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To use Reporting Services successfully, we need to first make sure we are all on the same page about what it actually is. So Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, which is a bit of a mouthful, so I'll just call it Reporting Services from now on, although you will also see SSRS used as an abbreviation. This is, as it sounds, part of a larger product of SQL Server, Microsoft's enterprise-level database software. And Reporting Services is considered a self-contained component of SQL Server. It is part of this platform, along with other elements like analysis services and integration services, although we are not interested in those components in this course.
But whoever installs SQL Server can choose to either have the Reporting Services component installed, along with the database server, or not. And at its most basic distinction, the regular SQL Server part takes care of storing your data and Reporting Services component is an optional component used to generate reports based on that data. Okay, but even if we know we have access to this Reporting Services part, it is still a vague term, because there is no single application called Reporting Services the way you have an app like Microsoft Word or Access.
So to understand it, it's best to understand that there are really three different parts to Reporting Services after it's been installed. First is the server-side part, the engine of Reporting Services that runs in the background. It talks to the database and can manage and deliver your reports. But the question is, where do reports come from? Who says what's on them? So the second part of the Reporting Services picture is having an application to help us define and create these reports. And there are a couple of different applications you can use for report authoring.
The main one we are going to use in this course is called Report Builder, specifically Report Builder version 3. This is a free Microsoft Office-style standalone desktop application that exists entirely for creating reports for Reporting Services. It lets you define simple and complex reports, not just describing the data you want to see, but visualizations of the data, like charts and maps, all of which we will explore. Alternatively, there is another application called Report Designer, although there are a couple of other names for it, because rather than a standalone application, Report Designer functionality is integrated into Visual Studio or SQL Server Tools.
We will talk more about Report Builder and Report Designer shortly, but do understand right now, there really isn't much practical difference between these two. I often hear from developers who assume that the Report Designer that's integrated into Visual Studio must somehow be more powerful and more fully featured than the one that looks like an Office application. But that's not the case at all. These are essentially identical in ability, and it's really more about what environment you prefer to work in, either a Microsoft Office-style program or a Visual Studio-style program.
Sure, if you're a developer used to working in Visual Studio, you can also do extra developer-focused task like work with source control. But as far as the reports you create are concerned, these are the same. So once you have worked with report authoring what else is there? Well, once these reports are defined, how you or other people view the report? Typically the reports in Reporting Services are viewed by going to a website called the Report Manager. This is where you can find different reports that have been created and view them online. If it's a large report, you can page through it, zooming in or out, search it, or even change the parameters of the report.
Usually, the URL of this website is whatever your server name is /Reports, although that can be changed by your system administrators. So our focus in this course is learning the authoring tools to create and design these reports and being able to share them successfully in an organization. Unlike some of my other courses, I am not going to spend too much time here talking about setup configuration, installation, because most people viewing this course already have SQL Server Reporting Services in place and need to know how to use. If you are looking for information on installing SQL Server you can find that in the SQL Server Essential Training Course.
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