Learn When It’s Time for You to Migrate from Crystal Reports to SSRS
It would be a huge stretch to say Crystal Reports became an old dog hardly taught new tricks, but since Microsoft released its SQL Server Reporting Services developers faced with the need to choose between the default Crystal Reports and potentially more productive SSRS. Is there a real need to change horses in the midstream provided Crystal Reports has its own advantages too?
Before we proceed to the answer, let us quickly stack up both solutions against each other.
SSRS vs. Crystal Reports comparison
Since you are probably already with Crystal Reports now, you know its pros and cons like no one else. These are utter flexibility of reports, numerous report delivery options, and better user, mobile and printer friendliness.
On the other hand, SSRS is a native SQL Server part and therefore an SSRS-based solution can be scaled up easier. Plus SSRS provides smooth reporting integration into .Net applications, displays better performance and, of course, it is free.
It is hard to beat free, but Crystal Reports has one more ace in the hole: you are already using it, and it works. Therefore, in order to make a decision whether you need to migrate to SSRS, you should carefully weigh all factors:
1. Don’t fix what isn’t broken
The main question you should ask yourself is whether your current reporting solution fulfills its tasks. Many websites suggest SSRS as a better reporting solution compared to Crystal Reports, but if the latter perfectly suits your business needs, why change it? Trends come and go, but business efficiency remains the only factor that matters when it comes to decisions like this.
Nevertheless, even if you think your existing solution is just perfect, read along for exact criteria.
2. Performance issues
Step back and take a critical look at the performance of your system. Does the performance drop if complex reports are requested? Does it drop when overall load increases? Do your reports tend to increase their complexity over time? Can this potentially lead to performance problems? And, most importantly, does complexity of reports affect your decision making?
3. Growing pains
Not only does SSRS perform better, it also provides easier scalability. By balancing loads across multiple SSRS servers you can deliver smooth performance for hundreds and thousands of users simultaneously building heavy reports. As long as you plan or are forced to scale up, the SSRS solution easily overcomes Crystal Reports.
4. License costs
SQL Server Reporting Services comes in a bundle with MS SQL Server, so unlike Crystal Reports product you don’t have to pay any extra fees. At the same time, migrating to SSRS may turn up to be costly depending on complexity of your reports. Plus, the SSRS itself is only free as long as you use it on the same server as database processing is. Otherwise, an additional MS SQL Server license is required.
5. Maintenance and administration costs
Every system needs maintenance and administration, so what are the costs for your current solution? Can you manage to reduce them if you switch your business to SSRS? Also, don’t forget about development tools (free for SSRS), technical support (free for SSRS) and possible scaling costs (SSRS is cheaper). Take into account possible down-times of your business caused by the migration procedure. Finally, ask yourself, how easy it will be for your staff to learn how to build and deploy enterprise reports in the new reporting solution.
When we compared SSRS and Crystal Reports above we mentioned CR is generally friendlier. It provides better printed reports (actually it is meant for printed reports) and those reports are fluently available from mobile devices. The report design environment is slick. Also, the reports themselves are friendlier towards end users and don’t require any SQL knowledge.
On the other hand – and that could be crucial for you – SQL Server Reporting Services has better inner structure and design. Forget numerous sub-reports and old-style banded report design that was tantalizing you in Crystal Reports. Enjoy simpler and more natural approach to many functions: easier cascading parameters, web reports that look and feel much better, transparent .Net integration, Excel exporting and so on. SSRS is also better documented.
Transforming legacy Crystal Reports to SSRS can be painful. Basically, migration is a multi-stage process, where converting Crystal Reports to SSRS is the simplest part. This can be done manually or automatically, the problem isn’t really there. Much more complex it is to examine your whole reporting solution and picture a clear structure of what and how things are done. What are data sources? Is there any report interconnections and dependencies? Which reports are accessed more frequently? Who accesses them? Answering these questions will provide you with an idea which reports to convert first and possibly gives some tips on minimizing the number of reports or optimizing their structure. In fact, it is often this analysis that actually provides boost of your report performance than the new tool you switch to.
As for conversion itself, the main problems arise from the fact that some elements and controls Crystal Reports offers, cannot be directly transferred to SSRS. For example, while CR relies on the traditional banded report design, SSRS utilizes the Table object, so straight conversion may lead to artifacts and wrong rendering.
Most importantly, manual conversion is rarely an easy job for complex reports, and automatic conversion services rarely deliver quality they promise as soon as complexity of the converted report grows beyond the more or less simple hierarchy. Automatically converted reports always need manual supervising in order to fix glitches that may occur, and it’s always a good idea to make sure this is going to happen when you order report migration to a third-party.
Both Crystal Reports and Microsoft Reporting Services are good as long as they are used in their own niches. So, is it time for you to migrate from Crystal Reports to SSRS? SSRS looks more future-proof and can offer many real benefits to your business to consider. At the same time, the migration should be based on actual business needs, and if your current reporting solution works well and successfully fulfills every imposed task, you can probably stay with it. So the only question worth answering is does your business need to migrate from one solution to another. That’s it.