Grafana Reporting Breaks Down Information Silo

Information silos hurt collaboration and create inefficiencies within organizations.  While Grafana dashboards provide real-time information to users such as analysts and engineers, it creates a barrier to non-technical users, operations teams, and stakeholders by requiring them to log in, access, or sit in front of terminals.  To truly democratize the information captured in your Grafana platform, you need to break down the information silo created by Grafana dashboards.

Grafana Tools

Grafana Reporting is your hammer for breaking down the information silos created by Grafana.  With Grafana Reporting, you can unlock data that is locked up in dashboards and make it available to a larger audience including operations teams, field personnel, stakeholders, and customers who do not have access to the Grafana platform or might not be inclined to sit in front of Grafana dashboards.  With Grafana Reporting, you can pull key metrics and trends out of dashboards and distribute to stakeholders who need them for making data-driven operational decisions in their everyday work.

Let’s dive a little deeper to learn more about Grafana Reporting and the 3 best Grafana Reporting tools.

Table of Content

  • What is Grafana Reporting?
  • What is the purpose of Grafana Reporting?
  • What makes an effective Grafana Reporting Tool?
  • Can Grafana generate reports?
  • Are there any open source or free tools for Grafana Reporting?
  • What are the typical costs of Grafana Reporting Tools?
  • A deep dive into the 3 Best Grafana Reporting Tools available in 2021

What is Grafana Reporting?

Grafana Reporting is the process of creating and automating the generation and distribution of PDF, XLS, CSV, HTML Reports from Grafana dashboards.   Reports are created by reusing the existing visualizations and data queries in Grafana dashboards without having to recreate them from scratch.  Reusing Grafana visualizations saves time and reduces the effort to create reports.  You can schedule report generation at a needed frequency such as daily/weekly/monthly.  You can automate the distribution of reports to stakeholders via notification channels such as email or slack.

what is Grafana Reporting

Grafana Reporting is an excellent type of Information Radiator, especially for remote working teams and customers.  Similar to a Big Visible Chart that is used in office settings, Grafana Reporting can be used to radiate information to distributed team members via email, slack, etc. Grafana Reporting increases collaboration, transparency, and accountability while enhancing efficiency and visibility to operational metrics and trends.

What is the Purpose of Grafana Reporting?

Grafana Reporting is typically implemented by organizations that have set up dashboards in Grafana and is now looking to distribute the dashboard information to users who are managers, customers or operations teams who do not have access to the dashboards or are often too busy to be sitting in front of dashboards.

purpose of Grafana Reporting

Grafana Reporting has become a vital tool since a vast majority of the users in any organization do not have continuous access to Grafana dashboards.  It is therefore used by businesses of all sizes to distribute Grafana information to stakeholders both internally within their companies and externally to their clients.  By delivering the right information at the right time to the right users, Grafana Reporting helps users(recipients) to make informed decisions and better manage their business operations.

Some popular use cases for the use of Grafana Reporting are:

  • Infrastructure Operations: Reports on infrastructure availability and performance monitoring metrics are automatically generated and distributed to operations teams and managers.
  • Network Operations: Companies such as Enghouse use Grafana Reporting to distribute daily and weekly hotspot reports to field service engineers and managers so that they can prioritize and resolve the high-value network issues.
  • Factory Production Operations: Many companies in industries such as steel, lumber, semiconductor use Grafana Reporting for operational monitoring and reporting. For example, BidGroup, a leader in the lumber industry, creates daily and weekly factory production scheduling reports for its production managers.

What makes an Effective Grafana Reporting Tool?

A multitude of features does not necessarily make a great tool, but an effective Grafana Reporting tool must address a set of core requirements.  We have compiled these requirements based on years of our team’s experience working with Grafana users.

Effective Grafana Reporting Tool

The core requirements for a Grafana Reporting Tool are:

Functional Requirements

  • PDF Reports: Ability to export dashboards into PDF reports and automatically distribute them to users via notification channels such as email/slack.
  • Custom Layouts: Customize PDF report layouts so that users can easily see and understand data
  • Templates: For customers and key stakeholders, branded report templates are critical to drive value of your data and service.  
  • Excel/CSV Reports: For data analysts and Microsoft Excel/Tableau/Power BI users, ability to export dashboards to CSV/Excel formats and automatically distribute them via notification channels
  • Grafana Variables: Ability to use Grafana variables to generate/burst reports from a single Grafana dashboard is useful for sending personalized reports to various teams.
  • Flexibility: The tool should provide the ability to organize data in a layout that is easily understood by the recipients.  In addition, you need the ability to schedule/automate distribution across multiple notification channels in a flexible schedule such as 1st day of the month, every Monday etc.
  • SLA & Error Notifications: If you are sending reports to your managers or customers, it is important to maintain service level agreements(SLA) and be informed if something goes wrong with a specific report.

Technical Requirements

  • Scalability:  The Grafana Reporting Tool must be robust enough to generate reports from large Grafana dashboards with several visualizations.  It should not choke due to the volume and the heaviness of the dashboard.
  • Support & Upgrades: The tool should be maintained, enhanced and continuously supported so that it can keep pace with the Grafana updates.  Teams should be able to upgrade to the latest version of Grafana as needed and continue using Reporting.
  • Performance: Ability to export data quickly and efficiently.

In addition to the above requirements, there are a few other factors. Cost/budget is often a critical factor in choosing the Grafana Reporting tool that is appropriate for your needs.  Organizations that use multiple dashboard tools such as Kibana or multiple instances of Grafana/Kibana might also need a unified reporting tool.   Some users might also prefer to generate PDF reports from within the Grafana dashboard, however, it is often not a critical requirement since the recipients of Grafana reports are often not the users of Grafana dashboards.

Now that we have discussed the key requirements for a Grafana Reporting tool, the next question is:

Can Grafana Generate Reports?

The answer is No. Grafana is a dashboard tool and does not generate reports.  The open-source Grafana doesn’t include reporting capability.  

Grafana Generate Reports

Only the proprietary version, Grafana Enterprise Stack, which costs a minimum of $3,500 /mo has basic reporting capabilities.  Now let’s look at what are your options for Grafana Reporting.

The 3 Best Tools for Grafana Reporting in 2021

If you are an operations engineer/manager who has set up a Grafana instance to monitor key operational metrics, chances are high that within a few days your users will badger your team for reports to be delivered to their email inbox or slack.  How do you address their needs?

Luckily, you have three(3) choices to get them off your back!

  • Grafana Enterprise Stack
  • Skedler Reports
  • Reporter

Before we dive deeper into these three tools, let’s address the $1,188 question on your mind.

Are there any free or opensource Grafana Reporting tools?

Unfortunately there are no actively maintained free or opensource Grafana Reporting tools.  The main issue is that any open source reporting project needs to keep pace with the rapid and frequent updates to Grafana.  When you upgrade to the latest version of Grafana, your reporting setup will break down if the tool fails to keep pace with the new releases of Grafana.

best Grafana Reporting Tool

A survey of the available tools showed that the latest update to the Reporter, which is an open source tool, was in November 2019(16 months ago at the time of this publication) when the Grafana 6.5 was released.  Since then, there have been 7 new releases of Grafana with the current version being 7.4. Therefore, using an open source tool is not a viable option if you need reliable reporting and want to keep pace with the latest capabilities of Grafana.

What are the typical costs of Grafana Reporting Tools?

The typical cost of Grafana Reporting Tool ranges from $99/mo to $3,500/mo.  Obviously it’s a very wide range, so let’s peel the layers a bit.  There are two commercially available solutions for Grafana Reporting: Grafana Enterprise Edition and Skedler Reports.  Grafana Enterprise Stack starts at $3,500 per month and includes other features beyond just reporting.  Skedler Reporting starts at $99 per month and is a pure-play enterprise reporting automation tool.

A Deep Dive into the 3 Grafana Reporting Tools

Grafana Enterprise Stack

Grafana Enterprise Stack is a proprietary offering from Grafana that includes a number of enterprise plugins, collaboration features, reporting, enhanced LDAP, enterprise support and services.

Grafana Enterprise Stack

Reporting is a feature of Grafana Enterprise Stack.  According to the Grafana Enterprise website, two distinct capabilities of reporting are available in the Enterprise Stack.

  • Automatically generate PDFs from any dashboards and have it emailed to interested parties on a schedule
  • Generate PDFs from any of your dashboards and save it to file
Generate PDF

Reporting in Grafana Enterprise Stack includes the following features:

  • Create and update PDF reports
  • You can customize reports in 4 different types of layouts
    • Simple – Portrait: Portrait style PDF with 3 panels per page
    • Simple – Landscape: Landscape style PDF with 1 panel per page
    • Grid – Portrait: All the dashboard panels are laid out with similar layout in a single Portrait style PDF page
    • Grid – Landscape: All the dashboard panels are laid out with similar layout in a single Landscape style PDF page
  • Schedule reports to be emailed out on an hourly, daily, monthly basis.  You can also choose to save the reports to file and not email them.
  • Timerange can be customized for the reports
  • Reports can be branded with company logo, email footer, footer text and url.  
  • You can use API to generate or pause reports
  • Scheduling of reports is limited to administrators.  

Let’s look at the pros and cons of the reporting capability in Grafana Enterprise:

The Advantages of Reporting in Grafana Enterprise Stack

  • Included with Grafana Enterprise. It is easy to install and set up
  • It serves the purpose of sending out dashboards
  • It provides basic customization, scheduling, branding capabilities
  • It keeps pace with the latest versions of Grafana.

The Disadvantages of Reporting in Grafana Enterprise Stack

While Grafana Enterprise Stack offers some significant benefits, it has a few drawbacks that are outlined below:

  • The report layouts are limited to 4 different types.  You can’t create a report with your layout for various panels.  
  • It doesn’t offer templates for creating your own branded reports.  You can only have only one type of report with a logo, footer etc. 
  • Notification is limited to email SMTP channel
  • It does not offer Excel/CSV reporting
  • Grafana variables are supported in v7.5 and above only. It would allow you to override the dashboard variables with custom values.  
  • Burst reporting is not supported.  You can’t generate multiple personalized reports for several recipients from a single dashboard in one report definition. 
  • Scheduling capability is basic.  You can’t schedule reports for work days, yearly reports etc.
  • Error handling is missing.  If a report fails to generate for some reason, there is no way to inform someone to take a look at the root cause.   
  • Last, but not the least, you need to purchase a Grafana Enterprise Stack license to get reporting.  It’s a minimum commitment of $3,500 per month.  

Summary of Grafana Enterprise Stack Reporting

Grafana Enterprise Stack Reporting is a good option for your Grafana reporting needs if the following criteria applies to you:

  • You have a need for the other features in Grafana Enterprise Reporting so that you are ok to spend $3,500 or more per month.  
  • You just need a simple reporting option to send out the dashboards as-is to a limited number of internal users. The users do not require any customization of reports.
  • You do not need any Excel/CSV reporting
  • You do not have a need for any of the features mentioned in the previous section. 

Skedler Reports for Grafana

Skedler Reports is an enterprise reporting automation tool for Grafana and Elasticsearch-Kibana.  It was originally developed to provide reporting option to Elastic Stack.  When customers started asking for Grafana support, the Skedler team added Grafana Reporting to its offering.  It was the first reporting tool developed for Elastic Stack and Grafana and is widely used by Grafana users.

Skedler Reports for Grafana

Skedler Reports offers the following capabilities:

  • Create and update PDF, Excel, CSV and HTML reports from Grafana dashboard panels
  • Download, save, and schedule automatic distribution of reports via email or slack channels
  • Customize PDF reports with flexible layouts,  smart layout and dashboard layout
  • Personalize reports to recipients by using burst reporting.
  • Pause/resume of schedules
  • View history of generated reports
  • Error handling to inform administrators when attention is needed.
  • Compatible with the latest versions of Grafana.  New versions are released with 2-4 weeks of the Grafana update. Continuous support since the early versions of ELK and Grafana
  • It’s a no-code, UI driven solution.
  • API available
versions-of-Grafana

Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of the Skedler Reports for Grafana:

The Advantages of Skedler Reports for Grafana

  • Quick to install and configure
  • Works with older and latest versions of Grafana
  • Support for not just PDFs, but also Excel/CSV/HTML reports
  • Layouts can be customized with rich templates to drive the value of data.
  • Templates can be used to project branding
  • You can send personalized reports to different recipients from a single dashboard
  • Flexibility in scheduling and distribution
  • Multiple deployment options such as docker
  • Works with Grafana On-Prem and Grafana Cloud
  • Can be used by both administrators and end users
  • Robust error handling and notification mechanisms
  • Subscription starts at $99 per month for 100 reports when paid annually.  Also available at 250/500/1000/Custom/Unlimited report options.  Allows you to start small and pay as you grow.
skedler report

The Disadvantages of Skedler Reports for Grafana

  • At this time, Skedler is not available as a plugin inside Grafana.  Skedler is deployed as a standalone application that can be used for reporting from one or more Grafana or Elasticsearch-Kibana instances.  
  • Requires a separate installation in addition to the Grafana. 
  • Cloud option is not available until Q3 2021.

Summary of Skedler Reports for Grafana

Skedler Reports for Grafana is a great option for your Grafana reporting needs if the following criteria applies to you:

  • You just need Grafana Reporting and do not need the features available in Grafana Enterprise Stack.  
  • You need a robust reporting solution with customization, personalization options and flexibility.
  • You need a cost-efficient solution that fits your budget.
  • You prefer a solution that is supported so that you can get help when needed.

Reporter

Reporter is a simple web service that generates PDF reports from Grafana dashboards.  It is an open source solution and is a plugin to Grafana.  It requires the installation of PDFLatex and is written in goLang.

Reporter offers the following capabilities:

  • Create and update PDF reports from within Grafana dashboard
  • You can customize reports in a grid layout or two panels per layout.
  • You can customize layouts using LaTex
  • Timerange can be customized for the reports
  • You can use API to generate reports
  • Does not include scheduling and emailing options
demo

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of the Reporter:

The Advantages of Reporter

  • It serves the purpose of generating PDF files from Grafana dashboards
  • It provides basic customization capabilities using LaTex
  • It is free and open source.

The Disadvantages of Reporter

While the open source aspect of Reporter is attractive, it has several drawbacks.

  • Updates to the Reporter are rare.  The last significant update was in Nov 2019.  Since then Grafana has released more than 7 updates
  • Support is limited and the user community is small.  
  • The report layouts are limited to 2 different types.  You can’t create a report with your layout for various panels.  
  • You need to use LaTex to create templates for creating your own branded reports.
  • No notification channels
  • No scheduling options
  • It does not offer Excel/CSV reporting 
  • Burst reporting is not supported.  You can’t generate multiple personalized reports for several recipients from a single dashboard in one report definition. 

Summary of Reporter

Reporter is your option for Grafana reporting if the following criteria applies to you:

  • You do not have absolutely any budget for reporting but can only allocate your time.  
  • You just need a simple PDF generation option in Grafana
  • You do not need any report scheduling or emailing capability
  • You do not need any Excel/CSV reporting
  • You do not need any of the missing features mentioned in the previous section.

Need an Awesome Grafana Reporting Solution?

Grafana-Reporting-Solution

We think we have built an awesome solution in Skedler Reports for your Grafana Reporting need. And, we would like to get your feedback on it!

Why not dig deeper into Skedler Reports so that you can hammer away the data silos, effortlessly deliver reports to your stakeholders, and chill in the admiration that you receive from your users for your awesomeness!

Check out Skedler Reports today!

If you are looking for a Grafana reporting solution, be sure to test drive Skedler.

March 9, 2021

The 3 Best Grafana Reporting Tools Available in 2021

Grafana Reporting Breaks Down Information Silo Information silos hurt collaboration and create inefficiencies within organizations.  While Grafana dashboards provide real-time information to users such as analysts […]