Microsoft has been advancing its offerings in analytics and business intelligence since long. It has progressed significantly, especially in providing advanced business intelligence and reporting platforms such as Power BI, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and more. While SSRS is focused on paginated reports, Power BI tool is more about data discovery and interactive reporting letting business analysts connect, prepare and explore data.
While SSRS has been efficiently handling the reporting task, with the popularity of Power BI in the rise, it is often debated that PowerBI will overshadow SSRS. Let us dive right away to understand facts.
Power BI Vs SSRS
Launched in 2004, SQL Server Reporting Services is a report generating platform that includes an integrated set of processing components and programmatic interfaces. It is server-based and is used for generating, viewing and sharing reports. It often requires manual efforts owing to lesser graphical and drag and drop features, however, it provides a good drill-down feature. Accessible through desktops and web, it requires to make a purchase of SQL Server License to use it. SSRS requires an understanding of programming which makes it less user-friendly. It can only be used for structured and semi-structured data.
Power BI, on the other hand, is a data analysis tool which is mostly used by business analysts to work on huge and complex data. It is used for modelling and structuring unshaped data with advanced features. A relatively newer tool, launched in 2017, it can generate, publish and share dashboards for both server-based and cloud-based platforms. It is accessible in mobile, desktop and web browsers. Also, its drag and drop features with rich GUI make it more user-friendly. It can easily work on structured and unstructured data. Another factor is that Power BI is free.
Given the advanced features and user-friendly nature such as efficient data visualisation and richer graphical experience, Power BI is often preferred over SSRS as a reporting server.
Will Power BI Replace SSRS
Many professionals who have worked on both the tools believe that while installation, configuration and management with Power BI is easier compared to SSRS, both have their own technicalities and drawbacks.
Having said that, the company is coming up with new features for Power BI tools quite frequently, creating advanced versions of it. With better services and offerings, there is no doubt that Power BI will be preferred over SSRS in many cases. Some of the other advantages such as intricate visualisations, creating dashboards and reports with easy deployments, strong community service, mobile support, and more, making Power BI a preferred tool. We will see a lot of companies with newer projects making a move into Power BI as it is more accessible to learn, develop, produces modern interactive results and can be deployed without any infrastructure.
While SSRS keeps getting makeovers and changes over time and has some of the strong features such as better on-premise security control, delivery reports in multiple formats, it is seeing less of a demand than Power BI. Also, the fact that the company has provided detailed steps on how to migrate SSRS reports to Power BI, it suggests that many companies are looking to make a shift.
It is therefore not unlikely to see lesser use of SSRS in the coming future but may not become completely obsolete. There are certain functionalities of SSRS such as creating tabular reports, multiple export options, option to schedule report delivery and others that Power BI lacks.
Having understood some of the advantages and disadvantages, it can be said that the objectives and functionalities of the tools are not completely different but overlapping some of their features may provide the best results. While Power BI is a good tool for data exploration, SSRS is good for printed reports. The preference of the tool is largely dependent on the requirements. While Power BI provides interactive visualisation and dashboard creation, it cannot archive data in the excel format. Similarly, creating dynamic reports is a far fetched result in SSRS. The choice of tool will, therefore, largely depend on the business requirement and the purpose of reporting.
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Srishti currently works as Associate Editor at Analytics India Magazine. When not covering the analytics news, editing and writing articles, she could be found reading or capturing thoughts into pictures.