(See the update at the bottom of this post)
I don’t get to say this very often but SAP/BO did something very smart. I am not sure when it happened but I wish I had known sooner. They have set up a site for users to experiment with CR Server without having to do all the set up. To use the buzzword, they now have an evaluation option “in the cloud”. And despite the terminology it really is a great idea.
Many of you know that I spend a great deal of time promoting alternatives to CR Server, especially to folks who mainly want to schedule reports for Email delivery. Simple scheduling can be done for free and even complex scheduling and bursting can be done for a few hundred dollars. But CR Server is a viable option for providing on-demand reports to browser-based users.
The challenge to the CR Server salesman is that no one wants to commit $10 – $20K on a product without trying it. And trying CR server can also mean trying your patience. Before a potential user can experiment with all the wonderful things that CR Server can do they have to:
1) Install and configure a web server
2) Install and configure the database behind CR Server
3) Install and configure the CR Server
4) Set up some users, groups and publish some reports.
As you can imagine, there are plenty of places in this process for things to get bogged down. And then you have a potential customer who is discouraged before he can be convinced that all the effort is worthwhile. Even a ‘free’ trial can cost you if it soaks up lots of technical resources before you can even see how it works. But with the online evaluation option the user jumps right in and (according to the site) they can be ready to go in 10 minutes. I haven’t actually tried it yet but if they did it right the user can log in and pretend they are the administrator of a fully configured site.
Update as of 3/25:
I should have known better. One of my colleagues did the full registration and got the Email confirmation saying:
“Trying SAP Crystal Reports Server in the cloud? Launch your session in 10 minutes or less….”
But when he went to the site and clicked continue he read that the feature was “temporarily unavailable” while they get ready to release the next version of CR Server. The person I spoke with on the CR team says that it has been down for a while and made it sound unlikely that it will come back up any time soon. So I am disappointed but not too surprised.