I have divided the dozen or so scheduling tools into two groups – desktop and server. Most people who need to schedule reports will be fine using a desktop scheduler, even if they have to deliver reports to many recipients. You can read my previous blog post for a comparison of desktop schedulers. But in some environments there will be many people scheduling reports and in those cases it might make sense to upgrade to a server-based scheduler. This post will compare the server-based scheduling tools and should help narrow down your search. So below is a brief introduction to each product and a link to the vendor’s website.
I have also created a detailed feature matrix (PDF) that compares roughly 70 characteristics. It includes prices and the install base of each product. And with so many complex features I decided to also write a feature glossary to define some of the key features so the comparisons were clearer. What has emerged is a short course in Crystal Reports scheduling technology. If you have any feedback on the features listed or their definitions please let me know. Furthermore, if you have already tried one of these products, or are currently using one, I would love to ask you a few questions, on or off the record.
To avoid repetition, when I say a tool covers “all the basics” I mean that it:
1) Is designed to be installed on a server and used by multiple people simultaneously.
2) Automatically runs a report at a scheduled time using it’s own scheduling engine.
3) Allows you to schedule delivery to either a printer, a file folder or an Email address.
4) Runs as a service so you don’t need to stay logged in all the time.
5) Exports to all of the standard file formats supported by Crystal.
6) Can incorporate multiple reports into one scheduled job.
7) Allows you to name the exported files with a date time stamp.
8) Allows you to specify the report’s parameter values in the schedule.
9) Allows you to complete date parameters with values relative to today’s date
10) Remembers chosen parameter values for reuse.
11) Allows you to specify which data connection to use within the schedule.
12) Allows you to store (encrypted) the passwords needed to connect to a database.
One very powerful feature to consider is bursting. Bursting takes a single grouped report and exports it to multiple files, one for each group. These individual exported files can then each be Emailed to the specific Email address or saved in specific folders. Most server tools, and several desktop tools offer some form of bursting.
I have not tried to compare subjective areas like “ease of use” because in most cases I have not used the tools. I recommend that you use this review to narrow your search to 2 or 3 tools. Then talk to the vendors to confirm your features and pricing. And then use the free trials (they all have one) before making a decision.
One note on version support. I have asked the vendors to list the version of the Crystal runtime engine that is used in their product. Some vendors provide the engine while others use the runtime engine in your own copy of Crystal Reports. The engine version is usually not an issue, but it becomes important if you are using the very newest features of v12 (calculated cross-tab columns, optional parameters, etc) or v13 (export to RPTR and XLSX). All of the tools here can run reports from any version of CR. Bur if they use an older engine then they new features will not be available. So if you rely on the newest features of CR 2008 (v12) you should use a tool that has the v12 engine or later. And if you rely on the newest features in CR 2011 or CR 2013 you should use a tool that uses the v13 engine.
One note on pricing. Many of these tools are sold in modules. To simplify the comparison I asked each vendor to select a single ‘sweet spot’ to use for comparisons to other tools and then listed the price and features of that configuration. For many tools you can add other features or reduce the price by tweaking the configuration. Some of these configuration options are listed in the comments at the bottom of the feature matrix.
Last, keep in mind that I rely on the vendor for this information. I have not road-tested all of these tools. So if you plan to purchase one, especially the more expensive ones, you will want to confirm with the vendor that they will do what you want in a way that works for you.
R-Tag Crystal Scheduler by R-Tag:
R-Tag is the least expensive tool in the list ($499). It covers all the basics and adds many additional features. It provides single-pass bursting and has the ability to dynamically use report fields for things like the export file name, folder name, Email body and Email headers (subject, from, too, cc, etc). It also provides exception handling and empty report handling. You can do event based scheduling (run a job when a data condition is true). The scheduling engine includes Business Day schedules, Holiday exclusions and 4-4-5 scheduling.
R-tag’s Excel functionality includes exporting to multiple tabs, creating pivot tables and charts and exporting Excel formulas. This functionality is not dependent on having Excel installed. R-Tag also includes sophisticated workflow management that can determine which reports to send, and which external files to include, based on data retrieved at runtime. It can send multiple Emails and generate multiple files from a single task. It is available in both 32-bit an 64-bit versions and is UAC compliant for both Windows 7 and 8.
R-Tag Crystal Scheduler is $499.
Navarre Report Scheduler by PCS Programming:
This is one of the lowest priced tool in the bunch ($700). They have even lower priced configurations if you want to give up some features. It covers all of the basics and adds bursting (multi-run), and a multi-threaded engine. It can be used to schedule non-report tasks (like batch files) and can deliver to Secured FTP. To use it you will need to have both CR 2008 and SQL Server (2000 or later) installed.
cView SERVER by Chelsea Technologies:
Chelsea Technologies is based in Auckland, New Zealand. It covers all the basics and can do bursting (multi-run) and provides a basic audit trail for logging who is scheduling which reports. It also allows Emails to be scheduled to distribution lists. These can be read from a text file or database query. The cost is $750 with several optional add-ons available for an additional fee.
CrystalKiwi Scheduler by CrystalKiwi Ltd:
CrystalKiwi is based in Auckland, New Zealand. It covers all the basics and can do bursting (multi-run) and provides a detailed audit trail for logging who is scheduling which reports. It adds package delivery, empty report handling and the ability to schedule SQL updates among other features. It costs $780.
Report Server/CR by VersaReports:
This tool has a ‘big brother’ edition that can schedule reports from other vendors, including ActiveReports, XtraReports, Telerik Reporting and any other report engine that has a .NET API. But Report Server/CR is dedicated to scheduling Crystal Reports. It covers all the basics with the exception of being able to include multiple reports in one scheduled job. It adds bursting (multi-run) and comes with a multi-thread engine.
Report Server/CR can use your existing Windows security infrastructure and includes support for Forms authentication as well. Users can enter parameters each time they schedule a report and per-user parameter security is supported. Old instances of reports are retained until the user deletes them or until a user-configurable retention rule automatically deletes them. Report Server/CR costs $995.
ToolSched by Modal Logic Business Solutions:
ToolSched is designed to leverage the bursting engine and command line functionality of Visual Cut from my desktop tools list. ToolSched covers all the basics. It adds ‘one-pass’ bursting, package delivery and empty report handling among other features. It can even schedule SQL updates and other non RPT actions.
It also does archive management and provides a basic audit trail of user interactions with the product.
ToolSched costs $1995 for the base server with a single user. Add $200 for each additional user. You will also need to purchase a copy of VisualCut ($360 with support).
Liaison Messenger EDD by Liaison Software Corp:
This tool is designed to work with Microsoft Dynamics and Sage Software ERP/Accounting products. It provides electronic distribution of both application and custom reports. It covers all the basics, except that to have it run as a service requires an additional piece of software. It also can’t specify a connection in the schedule, but it uses only one connection so this is irrelevant. It adds bursting, package delivery, empty report handling and exception handling among other features. It can even schedule SQL updates and other non RPT actions.
One special feature is that it can monitor an Outlook “Hot Folder”. This allows it to respond automatically to inbox Emails. It provides a basic audit trail of user interactions with the product.
Pricing is based on the number of user set up in your accounting in your accounting package. Anything up to 10 users is $2,595.
rePORTAL SCR by rePORTAL Software:
This scheduling engine covers all the basics and adds bursting, package delivery, empty report handling and exception handling. It can compress and encrypt your attachments and can even schedule SQL updates and other non RPT actions.
rePORTAL SCR can be administered from a browser, and provides a basic audit trail of user interactions with the product. It costs $800.
Note that to use rePORTAL SCR, you will need to have a copy of CR 2008 / CR 2011 or the “developer” edition of any prior version of CR.
Report Runner Batch Enterprise by Jeff-Net:
This tool has a large feature set, covering all the basics and adding features like event based scheduling (reports triggered by queries), bursting (multi-run and one-pass) and having Email message content set by report formulas. It can schedule other non-report actions. This includes running SQL Queries to update your data before or after a report is run. It can also do exception handling for reports that are blank or fail to run. And it stores a detailed audit log of all user actions.
One last unique feature is the ability to set parameter values via VBScript Expressions, Constants, or SQL Select statements.
The $5000/year price includes a worldwide site license to all products, updates, and support. Jeff-Net also has staff available 24x7x365 for critical support. Critical tickets send pages out to on-call support every night 24×7×365. They also provide support by phone, email, and online chat.
This product is sold in many configurations. The price above is an all-inclusive price selected by the vendor, but you can remove features and capacity to get a lower priced product. And, it is available in 4 different Crystal versions so that you can choose the one that matches your version of Crystal Reports. And, it is available in 4 different Crystal versions so that you can choose the one that matches your version of Crystal Reports.
CRD Premium Edition by ChristianSteven Software:
This is the most expensive tool in the roundup ($6,995) and also the one with the most features. It covers all the basics and adds many key features like event based scheduling (reports triggered by queries) and having Email message content set by formulas. It does “one-pass” bursting and has web-based administration. It can be used to schedule other non-report actions, like running SQL Queries to update your data before or after a report is run. It can also do exception handling for reports that are empty or fail to run and stores a detailed audit log of all user actions.
The price above is for the “small biz” edition which is the ‘sweet spot’ configuration selected by the vendor. It has a limit of 100 report outputs per day. You can upgrade to the full version if you need more. In either case there is an additional 18.63% required each year for maintenance and support.
Their internal customer care team delivers support by phone, Email, web chat, GoToMeeting or in-person. Support is also provided by their international network of certified partners.
They offer comparable tools for running reports in SQL Server Reporting Services and MS Access.