A Business Intelligence tool for schema-less JSON data from API endpoints
February 11, 2016

A Business Intelligence tool for schema-less JSON data from API endpoints

Kapil Pendse | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version


Overall Satisfaction with Zoho Reports

Our customers include large retail chain stores. In our product, we provide some big-data insights to our customers. We use Zoho Reports to come up with customised reports for our customers, tailor-made to fit their needs. With Zoho Reports, we are able to offer a consultancy service to our customers who want more than what our standard reports can provide.
  • Zoho Reports connects with our API endpoint to import data into Zoho Reports. It does this quite well, without enforcing specific schema restrictions on our data. Our data is stored in NoSQL database, and our API endpoint produces JSON data documents, each with different structure depending on the dataset being requested. Zoho Reports automatically interprets our data, and converts into a set of rows and columns.
  • Once our data is imported into Zoho Reports, creating different type of visualizations is a breeze. Zoho Reports enables us to create many types of charts, dashboards, pivot tables and more.
  • Zoho Reports has this feature called "Custom Formula", that allows us to create new columns in the data that are computed by applying various transformations to existing columns. For example, we are able to create a "Is Weekday" column by applying custom formula on our "Date" column. This "Is Weekday" column enables us to create visualizations that compare weekday vs. weekend performance numbers of our customers' shops.
  • The visualizations are "live". Zoho Reports can be set up to pull data from our API endpoint periodically (e.g. once every day). As the data gets updated, so do all the visualizations. We are able to publish these "live" visualizations via permalinks or embed them within another web page, so that our customers always see the most up-to-date visualizations.
  • Scheduled emails is another great feature. Once we set up a tailor-made report/dashboard for our customer, we are able to set up scheduled emails. Once set up, Zoho Reports automatically sends emails to our customers with the up-to-date copy of visualizations as attachments.
  • There is a fair bit of learning curve before you can get productive with Zoho Reports. It is not so steep that it'd scare off users, but it does take some effort to get used to the various features and options in Zoho Reports.
  • A private hosting option would be really good to have, as some of our customers might have data security concerns. Although Zoho Reports takes good measures to keep the data safe and secure, the data still gets imported from our cloud servers to Zoho Reports servers. This can be a concern for some users, for example large corporations or government entities who have their own private cloud infrastructure.
  • Editing of column names could have been easier. At the moment you have to right click on each column > click rename > type new name > Save. On save, the entire table is reloaded and the view focuses on the left-most column, instead of the column just renamed. If there are more than 5 or 6 columns, this quickly becomes irritating because you end up having to scroll to the right to get to the next column you want to rename.
Zoho Reports has the features that we were looking for -
  • Import of data from an API endpoint in JSON format (no specific schema)
  • Scheduled imports
  • Drag-and-drop creation of visualisations
  • Export of visualisations in PDF, CSV & Image formats
  • Fairly easy to use
  • Scheduled emails
  • Privacy settings per visualisation
  • Cloud hosted
  • Embeddable visualisations
  • Rebranding option

The best part is that these features don't cost us zillions of dollars. The pricing tiers are reasonable, and they provide a sufficient trial period.

To top it all, Zoho Reports is not your entry-level BI tool. It has a comprehensive set of features that make it well worth the money, and more.

We evaluated many other tools. In terms of features and ease of use, Tableau was the best. Zoho Reports came in a close second. Most others did not qualify our criteria - either because they did not work well with schema-less NoSQL JSON data, or they did not provide the kind of features we were looking for (e.g. embeddable visualizations, scheduled emails, rebranding).

We chose Zoho Reports over Tableau because Zoho Reports comes with a better tiered pricing model.

Not to mention, the Zoho Reports support team has been excellent!
Most other BI tools that we reviewed did not work well with schema-less JSON formatted data sources from NoSQL data stores and APIs. Zoho Reports handles this very well by converting the data to a flat rows & columns structure intelligently, while giving us the control to select/de-select columns and column data types.

In addition, Zoho Reports supports the more traditional forms of data sources, e.g. CSV files & Excel files. It also supports import of data from cloud storages like Dropbox, Google Drive etc.
There are plenty of sharing options with comprehensive access controls. For example, we can create a visualization and share it with our customer who does not have a Zoho Reports account. We can do this either by scheduling emails to such customers (the emails contain the visualization in PDF/HTML format, compressed as ZIP), or we could "publish" the visualization as a "private link" which does not require login, and share this link with our customer. We could also "publish" the visualization as a "private link" which REQUIRES a login. This will be the case when our customer has/creates a Zoho Reports account.

A finer level of access control is possible, e.g. whether to allow "view only" of the visualisation, or allow additional features like "export", "drill down" and "view underlying data".

Data sharing/embedding of visualisations is also possible via Zoho Reports API.

It is also possible to share a visualisation with the Zoho Reports support team, to get their help if we need anything.

Data tables and visualisations can also be shared among multiple users of a Zoho Reports account, users who can collaborate to create the visualisation jointly.
I think Zoho Reports is generic enough to be well suited for many use cases that involve analysis of large data sets. With its ability to produce a wide variety of visualizations, Zoho Reports is a great option for someone who doesn't want to spend a zillion bucks on Tableau or some of the other more expensive business intelligence software out there. And all this without sacrificing too much in terms of features or functionality.

Zoho Analytics Feature Ratings

Pixel Perfect reports
Customizable dashboards
Drill-down analysis
Not Rated
Formatting capabilities
Report sharing and collaboration
Publish to Web
Publish to PDF
Report Delivery Scheduling
Multi-User Support (named login)
Multiple Access Permission Levels (Create, Read, Delete)
Mobile Application
Not Rated
Dashboard / Report / Visualization Interactivity on Mobile
Not Rated