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Crystal Enterprise 8.5 Configuration Options:

When you buy Crystal Reports 8.5 Professional Edition or Developer Edition you get a free copy of Crystal Enterprise Standard(CE).  This is Crystal Decisions' primary tool for sharing Crystal Reports on the Internet.  Here is a brief description of the 3 different web configurations for CE, and a fourth web configuration that uses ASP instead of CE.  This information is a summary and synthesis of several of CD's technical documents.  Links to the full documents are listed below for further reading.  

The first 3 ways to serve reports on the web all require that you install Crystal Enterprise on your web server:  

1) Using "Unmanaged" Reports with CE
This option has a long history and has gone by several names in prior versions.  It is also known as the Web Component Server (WCS) or simply the URL Method.  It is simple to set up, since the reports (.RPT files) can be stored in any virtual directory on your web server.  To launch a report you enter the URL for that report into any browser.  If this is the first time this browser is running reports, the WCS will determine the browser type and download an appropriate viewer to the client PC.  Alternately, you can specify in the URL which viewer to send.

If the report requires any parameters or login information, the server will prompt the user.  Alternatively, you can add these parameters to the URL, and pass them to the report.  The primary downside to this method is that all parameters, including the database login information, are visible in the URL and therefore less secure.  You can use HTTPS or NT Authentication to minimize security risks.  

If you are using Crystal Enterprise v8 (which comes with Crystal Reports v8.5), you have to install CE on a Microsoft based server.  If you have one of several non-Microsoft web servers you may be able to get a 'web connector' to allow you to use CEv8.  The 'web connector' is a program that installs on a Unix based web server and which connect the Unix server to a Microsoft computer running CE.  This allows you to use other popular web servers, and it also keeps your report processing from affecting the performance of your main web server.  The brand new release of Crystal Enterprise v8.5 can be installed directly on several non-Microsoft servers.

2) Using "Managed" Reports within CE Standard
The next option is to let Crystal Enterprise "Manage" your reports.  For Crystal to manage a report, the report must first be imported or "published" into the Crystal Enterprise environment, called the APS, which stands for the Automated Process Scheduler.  The APS also stores users, groups, database logins, and a history of reports requested.  Your users log into the APS to run reports.  Since the APS stores the database login, there is no login information being passed in the URL.

A primary role of the APS is to manage "instances" of each report.  Each time a report is run it is saved (with data) into a report repository.  These 'instances' can be viewed later by others, without having to query the database.  Crystal Enterprise will even generate instances automatically, based on a user-defined schedule, to take advantage of system downtime.  These instances expire and are deleted from the APS after a user-defined period.

Note - it is easy to confuse the APS program with the ASP programming language which is mentioned later.  

When you install CE you get 4 initial menu systems which allow your users to log in and run reports.  These are called EPortfolio, Thumbnail, Directory and In-Frame. These default screens can be used immediately, and do not require any programming.  The only configuration required is publishing your reports into the Enterprise folders.  

However, if you have an experienced programmer, you can modify these menus, or you can create your own screens and menus from scratch.  The screens are written in a proprietary language called Crystal Server Pages or (CSP).  It is very similar to Active Server Pages and the differences are described in one of the documents listed below.  Unlike ASP, CSP allows you to use either VBScript or JavaScript.

One limitation of CE Standard is that it only has two levels of users:  
    Guest -  with no password required or
    Administrator - with no access restrictions.  

There is no ability to set up named user's or groups, or to control the level of access on an individual basis.  But since CE standard is a free program, it is hard to complain.  It will allow up to 5 simultaneous users into the APS.  You can buy an additional 5 slots for about $12,000.  High volume sites can buy unlimited seats on a single processor for about $35,000.

3) Using "Managed" Reports within CE Professional
Upgrading to CE Professional gives your system two more features.  First is the ability to set up specific users (and user groups) with different access privileges
.  The second is that you can install and configure multiple Web Component Servers on separate machines, adding scalability to the system.

The upgrade from Standard to Professional costs about $8,500.  This still allows only 5 simultaneous users.  You can allow an additional 5 simultaneous users for about $17,000.  Or you can add named users for only $595 per user.  High volume sites can buy unlimited Professional seats on a single processor for about $45,000.

4) Using Active Server Pages (ASP) without Crystal Enterprise
This option is for programmers, so it requires that you have the Developer Edition of Crystal Reports installed on your web server.  It does not require that Crystal Enterprise be installed.  

ASP is a programming language that creates programs to run on Microsoft web servers.  Running programs on the server is usually more efficient than having the user download an "applet" that runs on their PC.  

By writing commands in ASP, the programmer can send hundreds of different instructions to a Crystal Report.  So when the user chooses report options on a web page, the ASP can make adjustments to the report.  It does this by passing the commands to a Crystal module called the Report Design Component(RDC) which adjusts the report accordingly.  There are hundreds of ASP commands available to control different properties of the report.  These commands are also available to Visual Basic Programmers when they want to adjust reports in an application.  ASP and Visual Basic use the same RDC to control the report's properties.

For further reading:
The following documents were either used in preparing this summary, or found to be useful for setting up and configuring CE.  I am sure the links no longer work, but some of the file names might still exist in the SAP knowledgebase.

ASP Code Examples