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In the last note I discussed the manager who decided not to use Crystal Reports Server and instead decided to build a custom ASP.NET solution to serve reports. While this may be fine if he works at a small business, it definitely limits his options. Let’s look at some circumstances where CR Server excels over a custom ASP.NET solution.

When a department builds a large number of reports, they frequently need to reuse the same objects across multiple reports. For example, this can include common functions, logos or other images, and custom SQL commands. A drawback to using CR for .NET is that the common objects can’t be shared and they have to be duplicated in each report. If the business rules change, each report must be manually updated to account for these changes. This can take considerable time and is very cumbersome. The Crystal Reports Server repository gives you a central management platform for sharing the objects across all reports in a secure fashion. Making a change to an individual object automatically propagates that change across all reports.

A significant benefit of Crystal Reports Server is its publishing and distribution features. A typical ASP.NET reporting solution requires a user to go to the main reporting page and click on the links for the reports they want to print. Specific parameters for each report have to be entered as well. Crystal Reports Server eliminates this by letting you create a schedule for when to process each report. This can be further customized for assigning the parameter values and specifying the database logins. The report output can specify the format for publishing the report (e.g. PDF, Word, Excel, etc.) and where to publish it.

Distributing reports isn’t limited to just saving the reports in a PDF file on the server. You can send them to an external FTP server, network printers, and email lists. A report can even be individually personalized for multiple users during the publishing process. When working with a large volume of reports for one or more departments, automating the printing and publishing process is incredibly time saving.

Crystal Reports Server is optimized to efficiently process a large volume of reports. Rather than printing the entire report at once, Page On Demand technology generates page output only when necessary. In addition to that, all data requests are cached to minimize database processing and network traffic. If the same data is formatted differently within multiple reports, the cache will ensure that the database server is only queried once for all the reports.

Rather than building a custom ASP.NET front-end for viewing reports, Crystal Reports Server comes with InfoView. It gives users a centralized web front-end for viewing and managing their reports. They can pull up specific reports, look at a history of reports printed, and choose between static or dynamic views. InfoView even gives you the ability to post comments about each report and track message threads.

If the manager in the previous note wanted to save money by creating a custom ASP.NET solution, it simply isn’t feasible. Duplicating the functionality of Crystal Reports Server using a custom ASP.NET solution will quickly exceed the cost of a CR Server license. Before the project is finished, the cost of a license will be cheap in comparison.

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