is written in either a special Crystal syntax or Basic syntax. SSRS on the other hand, uses standard SQL queries for record selection.
For database connectity, Crystal Reports stores the connection details within the report whereas SSRS introduced the concept of shared datasources between reports. This is a clear advantage for SSRS as datasources can be updated independently of their respective reports.
Another advantage that SSRS has over Crystal Reports is in its server-based architecture. Crystal Reports is file based (proprietary .rpt files) and all the report processing is handled by the report designer at runtime (some SQL processing can be done server-side). SSRS, being a member of the SQL Server family, is a server based product. The reports reside on the server (the report definition can also be saved locally as an rdlc (XML) document) and all the heavy lifting is done there. This means that report consumers do not need to have a special report viewer to generate reports; they just need a web browser, the report server web address and access permission.
For the developers out there, the Crystal Reports SDK and APIs are a collection of libraries that must be downloaded from SAP and shipped with any application that wishes to intergrate with the platform and these libraries are specific to a version of Crystal Reports. To make matters worse, SAP has made the legal terms of integrating the SDK and API very restrictive. The SSRS API on the other hand uses a SOAP (Small Object Access Protocol) web service and applications that integrate with this need only know the web service endpoint URL (usually in the format http://servername/reportservice/reportservice2010.asmx). This is not to say that SSRS’s development scenario is perfect; far from it. There are various endpoints for the different SSRS versions (finally unified under 2010.asmx) and Microsoft has frankly done a terrible job deprecating some of objects and their respective methods and properties. We look forward to they day when Microsoft releases a modern REST API for SSRS.
Like most things, choosing between the two platforms falls down to personal choice and needs of the organization. Both are powerful and mature products; although it would be remiss to not say that Crystal Reports feels abandoned under SAP.
Whatever choice you make, or have made, we have made the task easier by integrating with Crystal Reports and SSRS Reports into remiCrystal so that if you have to use both, or are migrating from one to another, the process is a little less painful. Check out remiCrystal Now