SQL Server Reporting Services and Crystal Reports:
A Competitive Analysis

Copyright 2005, Brian Bischof


When deciding which tool to standardize on, it's important to look at the architecture of each tool. Within this paper I listed the differences between the two products and also mentioned how each design decision comes with certain advantages and disadvantages. Remember to test each reporting tool against the functionality that is critical to your reporting requirements. Determine which product best fits your needs before making your choice.

Overall, both tools are an excellent choice for implementing reporting capabilities into your applications, but they cater to different audiences. Crystal Reports has the benefit of being the veteran in the field and supports almost every conceivable reporting requirement there is. It has versions for developers as well as business users. SSRS is the new kid on the block and it is focused only on the developer market. SSRS is a 1.0 release and still has some growing pains to go through. If your company's users have a broad range of reporting requirements and expect their reports to look a certain way, then Crystal Reports could be your best bet. If your developers want to use the latest tools and you have the resources to write the code for the missing functionality, then SSRS could be your choice.

Reporting Tools Feature Summary

FeatureCrystal Reports XIReporting Services
Version 11.01.0
File Format Binary (.RPT)
Uses SDKs to access objects
Editable with Notepad
Target User Business User and Developer Developer
Designer Interface Banded Object based
License Cost CR.NET - Free
Dev Edition - $300 Upgrade
CR Server - $7,500
Included with SQL Server 2000
Additional Server - $5,000
Enterprise License - $20,000
Extensibility Closed architecture Open architecture
Data Connectivity Single point of entry
CR Server - Shared data source
Shared data sources
DataSet Reporting Supported Not Supported
Table Object Not Supported Supported
Forms Authentication Supported Not Supported
Enterprise license support
WYSIWYG formattingPrecise HTML focused
Formula Library 50+ financial functions
4 dozen date functions
13 financial functions
Half dozen date functions
Sub-reports One level deep 20 levels deep
Object based reporting improves on sub-reports
CSS Supported Minimal support
Export granular control Not Supported Supported

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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