Best way to easily create custom reports against SQL Server running on a website?

I'm use SQL Server as a programmer, but have never gotten much into creating reports on it. I've heard of SQL Server Reporting Services, but am not clear on whether it actually has to run on the same server as the SQL Server instance or not. Also not clear as to how "end user" friendly it is when designing reports.

In the (far) past, I've created custom reports with Access. I'm wondering if setting up Access to connect to a remote SQL Server would a better alternative for a non-programmer user to create and update custom reports.

Any words of advice or pointers would be appreciated!
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It doesn't have to be run on the same server as the data source for the reports.

In fact, SSRS can connect to many different types of data sources, not just SQL Server.

It is not really very friendly for end users because the design tool is a cut down version of Visual Studio called "Business Intelligence Development Studio" BIDS. This tool is aimed squarely at pro report designers

They do have a cut down web based report created called Report Writer which comes with SSRS which is meant for end users. It's a point and click affair with limited functionality though.

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Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
Agree with meumax.

But want to add:
If you run SSRS on a separate box, you must license it separately.  If you run SSRS on the same box as your existing SQL instance, it almost always falls under your current license and so is basically "free".

It is easy to use and administer *for a professional developer / DBA*.

It is NOT intended mainly for use by users, altho SSRS does have a "power users" option you can use to allow users / selected users to do their own reports.  However, behind the scenes of that, you would very likely want to do your own preparation, such as preparing pre-joined views for them to use, etc..
Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
Reports are viewed thru a browser (IE works best, natch), or by default the user can download them in a number of formats.

You can also schedule reports to run and automatically be emailed to user(s) in whatever format each wants.

Finally, you can cache reports so that "big"/long-running reports don't have to run over and over, the first run is "saved" and re-used.  This option can reduce the load on your box significantly, altho managing cached reports is less straightforward than managing reports that are re-gen'd every time they are run.
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