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New Features of Reporting Services in SQL Server 2012

With the release of SQL Server 2012, Reporting Services is establishing itself as a mature product with the introduction of a several improvements rather than any substantial new functionality.

The key new features to Reporting Services 2012 include SharePoint integration configured as a shared service, Report Server Projects which can be opened in Visual Studio 2010, Word and Excel rendering for both 2003 and 2007-2010 formats, and Data Alerts.

SharePoint administrators will be pleased that the Reporting Services SharePoint integration is now configured as a service application using the SharePoint Central Administrator tool. This takes advantage of the SharePoint features including scale-out, claims-based authentication, and backup and recovery.  But my favourite new feature of Reporting Services 2012 is Data Alerts.

Dealing with information overload

Information is great, but information overload isn't. Managers can end up with hundreds of reports in their inbox but not have the time to view them all. They risk spending their time viewing reports which don’t need attention, while missing the critical reports which may require immediate action.

What if you could save time by only viewing the reports which showed the data you need to take action on? The new Data Alerts feature of SQL Server 2012 allows you to do this.

Scheduling reports has been part of previous versions of SQL Server Reporting Services and it allows users to subscribe to reports from SharePoint, and it is a convenient way of receiving reports on a regular basis. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t make sense to receive reports regularly but only when the data in the report meets certain criteria. If you are receiving too many reports, you may miss the information most critical to your decision making.

Data Alerts are similar to schedules, but they only execute when the data meets the rules you have specified. This means you only get the email containing the report when the data meets the criteria you set. Maybe your sales have dropped below estimates, deliveries fallen behind schedule, or your revenue has exceeded your latest milestone (and you need to celebrate!).

Previously, in SQL Server Reporting Services 2008 you could mimic this behaviour with some workarounds. You could create a Data-Driven Subscription using some custom SQL code to only include the recipients when certain SQL conditions were met. You could also create the report in such a way that it would throw an error under certain circumstances, which would stop the report being sent. However, none of these approaches are easy for an end user to create and the responsibility typically fell on the IT team to create and manage subscriptions for everyone.

Data Alerts are created in SharePoint using an easy-to-use wizard which enables business users to add rules against the data from the report without any knowledge of SQL, MDX or any other programming language, or without modifying the report. The user can define how often they would like the data alert to run, who it will be sent to, and what the subject and description of the email will say. Users can also easily manage and execute their Data Alerts from the Data Alert Manager page from within SharePoint.

As Data Alerts will be sent out less frequently than scheduled reports, inbox sizes will be smaller Administrators can also monitor and manage all data alerts set up in SharePoint.

With Data Alerts in SQL Server 2012, business users can now create alerts to monitor the information they need in order to make the correct decisions at the right time without overloading their inbox and without the overhead of reviewing unnecessary reports.

Posted by: David Lyes, Developer, Enterprise Applications | 07 March 2012

Tags: SQL Server, SQL Server 2012

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