MSSQL Server Reporting Services : Black Belt Administration: Execution Log Performance and Audit Reports

About the Series …

This
article is a member of the series MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services.
The series is designed to introduce MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services ("Reporting
Services"), with the objective of presenting an overview of its features,
together with many tips and techniques for real-world use. For more information
on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements to prepare
for the exercises
we will undertake, please see my initial Database Journal article, A New Paradigm for Enterprise Reporting.

Basic
assumptions underlying the series are that you have correctly installed
Reporting Services, including Service Pack 1, along with the applications
upon which it relies, and that you have access and the other rights / privileges
required to complete the steps we undertake in my articles. For details on the
specifics of the adjustments necessary to quickly allow full freedom to
complete the exercises in this and subsequent articles, as well as important
assumptions regarding rights and privileges in general, please see earlier
articles in the series, as well as the Reporting Services Books Online.

This
article also relies upon sample files that are not automatically installed
along with Reporting Services. If the samples have not been installed in, or
were removed from, your environment, the samples can be found on the Reporting
Services installation CD. We will discuss accessing these files within the
steps of our practice session.

About the BlackBelt Articles …

As we
have stated in earlier BlackBelt articles, one of the greatest
challenges in writing tutorial / procedural articles is creating each article
to be a freestanding document that is complete unto itself. This is important,
because it means that readers can complete the lesson without reference to
previous articles or access to objects created elsewhere. When our objective
is the coverage of a specific technique surrounding one or more components of a
report, a given administrative function surrounding all reports, and other
scenarios where the focus of the session is not the creation of reports,
per se, can be challenging because a report or reports often has to be in place
before we can begin to cover the material with which the article concerns
itself.

The BlackBelt
articles represent an attempt to minimize the setup required in simply getting
to a point within an article where we can actually perform hands-on practice
with the component(s) under consideration. We will attempt to use existing
report samples or other "prefabricated" objects that either come
along as part of the installation of the applications involved, or that are
readily accessible to virtually any organization that has installed the
application. While we will often have to make modifications to the sample
involved (we will actually create a copy, to allow the original sample to
remain intact), to refine it to provide the backdrop we need to proceed with
the object or procedure upon which we wish to concentrate, we will still save a
great deal of time and distraction in getting to our objective. In some cases,
we will have to start from scratch with preparation, but my intention with the BlackBelt
articles will be to avoid this, if at all possible.

NOTE:
The practice
example we undertake in this article represents an infrequent exception to the "freestanding"
objective. To complete the steps we describe in this article, you will need to
have prepared for it by completing the steps detailed in the immediately
preceding article in the series, Prepare
the Execution Log for Reporting
.

For
more information about the BlackBelt articles, see the section
entitled "About the BlackBelt Articles" in BlackBelt
Components: Manage Nulls in OLAP Reports
.

Overview

We
introduced our previous article, Prepare the
Execution Log for Reporting
, with a discussion about a valuable source of information
for performance and auditing analysis, identifying the Report Server
Execution Log
as a great place to start for this sort of reporting. We
noted that the Execution Log captures data specific to individual reports,
including when a given report was run, identification of the user who ran it,
delivery destination of the report, and which rendering format was used, among
other information.

After
discussing the nature of Execution Logging in general, we touched upon
several of the ways in which it can assist us in understanding the performance
of our reports, the actions of users, and a host of other details about the
reports we create in Reporting Services. Working within a practice example
where we responded to the expressed business needs of a hypothetical group of information
consumers, we then performed transformation of the data in the Execution Log
to a user-friendly reporting data source. We used the tools provided as samples
with the Reporting Services installation to create and populate a MSSQL Server
database, noting several of the benefits that would accrue to the information
consumers. For the detailed steps we undertook, and to prepare to accomplish
the steps of this article, please see Prepare the Execution Log for Reporting.

Our focus
in this article will be an examination of some of the uses to which the new Execution
Log
database might be put. Our examination will consist of hands-on publication
of the sample reports provided with Reporting Services as a "starter set;"
and then go beyond that set and create a customized report to show the ease
with which we might help the information consumers we support to meet general
and specific needs. We will propose other considerations that will add value
to this already rich resource, and discuss ways in which we can leverage Execution
Log
reporting to make us better report writers from multiple perspectives.

In this
session we will:

  • Review the
    hypothetical business requirements behind the procedures in this and the preceding
    article;

  • Review the Execution
    Log
    reporting database we created in our last lesson, focusing on its
    schema and the information it contains;

  • Review
    possible value-adds that come with Execution Log reporting;

  • Make copies of
    the sample report set provided with Reporting Services in a convenient
    location;

  • Upload the
    sample report copies, for execution within Report Manager;

  • Customize a
    copy of a popular report, to meet extended business requirements from the
    information consumers group.
William Pearson
William Pearson
Bill has been working with computers since before becoming a "big eight" CPA, after which he carried his growing information systems knowledge into management accounting, internal auditing, and various capacities of controllership. Bill entered the world of databases and financial systems when he became a consultant for CODA-Financials, a U.K. - based software company that hired only CPA's as application consultants to implement and maintain its integrated financial database - one of the most conceptually powerful, even in his current assessment, to have emerged. At CODA Bill deployed financial databases and business intelligence systems for many global clients. Working with SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase and Informix, and focusing on MSSQL Server, Bill created Island Technologies Inc. in 1997, and has developed a large and diverse customer base over the years since. Bill's background as a CPA, Internal Auditor and Management Accountant enable him to provide value to clients as a liaison between Accounting / Finance and Information Services. Moreover, as a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) - a Certified Public Accountant recognized for his or her unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies - Bill offers his clients the CPA's perspective and ability to understand the complicated business implications and risks associated with technology. From this perspective, he helps them to effectively manage information while ensuring the data's reliability, security, accessibility and relevance. Bill has implemented enterprise business intelligence systems over the years for many Fortune 500 companies, focusing his practice (since the advent of MSSQL Server 2000) upon the integrated Microsoft business intelligence solution. He leverages his years of experience with other enterprise OLAP and reporting applications (Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal, and others) in regular conversions of these once-dominant applications to the Microsoft BI stack. Bill believes it is easier to teach technical skills to people with non-technical training than vice-versa, and he constantly seeks ways to graft new technology into the Accounting and Finance arenas. Bill was awarded Microsoft SQL Server MVP in 2009. Hobbies include advanced literature studies and occasional lectures, with recent concentration upon the works of William Faulkner, Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Dickens. Other long-time interests have included the exploration of generative music sourced from database architecture.

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