A few years back, the generation of reports from the database for analyzing the data seemed extremely difficult. But now, by using the SSRS tool, we can even generate reports for complex datasets. SSRS is a server-based report developing a software system which provides an interface with Microsoft Visual Studio. SQL administrators and Developers can connect to the database and use SSRS tool to modify SQL reports to decrease its complexity.
What is SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)?
SSRS (also called as Microsoft SQL reporting service) is a reporting service tool which is used to produce formatted reports. The reports are displayed in the form of images, graphs, charts, and data which are executed using user-defined parameters and are hosted on the server.
Basically, there are three types of reporting services. They are as follows:
- Microsoft SQL Server Integration service (integrates data from various sources).
- Microsoft SQL Server Analytical service (for analyzing the data)
- Microsoft SQL Server Reporting service (generates a visual report for the data).
Why do we choose the SSRS tool?
The main reasons for choosing the SSRS tool are listed below:
- Compared to crystal reports, SSRS is an advanced report generating tool.
- Reports can be generated quickly for both multidimensional and relational data.
- SSRS tool provides accurate decision-making results to the users
- It allows you to export the reports in various formats and be delivered in the form of emails.
- SSRS is host secured and helps in controlling the access to reports.
- SSRS offers WWW connection to deploy reports so that they can be accessed over the internet.
Example of SSRS reporting
For instance, consider an educational institute where students from different branches and years are present.
The accountant of the college must create a database for each and every student and staff. Once they join the institution, the university receives the amount from the college according to the fee structure.
Without SSRS, the educational institutions would have to manually generate a report and send to the university with the following data: number of students who took the admissions, their branch details, fee structure, and the student education details. Hence, it is a time-consuming process to send this data in the correct format. With this tool, the university can get access to the reports on the cloud.
How SSRS Works?
The following are the four phases in which reports are generated and accessed:
- The end-users or the clients who want data insights in the form of reports will send a request to the server (SSRS)
- SSRS server fetches the metadata of the report and requests the data sources to send the data.
- Data returned by the data source is combined with the report head and formed as a complete report.
- The generated report is returned to the end-users.
What are the types of SSRS reports?
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There are many types of reports that SSRS tool can develop. The following is a list of a few types of SSRS reports:
- Parameterized reports
- Linked Reports
- Snapshot reports
- Drill down Reports
Parameterized reports: These reports are generated by taking the input values.
Linked Reports: These types of reports are generated from the existing report with a link at a point retaining the original report definition.
Snapshot reports: This report contains query results and layout information.
Drill down Report: These reports hide the complexity. User can toggle between hidden reports and original data and controls the access to reports.
SSRS has a complex architecture that includes administration tools, report viewers, and development tools, the following are the important components of SSRS architecture.
- Report Builder
- Report Designer
- Report Manager
- Report Server
- Report server database
- Data sources
Report Builder: It is a report publishing tool hosted on the client-side computer. It has an easy to use interface with drag and drop options.
Report Designer: This is a publishing tool is used to develop various types of reports and is hosted on Visual Studio.
Report Manager: It checks whether the reports match the given requirements and makes decisions based on the generated reports.
Report Server: It is a report server which stores metadata that is retrieved from the SQL Server database engine.
Report server database: It stores resources, delivery data, metadata, security settings, and report definitions.
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Data sources: it is a relational or multidimensional data sources from which the reporting services retrieve data from.
Almost every enterprise will follow the standard reporting lifecycle, classified as shown below:
Authoring: This is the first phase of the life cycle, It defines the syntax of the data and layout for the data. The following are the tools used in this process:
- SSRS tool.
- SQL Server Development Studio (SSDS).
Management: The second phase is the management stage which involves management of a published report.
Delivery: This is the final phase, where the reports need to be delivered to the client. Delivery can be done based on demand. Using automation features, the reports are created and sent to the customer.
Features of SSRS:
- SSRS has a pluggable architecture with a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) application.
- Retrieves data from database connections such as OLE and ODBC.
- Helps you in creating ad-hoc reports and store them to the SSRS report server.
- Display data in various forms like charts, table, graph, or free-form
- Allows you to create customized controls using report-processing extensions.
- It can convert the data into Embed graphics, images to the reports.
- Using SharePoint you can integrate external content with reports.
- KPI data can be displayed using the Gauge control feature.
Advantages of using SSRS
- SSRS is the most inexpensive and faster report generating tool.
- It is more efficient in reporting access to information present in both Oracle and MS SQL Server database.
- By default, the SSRS report designer is integrated with Visual Studio. Hence, you can easily create the reports in the same IDE.
- The security is managed in a rule-based method and is applied to reports and folders.
- Subscription-based reports are automatically sent to the users.
- Real-time information helps in providing you the better decision making support.
Disadvantages of using SSRS
- In the interface, you don't have any print option to extract the data. If you want any data, you have to export the data in the form of excel, word, or a PDF document.
- The user has to accept the parameters to generate any report.
- It is very hard to debug expressions and modify the custom code.
- You can add either page numbers or the total number of pages to the report body.
- You don't find any method to pass the values between main reports and the corresponding sub-reports
- Page header will always create extra space for every new page.
SSRS is one of the best reporting tools used by the fortune 500 companies around the globe. This tool reduces the burden of the organizations by delivering excellent service. Using this tool, we can generate various reports for data analysis and as it is a cloud-based service, it can be accessed anywhere at any time on the internet. Hope you had a clear understanding of SSRS reports and their uses.