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Configuring SSRS the easy way

Demystify the SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) configuration process. Get an overview of this tool and guidelines for how to set up each screen in SSRS from industry professional Roman Rehak.

Configuring SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) was difficult in the first release of SSRS. You would have to use several command-line tools, and users had difficulty making SSRS work without calling technical support. We’ve come long way since then. There’s a new tool called Reporting Services Configuration Manager that makes setup and configuration easier.

But some users still aren’t sure about the best way to configure SSRS. So let’s review the screens and configuration options you’ll encounter.

Service Account
This screen allows you to configure the account for the report server service. It is recommended that -- as with regular SQL Server services -- you use a basic local or domain account. Whichever account you choose, it should be configured in either the Active Directory or Computer Management console so the password never expires. But remember, if you ever change this setting to use a different account, the encrypted content in Reporting Services becomes invalidated. Therefore, make sure you have a backup of the encryption key. After you change the account, you will have to restore the key so you can decrypt secure content such as connection strings.

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Web Service URL
This screen allows you to configure a virtual directory for the SSRS Web service. The options are nearly identical to setting up a website in Internet Information Services (IIS). Specify which port numbers will be used by the Web service and the IP addresses that can be used to access it. For the most part, you can stick with defaults. The bottom part will show you the URL that should be used to access the report server. This is the URL you will use to configure applications that use the Web services or to set the Web service URL in ReportViewer’s control properties.  

SSRS uses a few databases to store its metadata, reports, folders and so on. On this screen, select the server name, database name and the account that will be used. The configuration tool creates these databases and assigns needed privileges to the account. You can use the same one you set up as the SSRS service account on the first tab. Use a Windows login as opposed to SQL Server login and immediately set up regular full backups of the ReportServer database (if you used the default name), since you will need them in order to rebuild or migrate your SSRS instance.

Report Manager URL
Report Manager is the application supplied with SSRS. It’s used for administering and managing SSRS, and can also be used for viewing reports. The settings are similar to the ones on the Web Service URL tab -- basically it’s just setting up a virtual directory, port number and the IP address to be used. The screen shows you the resulting URL for the Report Manager application. Use the secure URL (https://...) to prevent the browser from sending your password unencrypted.

Email Settings
If you use email report subscriptions, you need to configure this screen. There are just two settings -- sender address and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) server. If your reports are not being mailed out after you configured this screen, you may need to check with your IT staff and make sure that your SSRS server is allowed to send, or “relay,” emails through the specified SMTP server.

Execution Account tab
This configuration is optional and the screen gives a pretty clear explanation of how this account is used -- for accessing external images or data sources that do not require credentials. Unless your environment has that need, leave this screen alone. Besides, it is better practice to configure report data sources with specific accounts rather than set them to no credentials and use this execution account as a fallback.

Encryption Keys tab
Reporting Services uses encryption to store sensitive data. Back up your encryption key as soon as you install SSRS -- it’s needed to retain your passwords, connection strings and other secure items when you migrate or rebuild your SSRS instance. This screen allows you to back up to a password protected key file as well as restore a previously backed-up key. If you change your encryption key, you can generate a new one from this screen. If you do that, immediately back up the key and save it in a secure place, as you would do after a new install. If SSRS stops working because you do not have a matching key you can restore, you can delete all encrypted content. If you do so, you will need to open and re-save all data sources and subscriptions so they can be encrypted with the new key.  

Hopefully, you now have some basic knowledge of how to configure your SSRS instance; however, configuring an SSRS farm with multiple servers is a complex topic that goes beyond the scope of this article. For more information on scale-out SSRS deployments, consult SSRS documentation. 

Roman Rehak is principal database architect at
MyWebGrocer in Colchester, Vt. He specializes in SQL Server development, database performance tuning, ADO.NET and writing database tools. He contributes to Visual Studio Magazine, SQL Server Magazine and other publications and presents at user groups and conferences in the U.S. and Canada.

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