Power BI versus SSRS: Choosing the best tool to accomplish your needs

By Hitesh & Firoz from Analytics team, CloudMoyo

Benefits of using Power BI versus SSRS

Flow from raw data to reports

SSRS can handle only structured and semi-structured data and is a server-based reporting platform that provides a comprehensive reporting functionality for a variety of data sources.

Power BI can handle any type of raw data. If you want to work with large data volumes and perform ETL at scale, dataflows with Power BI scales more efficiently and gives you more flexibility. Dataflows supports a wide range of cloud and on-premise sources.

If you’re using SSRS as a reporting tool, the process begins after data modeling and extends to visualization, filtering, and sharing. On the other hand, Power BI provides spans the entire flow, from creating a dataflow in Power BI to filtering and sharing customized reports.

 Common issues while migrating SSRS reports to Power BI

Issue type

How it works in SSRS

Challenges while migrating to Power BI

Solutions

DB

queries

 

SSRS reports are primarily built on dynamic or parameterized queries

Unable to call and execute dynamic or parameterized queries

A static query without any parameters

SSRS reports can call parameterized stored procedures

Parameterized, stored procedures can’t be used with the “Direct Query mode” of Power-BI.

 

In the “Import Query mode” reports, values of all the parameters need to be passed while calling the SP.

A view that covers all the logic written in the respective SP

Parameters and slicers

Parameters in SSRS reports are used to filter the results displayed on the report

 

SSRS-like parameters are not present in Power BI

We can use slicers to filter the report data

Parameters can be hidden and still be used in report query

 

 

Rich SSRS parameter capabilities allow users to pass the top filter to the report very easily (like the top 5, 10, etc.)

 

The search option for any slicer member must separate the text box

 

Provides parametrized filter connected to each other

We can hide slicers in Power BI using the selection panel, and make use of the default filter panel where the whole panel can be hidden

 

Missing rich parameter capabilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the same visual element, there is an option of a search string for the slicer member

 

 

Power BI doesn’t support parametrized filters explicitly

We can use page-level or visual-level filters

 

 

 

The rich parameter can be added in the visual and add option of TopN, which is based on any one category while in development

 

 

 

 

 

 

One must make adjustment in the data model to build connected slicers

Page navigation

Data drill down in SSRS asks for sub reports and parameters to child reports. The same can be done using data expressions.

 

None

Data lag

SSRS reports always shows the latest data, as every time a report gets called, the data is being pulled from the source

We can do the same with Power-BI by creating the reports in “Direct Query mode”, but in most of the cases, the performance of such reports is poor, as 1 query per visual gets executed. This slows down the performance of the report.

 

Create “Import Query mode” in the report. However, keep in mind that the report needs to be refreshed periodically, and there will always be some data lag in the reports.

Power BI table and other visuals

SSRS report supports pagination. As a result, it always loads a chunk of data and not the entire set of data. This enables faster rendering of visuals.

 

Power-BI table doesn’t support pagination. As a result, it always loads the entire set of data. This makes the rendering of visuals very slow compared to SSRS.

None

SSRS reports are mostly tabular-based reports

Power BI reports are visually rich dashboards. Because of this, it becomes difficult to identify the visuals that can be replaced with the SSRS tables, as it will completely change the user experience.

 

None

Export to excel

 

SSRS has a powerful feature to export the entire content of the report (charts, tables, etc.) into excel. We can manage the settings to export report data into different tabs.

 

This feature is not present in Power BI. At its best, Power BI can only export each visuals’ data into individual excel files.

None

SSRS preserves the look, feel, and formatting of the data while exporting.

 

Power-BI will always export the data in tabular form, so there is a chance of losing the formatting of the data

None

User authorization

In SSRS, user authorization is achieved by passing the value of a user ID as a parameter to the query, which only returns records that the respective user is authorized to see

 

In Power BI, user authorization needs to be implemented using a Role Based Access mechanism and DAX expressions to filter the records

None

Translations/ localization

In SSRS, we can easily translate the column headers of the table visuals, and the data labels of charts and other visuals as the user’s preferred locale and language setting. We can write simple expressions to replace the headers as required.

 

Translations and localization is a challenge in Power BI since there is not a straightforward way. In fact, until the release of Power BI in September 2020 (where XMLA write feature was announced as part of the GA release), this feature was not at all possible.

Create a translation file in JSON format, and import the same in the Power BI data model. Save the data model using the XMLA write feature of Power BI, and republish the report.

Conclusion

Choosing between Power BI and SQL Server Reporting Service for your business is a challenge given differing business requirements. If your need is to generate and use simple, paginated reports on-premise in a cost-effective manner, you should choose SSRS. It’s also a good tool to use if your reports include more operational data and don’t involve much analytics or requests for graphical reports and data trends.

On the other hand, if your company has a clear need to create and use interactive and analytical reports with rich graphics, Power BI is the best option. Even if your requirements fall somewhere between the two of these, Power BI is a clear winner in that is contains all the features that SSRS has—and then some. The tool is especially helpful when there are multiple business systems involved in data visualizations and reporting, and you want to build many different types of reports.

With the release of Power BI Report Server, Power BI reports can now be published on-premise, unlike the Power BI service, which is a cloud-based SaaS platform used to host Power BI reports. The other main advantage of Power BI is that it can be instrumental in cultivating a self-service BI culture in the organization, empowering business users with data discovery, quick access, and uncomplicated analytics, creating greater agility in the organization and the ability to capitalize on business opportunities without dependencies on IT.

Do you have any questions about SSRS versus Power BI? You can explore more of our solutions for data visualizations and reporting here, and reach out to our experts with any questions.

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