Telerik Reporting is a complete Reporting Solution for Web and Desktop Applications built using .NET and Telerik Report Server is the ultimate Report Management and Collaboration Solution powered by Telerik Reporting. Pair these products with our legendary Technical Support and this solidifies Telerik Reporting and Report Server as great Crystal Reports and Crystal Server alternatives.
At Progress we can confidently say that we enjoy working with our customers. One benefit to this, is we sometimes learn of trends occurring out in the wild. Recently, we have been hearing a wide array of considerations for choosing a Crystal Reports alternative. We decided to reach out to our customers that have switched and organize these considerations into a guide. We expect this to help everyone looking to make the switch and the following is an overview of the considerations that we compiled.
These are important considerations because the Crystal Reports website promotes the capability for its report designer to bring data in from various sources and create a document where the data is formatted into a design of their choosing, such as an invoice, sales or operational report, marketing letter or some sort of analytic. A solution of this magnitude needs to meet a set of criteria in order to be the first choice for the developer and end-user. Read through to discover the curated list of criteria we created for you that shows how Telerik Reporting is better than Crystal Reports and should be the Reporting Solution's first choice.
While the greater benefit comes from the whole guide, we developed each section independently to be enjoyed on its own. A very big thank you is due to our customers that participated in this exercise.
When considering a Crystal Reports alternative, one may think of Business Intelligence (BI), but BI is not a Reporting Solution. These are different things that serve different purposes. To elaborate, reporting communicates what HAS happened and BI tries to build on that by adding what CAN happen. Alas, not everything that can happen, will happen. That is not to discredit BI, it is useful, but these tools are useful for different purposes.
One important area of concern for a customer was that they were not interested in all the Bells and Whistles, as they called it, that comes with Business Intelligence. They had business operations and just wanted to see the output from it. Ultimately, the client found Telerik Reporting better than Crystal Reports because it consistently met their reporting needs and provided the flexibility and extensibility to meet additional needs when necessary.
After gathering feedback from our customers, it was becoming clear that they were feeling like they aren’t getting the same value for their money using BI platforms. They were trying out these large BI systems and didn’t use all the features. When these platforms are below utilization this eats away at any anticipated ROI. With Telerik Reporting the customers are now receiving the best ROI on the market along with royalty-free licensing.
Ready to Increase your Reporting ROI? Try Telerik Reporting.
When choosing a Reporting Software Solution, it needs to be feature-rich and flexible enough to author Reports quickly and consistently. Report authoring is one area where Telerik Reporting shines as a Crystal Reports alternative. We have made specific design decisions with report authoring simplicity in mind. In addition, we have also created an Import Report Wizard for Crystal Reports so that making the switch is as seamless as possible.
One client stated that their top concern for report authoring was that it should be easy to change a report style. Reviewing a public how-to-guide reveals that styling in Crystal Reports requires formatting each Report Object individually. Imagine styling a Report that contains hundreds of Report Objects. Additionally, customers want Report changes to be excluded from the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). Making changes described in the how-to guide, requires additional resources, a backlog, development, testing and release which stretches the time to make a change from minutes to possibly weeks or months.
In Telerik Reporting, styling consistency is maintained across reports by using a Stylesheet and Selector approach. In this way, styling is applied to each Report Item with the designated selector. Furthermore, our Standalone Report Designer also enables Report Authors to quickly update reports without the need to get involved in the entire SDLC.
Most of our clients had many reports that were already built-in Crystal Reports. Naturally, after investing the time and energy creating these reports, Report Designers feel personally invested and don’t want to lose their work or start over. This makes a converter a must-have feature when considering a Crystal Reports alternative.
Our Standalone Report Designer includes an Import Report Wizard for Crystal Reports with a straightforward workflow. At the time of this writing, the workflow for converting reports starts when the Designer selects New, then selects the Import Report Wizard and finally selects a target location that contains the reports to be converted along with the specified report. This process then displays a Conversion Summary and loads the converted report in the designer for further editing. The summary is necessary to view report items that cannot be converted due to limitations in Crystal Report’s .NET implementation. Enjoy the below gif for a visual reference.
Ready to start authoring hassle-free reports? Try Telerik Reporting.
Building or buying is evaluating each solution and assessing if it meets the needs of the Business Organization. In evaluating solutions, the most popular are turn-key solutions, building the solution in-house and cloud-deployed solutions. Each has its advantages and disadvantages as a Crystal Reports alternative. In one manufacturing client's scenario, Telerik Reporting was flexible and extensible enough to deliver pixel-perfect reports in each of their deliverables across different deployment methods.
Turn-key solutions are packaged software that is hosted on either a virtual or bare-metal server. The cost is usually the price for the license and, if using a hosting provider, the price for hosting. Telerik Report Server is our turn-key option.
Report Server works exceptionally well with this scenario because we deliver everything that is needed within the application. In a turn-key scenario, customers want a solution that has low resource requirements and is easy to update. Choosing Report Server as a Crystal Server alternative alleviates the high-resource requirement and complex management tasks. The Crystal Reports Import Report Wizard can even ease the migration process. From a high-level, the migration plan would be to install Report Server, convert the Crystal Reports and move the outputs to the Report Server for delivery.
Report Server added an additional benefit for the Reporting teams that require a collaborative environment. Reports can be designed locally in the Standalone Report Designer, published to the server and shared across teams. In this method, each Report Designer grabs the latest version, updates the Report and publishes the changes. This is usually a desirable process in large enterprises without a dedicated development team.
Custom-developed solutions give developers the ability to create exactly what is needed. Custom solutions start with a blank slate and can be added to an existing application. The cost is usually the hourly rate of the developers working on the project during and after release, the license and any hosting if using a hosting provider. Although, the cost to develop before the release can also be invested and used as a revenue generator later.
A custom-developed solution was the best approach for a customer as they were looking for a Crystal Reports alternative due to its extensibility. It also includes the flexibility to implement the desired features without waiting for another company to decide the feature is a priority which is the case in some turn-key solutions. This option provides the most rewards for a Crystal Reports alternative to meet almost every end-user requirement.
The Telerik Reporting Engine can be embedded into any .NET Application. An additional benefit here is our many Report Viewers which deliver reports to any form-factor. This establishes an Edit Anywhere and Deliver Everywhere capability.
Cloud solutions have become quite popular recently and for good reason. This is because server hosting and infrastructure is expensive and complex to manage. There are three patterns for cloud-deployed Solutions. These are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). Reviewing the three cloud patterns, SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, will inform a better decision to build or buy a Crystal Reports alternative in the cloud.
SaaS is a fully hosted and managed service delivered via web and/or mobile applications. A company using SaaS generally would not be responsible for hosting and maintaining the infrastructure or the software. The licensing model is usually Pay-per-User (PPU) on monthly or yearly intervals and the application is already deployed. Since everything is managed by the Service Provider, the end-users are supposed to get all the benefits of the latest and greatest features and don't have to hire a team to manage it.
A digital agency was evaluating a Crystal Reports alternative with a SaaS solution, they mentioned they expect to make sacrifice's in User Experience (UX) because another company manages it. Another obvious disadvantage of using a SaaS solution for a Crystal Reports alternative is that roll-out and adoption can be painstaking. Each SaaS solution was developed by a team of individuals with different UX and development philosophies. This means that not every SaaS solution will work with every other software. A way around this is to hook into the API if one is provided, and integrate the systems.
Our licensing model in Telerik Reporting allows it to be included or integrated with a SaaS solution. More specifically, the digital agency chose Telerik Reporting because it could be packaged with their software and won't cost per-user or even by report run. The exception to report processing costs is if Telerik Reporting is deployed using the PaaS or IaaS cloud deployment models which include some processing charges.
Platform as a Service is a fully hosted and managed platform delivered via a Platform Provider. A PaaS exposes nearly everything needed at the Software-level to deliver a custom-developed solution. The licensing model is usually Pay-as-you-Go (PAYG) which includes things like, data-in, storage and virtual core usage. New services are delivered at astounding rates because the Platform Providers manage the infrastructure and can deliver these Services through custom development. To lower up-front costs, projects can be developed locally which don't require the use of the Platform until later in the release cycle. Still, this requires no hosting or management costs other than the team developing and deploying the software.
Many clients decide to deliver a PaaS solution because of their strong development team and the added benefits of Custom-developed solutions. One concern that surfaces in a PAYG scenario are that costs can be less manageable because of spikes in processing which might require more usage at certain periods. A specific example would be during an Operational Event like Quarterly or Year-end reporting.
Telerik Reporting's Report Processing Engine can be hosted remotely to allow some infrastructure to be located off-platform which can circumvent potentially high processing costs. This is a true pleasure in a PaaS application as it can be integrated into an On-Premise, SaaS or IaaS application simultaneously. The PaaS pattern is a dream for customers with a strong development team.
Infrastructure as a Service is essentially a Virtual Machine managed by a company hosted by a Platform Provider. This scenario offers full control over the virtual server. Frankly, it's a server rental. A company is responsible for keeping the server up-to-date but doesn't have to host the machine which can save on storage space. If the server is going to run at 100% uptime, then the cost can be predictable and simpler with a packaged solution. Simply put, there is little abstracted away from the teams performing the deployment which most can find a fix for. In addition, fail-over is managed by the IaaS provider to ensure their up-time Service-level-Agreement (SLA).
Concerns customers raised were focused on integrating with Crystal Server because it was a packaged solution. They felt locked into features that were chosen by the software vendor. Additionally, they expressed the need to lower the resource requirements for hosting the application.
Telerik Report Server includes a REST API that can be integrated with a PaaS or SaaS applications. In addition, this also enhances the benefit of hosting on-premise or in an IaaS environment. It provides the most cost-effective and flexible approach for delivering Reports in a turn-key solution.
Considering whether to build or buy a Reporting Solution? Try Telerik Reporting.
When considering a Reporting Solution, or any software solution, the technology must work and most importantly people have to enjoy using it. Primary feedback from clients is that a Crystal Reports alternative needs to be always available and constantly updated. Looking at the Crystal Reports website, the site hasn't been updated since 2016. Design decisions that promote future-proofing and modernization will support high-availability and continuous updates.
Future-proofing technology is just that, ensuring that the technology will be viable in the future. This includes things like upgrades, modern features, and technical support. From a client's perspective, there is no question of why they are considering a Crystal Reports alternative. It is expected that without these elements they feel uninformed.
Customers want to stay up-to-date and be ensured of future viability in the software they use. A best practice for this is to use public Road Maps. In reviewing the gated Crystal Reports Road Map, we discovered the product has been fundamentally changed to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Suite. This indicates another important reason for a solution that is better than Crystal Reports: it no longer exists.
Both Crystal Reports and Telerik Reporting are built on the .NET Framework. However, .NET Core is the next iteration of the .NET Framework and will replace it altogether. This means that the existing Full Framework will move to maintenance status with version 4.8 and will only receive security updates. In addition to the .NET Framework, Crystal Reports uses the Component Object Model (COM) API which is Hardware and Software dependent and will likely never support .NET Core.
In contrast, Telerik Reporting currently has .NET Core Support. We have made significant design decisions that support the concept of future-proofing in Telerik Reporting. This shows that with Telerik Reporting a client’s development team can enjoy the benefit of staying informed and relevant.
Developers expect modern features in the technology they use. One area of concern was Crystal Report's integration with modern web technologies like ASP.NET MVC and Angular. Additionally, Continuous Integration was difficult to implement in a DevOps Pipeline because Crystal Report's assemblies are not distributed via NuGet which also makes multi-platform distribution difficult. It is important for modern development teams to enjoy the benefits of the Modern Web, DevOps, and multi-platform support.
Honestly, there should be no reason, other than for lack of resources, that any software should be restricted to a single platform. For example, video game developers have been adding the ability to save game state across platforms recently. Reporting Developers, Stakeholders, and Designers should enjoy this benefit as well. They shouldn't be limited in how to view and build their reports.
Telerik Reporting supports modern technologies like Angular and ASP.NET MVC Report Viewers, among many others. A QA team can easily accomplish Continuous Integration and Automated Testing because we provide our Package References using NuGet. To fully support multi-platform, Telerik Reporting can be used in Linux, macOS and Docker Containers since we use .NET Core out-of-the-box. These are the standard across modern development teams, and we are happy to deliver these features.
Looking for a future-proof and modern Reporting Solution? Try Telerik Reporting.
Edit Anywhere and Deliver Everywhere is a direct result of the future-proofing and modernization design choices. With the lack of .NET Core Support and modern web technologies, one client was troubled that using Crystal Reports may be limiting their reporting processes. We reviewed specific product capabilities that addressed their issues to show what was possible with Telerik Reporting and why this makes it better than Crystal Reports. We found that because Telerik Reporting offers several ways of designing reports coupled with multiple data source types, out-of-the-box report organization, multi-platform rendering options, and multiple report viewers improved the customer's report processing efforts.
The ability to edit reports anywhere is a lofty and always moving target which makes it the best type of target. Our existing Standalone Report Designer already stands out above anything offered by Crystal Reports and it doesn't cost an additional fee to use.
It is important to edit reports anywhere. Currently, most reporting software delivers a Desktop Designer or IDE Designer. To advance the concept of Edit Anywhere we have committed to delivering a Web-based Report Designer.
This excited one client because they could build the Web Report Designer into their existing application and ease the delivery of reports. Hearing their excitement during the conversation about delivering new features to their customers was a joy. From a product features perspective, those are the moments that tell you if you've made the right decision.
At the time of this writing, we have delivered a preview of our Web Report Designer that can be used to design Reports on the Web. We are continuing this effort and will soon deliver three stable methods to design reports anywhere.
With the advancements that are occurring in Web and Mobile Development, these should be a welcomed source of record. A Crystal Reports alternative should be able to adapt to modern data sources. For example, a Report should be able to use a RESTful Web Service as a Data Source which is usually the back-end for a Web or Mobile Application.
Our customers reported that many of their stakeholders were asking for reports from services that use RESTful API back-ends. This means that some of these back-ends were most likely third-party. Currently, they were using an XML pre-processor to consume RESTful APIs as a data source and found it to be problematic.
Telerik Reporting includes a Web Service Data Source which is suitable for this type of scenario. The set-up wizard walks through every step including authentication making it easy to use with third-party APIs.
A popular technology needs to be able to scale. If developers love a certain technology, then they will be evangelists for the technology and use it whenever they get the chance. The same concept holds true in Reporting. At some point, there will come the need to organize a set of Reports. It is common to organize a set of reports as a Report Book with a Table of Contents (ToC).
In one client's case, they were using several solutions that were cumbersome to manage. For the Report Books, they were merging reports programmatically which involved the full software team and took several weeks to add a Report. Additionally, for the Table of Contents, they had used a third-party solution for some Report Books and were writing back to a database table at runtime to generate the ToC in others.
The Report Book and Table of Contents are first-class Report Objects in Telerik Reporting. They're easy to set up and configure with no hacks or programmatic creation.
The ability to deliver everywhere empowers Report Designers because this enables the report to be viewed as it was designed with pixel-perfect rendering on any device. In order to deliver everywhere, it is important to have multiple options for Report viewing, exporting and readers.
It should be a goal to provide as many options for viewing reports as possible which will improve upon the Future Proofing and Deliver Everywhere approach. Nearly every device has a web browser that will work with an HTML5 based Report Viewer. This is precisely why we chose to build our modern Report Viewers around this. This clarifies the limitless idea; it means not limiting in the sense of anything is possible.
A Crystal Reports client stated they wanted report viewer customization that was faster and easier. This is likely because customization is not supported out-of-the-box in Crystal Reports. This meant that changes took a long time to document and implement. Stakeholders usually become frustrated when requesting styling changes that seem so simple but take a long time to see.
Out-of-the-box, Telerik Reporting supports theming in WPF and our web-based viewers. This is because the WPF Report Viewer uses the UI for WPF framework and the HTML5 Report Viewer uses the Kendo UI Framework. One example described by a client was that the Accounting team has strict standards for their Reporting and Human Resources has another set of standards. They chose Telerik Reporting because this could be easily managed using our report viewers.
Stakeholders for one client felt the needed a more intuitive report viewer user experience. This involved options to change the layout of rendered pages, easier scrolling and searching in the report. With modern technology, intuitive user experience is to be expected.
Report Viewers in Telerik Reporting can quickly change the view to print layout and back by the click of a button. This allows seeing what the report would look like if printed. Also, Continuous Scroll is the default experience in our report viewers that enables scrolling through pages. This proves to be a better experience than using a combination of scroll and button clicks. Furthermore, each of our report viewers comes with a Search in Reports Dialog that includes expected features like Match Case and Exact Match.
As popularity about a report grows, it comes as no surprise then that it will also need to be viewed in different readers. This prompts the need for many export options with support for accessibility and is the primary reason for having many export options. For example, a DOCX document might need to contain the reports along with natively formatted values. Another example is that a press-release might need to include an image of a report as opposed to the whole report. Additionally, accessibility is important for inclusion. Technology is supposed to enhance lives and that should include everyone.
Another desire for our digital agency client was having more export options. This arose from stitching together reports to create an XLSX file. They found that exporting like this wasn't a clean endeavor and required a lot of fiddling. Our research shows that Crystal Reports only supports exporting to RTF out-of-the-box.
If building a Report Book in Telerik Reporting, exporting the book to XLSX creates each report as a new worksheet out-of-the-box. In this case, it didn't require hacking together reports for the client. There are also 15+ export options in Telerik Reporting including, RTF, image, DOCX, both XLS and XLSX, and PDF. These are enabled by default and a common question we receive is how to limit the number of export options.
Of the customers we asked, they didn't have specific comments about accessibility. Although, one did say they were redesigning their application and wanted a more modern application throughout the process. One area that was mentioned is that modern technology should be able to reach any audience. That is, important information should be delivered to anyone regardless of how they are consuming the content.
We have implemented well-known standards for accessibility in our desktop and web-based viewers. This enables Report Designers to build accessibility-compliant Reports without hassle. This includes keyboard support and dynamically generated descriptions that can be read by a screen-reader and localization for international support. This is also available in our Report Server as well.
Building a reporting application to edit reports anywhere and deliver them everywhere? Try Telerik Reporting.
Turn-key solutions are great for larger teams that might not have the headcount to build out a custom solution. Since another team built the solution this approach is more predictable than a custom solution. Although, when considering a Crystal Server alternative, there are certain expectations that should be met. Since the software is pre-built it is likely to include everything and the kitchen sink. Telerik’s expectations are similar but different. We feel it should include everything as well as, be flexible to use and set-up, customizable and scalable.
Generally, the most bothersome about turn-key solutions is the lack of flexibility of the solution. Things that are problematic are usually, installation requirements and licensing. The issue with installation requirements is that it shouldn't require a beast of a server to run. For example, SharePoint is a complex deployment for a large enterprise, but it used to include a SharePoint Foundation SKU that was suitable for a single computer. Generally, this was for testing purposes, but it was simple to set up. Furthermore, with licensing there shouldn't be hidden fees for extra services or unorthodox support practices buried in the license.
An IT department for a client wanted lower System Requirements for a turn-key option. They stated that it took some pleading to approve the virtual machine with 16 GB of RAM. Not only were the requirements high it was considered a pain to set up. This is counter to our expectations.
Report Server has flexible System Requirements. Let's review these by comparison below.
A couple of items to make note of in the above Installation Requirements. Telerik Report Server works with 32-bit or 64-bit servers and the only processing limitation is the amount of RAM installed on the machine. Report Server can be used on any browser that is HTML5 compliant which includes the popular browsers like, Chrome, Edge, Opera, Safari and Firefox. Opera and the next version of Edge are also using Chrome's Chromium Rendering Engine.
Customers didn't understand the limitation of the License until it was compared directly to ours. Key points that identified an inflexible licensing model is the price per Client Access License (CAL) and a license comparison chart. Crystal Reports does provide these, and we found that the client was paying 3 times per CAL and didn't get the same feature-set.
Report Server includes 15 CAL's per license with the option to purchase more. An added benefit is that the same features are included with each license. This means that there aren't any additional hidden fees once a feature is needed. This was a welcomed licensing model for the customer.
Including a Desktop Report Designer in the turn-key option was another desire for a client as it seemed this was an additional fee. One of our expectations is that the stand-alone report designer is included in the Report Server installation. It can even be launched directly from the Server to begin editing their Reports.
Another recent addition to the Feature Set of Report Server is the ability to edit reports directly in the browser using the experimental Web Report Designer. This is an implementation of our Web Report Designer included in Report Server. This enables a team to build, edit and deliver Reports using a packaged solution.
Customizing packaged software has been known to be difficult. A common practice is to use White-labeling to add specific branding. This is usually seen in packaged software that is resold or reused to the customers.
Several clients mentioned that different teams have their own turn-key deployments. A common request among teams was the ability to change the branding of the deliverable. It makes sense that they would want to extend this brand to as many places as possible because companies spend a lot of money on branding. Something like this could also be used in a SaaS environment as well.
In Report Server, White-labeling is supported. This includes changing the Logo, Favicon, Link Color, Accent Color, and Selected Color. Even when launching the stand-alone report designer from the server the branding is honored with the Selected Color and Accent Colors.
As application use grows, so does the deployment of the software. This is just the natural progression of software. This is expected as more people begin to learn of the software, then more will want to use it. This makes the need for scalability necessary.
In addition to System Requirements, the same IT department wanted an easier process for backup and restore along with and web-farm support. They had different versions in use across different teams which is never a welcomed scenario. They considered backing up and restoring each team a literal nightmare elaborated with a story of copying files from one folder to another and digging around the server to try and change the setting.
For our Report Server, there are two different storage models. The first and the most basic is the File Storage and it could target a Shared Network Drive, a folder in the Report Server Application or another folder on a different drive. The second is using an external source like MSSQL Server or Redis. A Web farm environment would use the latter but all support Storage Backup.
Scalability is also important for usability. For example, in one client scenario, each of their reports embedded the connection string in the report. This means for each report they had to add the same connection string. They have over 400 reports on a single server deployment. This is a great description of poor usability.
Our Report Server uses Shared Data Sources. This means that the Connections are shared among the Reports hosted by the Server Instance. For example, an Accounting Department could have one primary Connection String to the CRM Records and several ancillary connections to different Accounting Information Systems they work with. The key point is each Report on the Server could have access to the connections.
Looking for a flexible and customizable turn-key reporting solution? Try Telerik Report Server.
In closing, there are many considerations when choosing a Software Solution. This is no different when considering a Crystal Reports alternative and there are specific considerations that make Telerik Reporting better than Crystal Reports. This begins with understanding that Business Intelligence is not the same as reporting and using Telerik Reporting will provide a consistent reporting experience that is flexible and extensible enough to meet additional needs. This consistency is also reinforced with our Report Authoring experience by enabling easy-to-do report designs and styling. Additionally, the same flexibility and extensibility built into Telerik Reporting informs the building or buying decision with the power to work or integrate into each deployment scenario. This is only possible because of the future-proof and modern design decisions like, edit anywhere and deliver everywhere. Our Report Server shows the accumulation of these efforts by being customizable and flexible while including everything out-of-the-box.
If your team is ready to make the switch to Telerik Reporting, check out our DevCraft offering.
DevCraft is the finest developer tooling collection which includes modern, feature-rich and professionally designed UI components, and reporting and productivity tools from the Telerik and Kendo UI suites. DevCraft will arm you with everything you need to deliver outstanding applications in less time and with less effort. With the backup of our legendary support team, which consists of the developers who actually build the products, you can rest assured that you have a stable partner to rely on along your journey.
Finally, another very big THANK YOU to the clients that were willing to share their feedback with us throughout this process. This list of considerations for a Crystal Reports alternative is complete in that this summarizes the feedback our clients provided. It is no way is intended to represent a comprehensive list of all the considerations. There will certainly be edge cases. We always welcome any feedback by using our Reporting Feedback Portal for such cases.
Eric Rohler is a Technical Support Engineer at Progress. He works on the Telerik Developer Tooling Team in UI for ASP.NET AJAX, Reporting and Fiddler. You can connect with Eric at his website here.