Converting Crystal Reports to SSRS: Pitfalls of Automation

First of all, why migrate from Crystal Reports to MS Reporting Services? Does it really bring in some considerable benefits? The short answer is yes, it does. SSRS proves to be much more suitable for scalable tasks, delivers better .NET integration as both technologies share the same manufacturer, Microsoft. SSRS is also free as long as you already have an SQL Server license. In order to determine whether your business is ready to migrate to SSRS from Crystal Reports, please refer to this article.

And if you already decided to switch to SSRS, you are probably looking for the simplest and the most affordable way to accomplish this. We will try to provide a thorough insight into this problem.

Ways to convert Crystal Reports to SSRS

Years after SSRS was released, the preferable way to migrate from Crystal Reports is still manual conversion. This is a bit strange. Indeed, after googling around, you perhaps already have found a number of services offering automatic conversion of Crystal Reports to SSRS. At the same time many other resources claim that automatic migration is nearly impossible in case of the CR/SSRS pair. Who to believe? Let’s get this straightened now.

Basically, the migration procedure consists of several steps:

In other words, converting a Crystal Reports report to a Reporting Services report means you have to manually create a new SSRS report from scratch copying the structure and the internals of the original report. A tedious and time-consuming task unless you have merely a handful of reports to migrate. Otherwise, you surely want to speed up the process somehow.

Steps 4-8 above look like they can be automated, so what’s the problem? Why not delegate them to some tool? The problem is: conversion can only be automated to some extent. Principles of these two reporting systems are different, and these differences lead to discrepancies in layout, formulas and expressions, error handling, dataset parameters and so on. When adopting reports manually, all these discrepancies are handled relatively easy, while automated conversion fails to provide accurate results in many cases (see below).

The more complex a report is, the more glitches and deviations from the original you will find in an auto-converted SSRS report. This means, even if you chose automatic migration from Crystal Reports, you still have to examine the results for possible issues and manually fix them. Hiring a specialist who knows all the pitfalls along this way is generally a good idea.

When automation fails

Here is a brief and incomplete list of possible issues that may render an auto-converted SSRS report non-working or ruin its layout.

Data source issues

Report layout issues

VB code or expression issues

Other known problems

Every issue mentioned above requires attention and manual fixing or adjustment.

Conclusion: Auto vs. Manual

Automated conversion of Crystal Reports to SSRS definitely has issues. However, in many cases adjustments needed to fix glitches the output SSRS report will have are minor. This means simple reports based on standard templates can be auto-converted with minimum efforts.

Although, as complexity of a report grows, the share of manual operations increases too. At some point, it is simply not worth running automated conversion at all. The result, a half-baked non-functional report, will be disappointing, while manual adjustment required to bring such a report back to life under SSRS will be hard and possibly unrewarding.

The footnote is: do not rely on Crystal Reports to SSRS auto-conversion if it isn’t supervised by trained specialists who know all the pitfalls of automatic conversion and can either avoid or quickly fix them manually.

Reporting Services, Crystal to SSRS migrations

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