SQL Server Reporting Services and Crystal Reports:
A Competitive Analysis

Copyright 2005, Brian Bischof


In one respect this paper might appear biased because I wrote the book "Crystal Reports .NET Programming" and my knowledge of Crystal Reports is much more extensive than my knowledge of SSRS. That being said, I have spent a large amount of time researching and working with SSRS and have tried to keep this paper balanced.

I see many people stating that SSRS is a great reporting tool and they recommend it for every application. While it's great to see people taking to SSRS so eagerly, giving it a blanket recommendation ignores the fact that SSRS is a first attempt at reporting and certain areas need significant work. I also see people saying that they convinced their client/manager to commit to SSRS and now they need help because expected features are missing. It would have been much better for these people to know what to expect before committing to the technology.

Each product is at a different point in development. Crystal Reports XI is at version 11 and it is a very mature product. This version includes numerous bug fixes and performance enhancements over past versions. What is holding it back the most is its past perceptions. Some people won't even consider using it because they are still holding a grudge over problems they had with version 8.5. In fact, Crystal Reports for Visual Studio .NET 2003 uses a "lite" version of Crystal Reports 9 that is now two years old.

SQL Server Reporting Services is the new kid on the block. Before starting development Microsoft had the advantage of evaluating all the reporting tools from existing vendors. They can keep the features they like and improve upon areas they see weaknesses in. This is a very interesting position to be in. Unfortunately, there are only so many developer hours in a day and it takes many releases to build a product that is both stable and feature complete. For example, the Windows operating system wasn't even usable till version 3.1 and even then they didn't solve the "Blue Screen of Death" headache until XP came out. You can see how each product's length of time in the market both helps and hurts it.

Before committing your resources to a certain tool you need to be aware of what each tool gives you and where it is lacking. You can't just run a few of the wizards and assume the tool is right for you. This paper exposes weaknesses in each product and also highlights areas where each is strong.

< Prev Next >
Table of Contents
1. Executive Summary
2. Reporting Services Overview
3. Reporting Services Overall Impressions
4. Product Offerings and File Formats
5. Licensing Details
6. Connecting To Data
7. Securing Sites with Forms Authentication
8. Designing Reports
9. Passing Parameters
10. Exporting Reports
11. Subreports
12. Conclusion