Which Is the Best Data Import Method: Import or Direct Query?

Taylor Karl
Which Is the Best Data Import Method: Import or Direct Query? 34523 0

Power BI Import vs Direct Query: Key Differences

DirectQuery and Import are two different methods you can use when connecting to your data sources. The one you choose to use may depend on the amount of data you have to work with and how often it gets updated. Here’s a breakdown of what each tool does, how to use them, and how they’re different.

Power BI Screenshot for Data Connectivity Modes

Import in Power BI

What Is It?

With the Import method, data is imported into Power BI and stored in a compressed in-memory column store. This method is useful when dealing with smaller data sets or when the data is updated infrequently. With Import, users can create complex data models, perform advanced calculations using the Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) language, and create reports and visualizations based on the imported data.

How Is It Used?

In Power BI, Import is used to load data from various sources such as Excel files, CSV files, databases, and cloud-based services like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, and Azure. The Import method extracts data from the data source and loads it into Power BI for analysis.

When Should You Use It?

The Import method in Power BI is a suitable choice for many scenarios, and it should be used when the data is relatively small or does not need to be updated frequently.

Here are some situations where you may want to use the Import method:

  • When you are working with a small to medium-sized data set: Import is recommended when the data set is relatively small, as it will load faster and be more responsive than DirectQuery.
  • When you need to perform complex transformations or calculations: Import allows you to create complex data models, apply various data transformations, and perform calculations using DAX.
  • When you need to create a data model with multiple data sources: Import enables you to merge data from multiple sources into a single data model, allowing you to perform cross-table calculations and analysis.
  • When you need to work offline or share reports with others: Import enables you to store data within your Power BI file, so you can work offline or share reports with others who may not have access to the data source.

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Direct Query in Power BI

What Is It?

With the DirectQuery method, data stays in the source system and is queried directly by Power BI. This method is useful when dealing with large data sets or when the data is frequently updated. With DirectQuery, users can create data models that span multiple tables or even multiple data sources and perform real-time analysis of the source data. Since the data is not imported into Power BI, there is no need to refresh the data manually, as the data is always up to date.

How Is It Used?

DirectQuery in Power BI is used to connect directly to a data source and retrieve data in real-time. This removes the need to continually import data into the Power BI model. This method can be useful for scenarios where you need to work with large or frequently updated data sets.

When Should You Use It?

The DirectQuery method in Power BI is a good option for many scenarios, but it is more useful when you need to work with large or frequently updated data sets.

Here are some situations where you should use the DirectQuery method:

  • When you are working with a large data set: DirectQuery is recommended when the data set is too large to be imported into Power BI, as it allows you to query the data directly from the data source without first loading it into Power BI.
  • When you need to access real-time data: DirectQuery allows you to access data in real-time, so any changes made to the data source are reflected immediately in your reports and dashboards.
  • When you need to work with data that is frequently updated: DirectQuery gives you the option to work with data that’s frequently updated, such as stock prices or sensor data, without having to constantly refresh the data in Power BI.
  • When you need to leverage the power of the data source: DirectQuery empowers you to use the full capabilities of the underlying data source, including complex calculations and custom SQL queries.

Composite Model in Power BI: Direct Query and Import Data

Differences Between Direct Query and Import

The key differences between DirectQuery and Import in Power BI are:

  • Data storage and processing: The Import method stores the data within the Power BI file, while DirectQuery retrieves the data directly from the data source in real time. This means that with Import, you have more control over the data and can create complex data models, but it may not be suitable for very large data sets. With DirectQuery, the data is not stored in Power BI, so it can handle large data sets, but it may not be as flexible in terms of creating complex data models.
  • Performance: The Import method can offer better performance than DirectQuery, as the data is stored locally and can be optimized for performance. DirectQuery may be slower in some cases, as it relies on the performance of the data source and network connectivity.
  • Data transformations: The Import method allows for more advanced data transformations and modeling, as you can use Power Query to transform and shape the data before importing it. With DirectQuery, you can only use the data available in the data source without the ability to apply transformations within Power BI.

Power BI Import vs Direct Query

Here are some pros and cons of Power BI Import and Direct Query:

Pros of Import

  • Fast and responsive
  • Wide range of data sources
  • Advanced modeling and transformation

Cons of Import

  • Limited scalability
  • Limited data freshness
  • Limited flexibility

Pros of Direct Query

  • Access to real-time data
  • No data duplication
  • More scalability

Cons of Direct Query

  • Slower performance
  • Complexity
  • No offline access

Power BI Direct Query vs Import: Combining Them

In Power BI, you can combine DirectQuery and Import modes in the same report to take advantage of the benefits of both approaches. This is done using Dual Storage Mode, which is where some of your tables are imported while the system connects to others using Direct Query.

This can give you a powerful advantage. For instance, by combining the two, you can take advantage of the speed of Import and the access to real-time data you get with Direct Query.

Navigating the features of these tools and choosing which one to use when can be a challenge, but with the help of this Microsoft Power Platform course, you can start creating effective data analysis solutions faster. Begin your Power BI journey today! You can start by reading our blog post on Power BI Pro vs Free licenses.

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