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Crestwood Associates

Crystal Reports vs SQL Server Reporting Services: Clash of the Microsoft Dynamics GP Reporting Titans


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    With Dynamics GP, you have a number of options when it comes to generating reports.  Depending on your specific needs there is usually an appropriate tool.  For example, FRx is the reporting tool for generating traditional structured financial statements such as Profit and Loss Statements or Balance Sheets.  Dynamics GP Smartlists provide easy access to data in list form that can quickly exported to Excel.  And most existing standard reports and forms are created with GP’s Report Writer - which in all honesty is not an exceptionally easy to use or powerful tool.

    But if you have some fairly advanced reporting needs including some complex grouping, sub-totaling, specific formatting and other "beyond-the-basics" needs, then you are really looking at two alternatives: Crystal Reports and SQL Reporting Services (SSRS).

    Crystal Reports has been the king of the reporting hill for some time.  It offers the most powerful features of any report writer.  Having been an avid user of Crystal for many years (and a former Crystal Partner and Trainer), I feel it still represents the ultimate in reporting flexibility and power.

    But Microsoft’s SQL Server Reporting Services has been gaining on Crystal Reports in many ways over the past few years.  It comes with the Microsoft SQL Server database so you do not have to pay any extra (unless you need extra SQL licenses for your report development users).  Being a Microsoft solution, it is the direction that Microsoft is heading for all its business application needs, as they have already incorporated it into the Dynamics GP product.  And that trend will continue to accelerate.  We are seeing much more interest and commitment to the SSRS reporting environment from many of our customers, across a variety of business applications.  And even this grizzled old Crystal guy has begun to like many of the aspects of the SSRS report designer tool.  We find that we are developing as many custom reports in SSRS as we do Crystal.

    Although SSRS still trails Crystal from a technical capability comparison, I feel it is time for all companies and users with serious reporting needs to commit to learning SSRS.  Although its report design environment is actually Visual Studio which can be intimidating to some, it is not that difficult to learn.  An additional plus for SSRS is that as part of SQL Server you get a web-based Report Manager admin tool that can maintain report executions and delivery.

    So I say it’s time to bite the bullet, take a deep breath, and dive into SSRS.  You might even like it!

    And if you are in the process of evaluating ERP solutions and taking a close look at Microsoft Dynamics GP, you should rest assured that you will have some very powerful reporting tools available.

    In future posts I will talk a little more about the approach to take when designing a new report and some of the features to be aware of when creating an SSRS report within Dynamics GP.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have: Rick Feterick, Crestwood Associates LLC, 847-394-8820 x48 or [email protected].

    Submitted by Crestwood Associates LLC–Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner in Indiana.

    23 Responses to “Crystal Reports vs SQL Server Reporting Services: Clash of the Microsoft Dynamics GP Reporting Titans”

    1. Ken says:

      Stonefield Query is quick and easy to install with little help or no assitance from the IT staff. No software is installed on the database server, eliminating another IT bottleneck. Simply install the software on your pc and specify the database connection to use.

    2. Would you be interested in reviewing InetSoft’s reporting software. We believe we offer an easier-to-use, and possibly more powerful reporting tool than Crystal. We make an evaluation copy freely downloadable from our site, and I can arrange for a longer evaluation than the default 5-day period.

    3. Roaming says:

      Report Writer:

      Will it work with SQL? I was asked to check on some reporting tool software (Crystal Reports -to be exact) but I want to check for some other options as well.

    4. Both Crystal Reports and SQL Reporting Services work with SQL and are really designed primarily to work against SQL databases. SQL Reporting Services actually is part of Microsoft SQL Server, at no extra charge (unless the additional reporting users you may need requires you to add additional SQL users licenses). But both products are designed to handle the relational database and SQL query aspects of SQL.

    5. Sidney says:

      Does SSRS work with any database? I know Crystal is very flexible in regards to this. Also to view only Crystal and not consider the rest of the BO package is shortsighted: Web Intelligence (ad hoc reporting for end users) and xcelsius (dashboards) all tie in together. Many execs like dashboards. I work with several reporting tools and have to agree with the other posts that the BO solution is the most powerful and flexible.

    6. Yes SSRS can work with other non-Microsoft databases. I am very familiar with the BO product line and I do think it is very powerful. But I was primarily focusing on traditional report design and not the other BI needs (ad hoc, dashboarding) in my initial posting. I would agree that the BO line is a more complete solution across the entire BI spectrum, but it also ends up usually being more complex and more expensive. So whether or not it makes the most sense depends on size of the company, the size of their budget, and their specific needs.

    7. ITM says:

      For those who need a distribution solution for either Crystal or SSRS, you may want to consider rePORTAL. It allows you to publish Crystal and/or SSRS reports (any versions) through a secure web portal and also includes a powerful scheduling engine. It is a server license so there are no user or report limits and best of all you do need any distribution software like Report Server. You can publish your SSRS and Crystal reports out of the box.

    8. Chris says:

      SQL-RD from ChristianSteven.com will do complex scheduling, data-driven and event-based exports to multiple destinations not supported by SSRS. And you can manage multiple installs of SSRS from one application.

      CRD, also from ChristianSteven.com far outrips Crystal Server as an affordable scheduling platform.

    9. idamar says:

      u re looking for better XML reporting SW? take a look at Windward’s Xml Reports. With Windward u design reports in MS Word, Excel, or PowerPoint so report design is much faster & easier – so totally non-programmers can design reports.

    10. John says:

      I have used both and I think from a developers perspective SSRS is far more user friendly and from a coding perspective powerful. However, I do agree that as far as functionality goes crystal is still slightly ahead. SSRS for me since 2008 is the dogs.

    11. HERBERTS says:

      I think that the best reporting tool at the moment is FastReport.Net.It has more functionality and user friendly issues like memory and speed.It a good tool.

    12. “We just implemented SSRS in our company under the recommendation of our Report Consultants at ReportingGuru.com – we have used their help with our reports and data architecture for years and are very familiar with what we needed. Overall we are happier with SSRS – it’s easier yet provides complex flexibility and when developed to fit your business correctly – well it fits like a glove! If you are having hard time deciding which way to go or just need help getting your software choice to fit what you need give Aaron at ReportingGuru a call.”

    13. Alan says:

      For those would like to learn new features of reporting service in SQL Server 2012, you may have a look at this book http://www.freeprogrammingbooks.com/book/Professional-Microsoft-SQL-Server-2012-Reporting-Services-15545.aspx. It provide coverage of the new features introduced with SQL Server 2012.

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    20. test1 says:

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    21. Chris Rock says:

      You had written very well about Dynamics GP, thanks for sharing this information.

    22. Report writer says:

      R-Tag Report Manager ( http://www.r-tag.com) supports both Crystal reports and SSRS. So if you are switching between them or if you have reports from both vendors you can handle them easily. The tool supports also bursting and data driven subscriptions and has internal scheduler and allows combining both report types, so for example a excel file may contain 3 worksheets generated from Crystal reports and 2 from SSRS or PDF may contain pages generated from both Crystal and SSRS reports

    23. Davidw says:

      SRSS is completely unacceptable.

      Sure, a report with a few fields is fine. You click and drag a column, put some info in a dialog box, fill in the text for the label, make a few ‘parameters’, with some nice styling – and you are good.

      Do that for 80 fields and you will want to kill yourself.

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