There are many ways to deploy Crystal Reports to users. I normally lean toward the simpler and less expensive options, like locally installed viewers or scheduled Email delivery. But there are environments where a web based option is necessary. The ‘official’ options from SAP are Crystal Reports Server and BO Enterprise. I have included CR Server in my review to help people make a comparison. But there are other products out there that many users never see. These are third party products which cost much less. The list includes:
1) Crystal Reports Server – the official SAP Web portal for small scale deployment
2) Report Runner Web Portal – a traditional Web portal
3) IntelliFront BI– a traditional Web portal
4) Ripplestone– a traditional Web portal
5) rePORTAL CR – a traditional Web portal
6) ReCrystalize Server – a traditional Web portal
7) ReCrystallize Pro – a Web launch page generator
8) Bezlio – a SaaS Web viewer
Below is a brief rundown on what each product does. I have also posted a feature matrix (xls) that shows some of the specifics for comparison, including prices. The terms used in the matrix are defined in this glossary. If you have tried one of these products, or are currently using one, I would love to ask you a few questions. If you have ever compared two these for an in-house deployment, I would be very interested in your opinions.
Traditional Web Portals:
The first six are more traditional Web portals. They are similar to BO Enterprise but on a smaller scale. In these, the user logs into a web-based application from their browser and can choose reports to run, print or export on demand. He is allowed to interact with these reports by refreshing them and changing their parameters. He is also allowed to schedule reports whose output can be delivered to an Email inbox, a web folder or a printer. They can all be configured so that when the user logs into the web application he sees only reports he has permission to see, based on his privileges. Most can implement “row level security” which means that a generic report can be set to automatically filter the data based on the user running the report. Authentication can be coordinated with your Windows security or with the security of a web application. All seven of these provide at least a basic audit trail of user interaction with the product. The configuration and settings are setup by administrators using a web interface.
1) CR Server by SAP:
CR Server is the original and official method for running reports on demand through a browser. It covers all the basics, is multi-threaded and adds bursting. It keeps an instance history and it provides tools to manage the instance archive. It also provides detailed auditing and a scheduling module.
CR Server is the only tool in this list that does not use the runtime engine to run reports. The runtime engine is limited to processing a maximum of 3 simultaneous report processes, with other requests being queued. CR Server uses the same engine as Business Objects Enterprise which means it can do page-level caching and use unlimited threads to manage load. CR Server can tap into any number of CPUs as long as you’re on a single server. This server can be physical or virtual without violating the license.
But the price per user is high in the CR Server mixed pricing model. Most people buy Concurrent Access licenses (CALs). Five CALs cost $6,600 and allow you to have up to 5 concurrent users. This means that out of a larger pool of authorized users, any five users can be active on the server at one time. In addition to CALs you can add specific “Named User” licenses (NULs). These are for specific people and do not take up a CAL slot, but they are not allowed to be shared with other users. Five NULs cost $2,400.
2) Report Runner Web Portal by Known Keep:
This covers all of the features of a traditional web portal mentioned above. This tool is multi-thread, but is not really designed to do bursting. It provides for workflow automation and provides a detailed audit log of user actions. It also keeps an instance history and provides tools to manage how long the instances are stored.
The vendor provides the ASP source code for the portal. You can use the latest version of the CR runtime, or (for legacy users) there is a version using the v8.5 runtime. Known Keep also has the most comprehensive support, providing a one-hour or less response time 24/7/365.
The cost for Report Runner Web Portal is $6,500 per server for unlimited users.
3) IntelliFront BI by ChristianSteven Software:
IntelliFront BI is new this year. It covers all of the basics of a web portal listed above, except row level security. It has a multi-threaded engine, provides event based triggers and allows for workflow automation. It also keeps an instance history and provides tools to manage how long the instances are stored.
IntelliFront BI supports Crystal Reports, SSRS reports and Microsoft Power BI reports. It also supplies proprietary KPI and scorecard functions.
The cost for IntelliFront BI is $12,000 per year which covers 1 server with unlimited reports, dashboards, processors and users.
4) Ripplestone by TechSol:
This covers all the features of a traditional web portal mentioned above. It also allows you to include non-reporting documents like PDF, DOC and XLS files within the same security framework. Note that this tool is not multi-threaded. It does provide a basic instance history – storing copies of previously run reports with their data. It also can ‘Burst’ reports – taking the groups within a report and sending an individual PDF to each group via Email.
The cost for Ripplestone is $3,500 per server.
5) rePORTAL CR by Shahrabani and Associates:
This covers all the features of a traditional web portal mentioned above. It does instance management including automatically managing how long the archives are kept. It provides a detailed audit trail of user actions. It can even ‘Burst’ reports – taking the groups/users within a report and sending an individual instances to each user via email or to another destination. The scheduler includes support for event based scheduling and pre/post schedule database triggers. It can also be implemented on a web farm to distribute load across multiple servers (for high usage environments).
The cost is $2,750 per server. For an additional fee you can manage Power BI and SQL Server Reporting Services reports in addition to Crystal Reports.
6) ReCrystallize Server by ReCrystallize.com
ReCrystalize Server is a web portal that is designed to be simple to deploy . It allows you to refresh and preview reports, but doesn’t include things like scheduling or bursting.
It provides web based administration and is multi-threaded. In addition to normal web-based folder and report navigation, it allows you to securely launch reports from a hyperlink or from your own website or application. The hyperlinks can include parameters and login credentials, and can be encrypted and/or set to expire. The encryption prevents tampering The links can be set for one-time use or set to expire after x seconds.
Reports can also be printed or Emailed from hyperlinks, a command line, a batch file, or a PowerShell script. And it includes an automated refresh feature which makes it possible to show continuously updated reports on an unmanned display.
ReCrystalize Server only costs $995 per server. The optional annual support/maintenance is $365 per year (when purchased with the product). Virtual machines on Azure, AWS, etc. are supported.
7) ReCrystallize Pro by ReCrystallize.com
This is a relatively inexpensive product compared to the others (hundreds not thousands). It is designed to create web Pages that display the reports with up-to-date, live data in most web browsers – including iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. It does this by walking you through a wizard to collect options and then generating ready-to-run ASP (or ASP.NET) web pages. The wizard allows you to:
* Set your database user name/password so that it can’t be seen by users.
* Prompt for report parameters at runtime, including dynamically generated lists of values.
* Preset date parameters to use common relative dates (i.e. today, end of last month, etc.).
* Choose a Crystal web viewer or output file format (Active X, Java, PDF, XLS, etc), or allow the user to choose.
* Send the report output as an Email attachment.
These pages can be called from your existing web apps. If you know how to use an ASP.NET compatible editor, you can tweak the default code to match the style of your existing web site or make other changes to integrate better with your web apps.
The latest release of ReCrystalize supports all versions of Crystal from CRv9 through CR 2020.
The cost of ReCrystalize is $495 per developer.
8) Bezlio by SaberLogic:To the end user this appears as a mobile app for iOS, Android, and Windows as it is a SaaS model that doesn’t require you to configure your own web server. The user logs into the Bezlio cloud service to run reports. But the report is actually run within your network by a locally installed Bezlio component called the BRDB. The output is then converted into a PDF which is delivered back to the user by the Bezlio cloud service.
Despite the different architecture, Bezlio covers most of the features of a traditional web portal mentioned above. The features you lose are:
1) The PDF won’t allow any interactive features like drill-down or on-demand subreports.
2) Scheduling is done using a free copy of Logicity Scheduler which is only available to users on the network, not web users.
The main advantages relate to deployment, which is faster and simpler than a web portal because there is no web server to configure. There is also no need to open any ports in your firewall. Communication between the BRDB the cloud and the browser is token based and encrypted.
Bezlio can also run SSRS reports and perform non-report related custom actions. These actions can read and write to any data source behind your firewall and can be initiated from and reported back to the browser.
The cost for Bezlio is $35 per user per month, with a minimum of 10 users.