Power BI Pro vs Free: Budget Conscious Comparison

Taylor Karl
Power BI Pro vs Free: Budget Conscious Comparison 4513 0

Power BI Pro vs Free: Budget Conscious Comparison

Microsoft Power BI: What Is It Used For

Microsoft Power BI is a scalable, self-service platform for data visualization and enterprise business intelligence (BI) insights. As a Microsoft application, Power BI has standard Microsoft menus and easily integrates with standard Microsoft Excel, among other data sources. In addition, a user can quickly get up to speed with Power BI due to the Microsoft suite integration.

Using Power BI consistently and with quality data provides your organization with the advantage of:

  • more accurate reporting,
  • real-time data dashboard tools, and
  • more holistic reporting incorporating multiple data sources.

Every Power BI user requires training to use Power BI features for consistent data analytics. In addition, an organization's version of Power BI impacts the per user cost, data report capacity, and workspace experience.

Data Visualization in Power BI

Microsoft Power BI Versions: Free, Pro, and Premium

There are currently three versions (or levels) of Power BI:

  • Microsoft Power BI Desktop (free)
  • Microsoft Power BI Pro
  • Microsoft Power BI Premium (per user and capacity)

Each version of Power BI serves the core function of data visualization of complex data coupled with business intelligence insights. While Power BI Free license for each user might be the fastest option, it may not meet your organization's needs, so it is essential to ensure that it fits your budget and provides the right software power.

Power Query Editor in Power BI

Power BI Free (Desktop)

Power BI Free, or Desktop, is a download from Microsoft for creating Power BI reports, transformations, visuals, and DAX measures and calculations straight from the desktop for individuals. A Microsoft Power BI free download is an individual license to use the product within specific parameters.

Power BI Free features include:

  • Use of Power BI filters and visualizations,
  • Connect and import data from the cloud and local sources,
  • Create unlimited dashboards and reports,
  • Use of Autodetect for the creation of data relationships between format and table,
  • Access content shared by a Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium user (if content in a workspace hosted in Premium capacity only)
  • Upload and publish reports online, and
  • Use of up to 10GB storage per user.

Power BI Free features exclude the following:

  • Collaboration with another user,
  • Sharing with another user,
  • Controlling or limiting access to a report shared online, or
  • Publishing to another user workspace.

Power BI Reports

Power BI Pro

The next level up from Power BI Free is the Power BI Pro license. While it shares the report and analytics features with the Free version, the difference is the collaboration among the user group. In some ways you can think of it as the individual version of Power BI vs the team version

Power BI Pro features, like the Free version, include:

  • Use of Power BI filters and visualizations,
  • Connect and import data from the cloud and local sources,
  • Create unlimited dashboards and reports,
  • Use of Autodetect for the creation of data relationships between format and table,
  • Access content shared by a Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium user (if content in a workspace hosted in Premium capacity only)
  • Upload and publish reports online, and
  • Use of up to 10GB storage per user.

Sales Analysis Report in Power BI

Additionally, Power BI Pro includes:

  • sharing of reports, dashboards, and content with both Free and Pro users,
  • ability to embed Power BI visuals in Microsoft apps (i.e., SharePoint or Teams),
  • use of on-premises data gateways and
  • improved data refreshes for on-premise data.

However, unlike the Free version, to maximize the Power BI Pro, every user will need to:

  • Buy a Power BI Pro license,
  • Integrate workspace with the user group of the organization,
  • Coordinate data work, including building and creating, with other users within the organization.

Each user within the organization will need a Power BI Pro license to maximize the Pro sharing and collaboration features.

Microsoft quotes a cost of $9.99 per user, per month, in the U.S. as of February 2023. For Power BI Pro, the pricing is the same for every user, regardless of the number of licenses purchased by the organization.

Sales Monitoring Report in Power BI

Power BI on a Budget: Comparing the Power BI Pro vs Free License

Before making a significant investment, it can be very helpful to have a sample of your employees download the Power BI free license for a low-cost means to test the platform and see if the report development, data visualization, dashboard creation and other tools will meet your most basic of needs.

The Free version is designed for a single user to create dashboards and reports with no user collaboration, no embedded Microsoft app, and no access or security controls. It is one user creating reports and publishing them for their use. It is also free with an unlimited number of licenses.

As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for," and while Power BI Free is a powerful tool for the individual, it is also one with limitations. Pro (and the Power BI Premium) versions are designed for a team to fully collaborate, share, and publish robust data visualizations and dashboards within set access controls. In addition, Pro has a per user license model for managing costs by using as many free licenses as needed with a select number of Pro licenses. Rather than a free vs Pro model, with careful planning, it is possible to have an environment with both Free and Pro licenses in use.


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Why Upgrade: Power BI Free vs Pro

Microsoft provides a detailed comparison of the Power BI levels (Free, Pro, Premium) to help IT

professionals and leaders right-size their organization's IT infrastructure and dataset requirements. The critical difference between Power BI Free and Pro is team collaboration. The performance is the main difference between the Pro and Power BI Premium versions.

Power BI Level

Power BI Free

Power BI Pro

Summary

basic version for individual

full version with team collaboration

Cost

free / user / month

$9.99 / user / month

Capacity

· licensing the capacity of your dashboards, datasets, and reports

· upload up to 10 GB of data to the Power BI Cloud

Licensing

all users, unlimited

Per-person, unlimited

Features

· visualize data

· live dashboards and reports

· visualize data

· live dashboards and reports

· share insights across organization

· collaborate across organization

Note: costs listed are US pricing as of February 2023.

Remember that Power BI Free and Power BI Pro are not the only versions of the tool, and for very large organizations, the comparison should also include Power BI Premium.

Power BI Pro vs Free: Which Version to Use?

An organization planning to use Power BI for data visualization and data analytics needs to consider which level of the tool is necessary. Work with the company's IT department and the data analytics team to answer these questions to inform the selection.

  • What are the available data sources?
  • Will data analysts need both mobile and desktop access to Power BI?
  • Will Power BI service be required?
  • What training is necessary to prepare the data analytics team and planned users?
  • What is needed to set up (and maintain) a Power BI report server?
  • How many users are creating items?
  • How many users will need to access reports?
  • How many users will need to view only dashboards?

Power BI Free license is ideal for the user just beginning to learn Power BI or someone who will build reports and dashboards for their individual use with no team sharing.

However, with a large company, more users will only view reports rather than create them. That would indicate that Power BI Pro or Premium per user would be sufficient. In settings with high amounts of report creation and modeling, the Power BI Premium capacity solution would fit. The Premium capacity model has the highest cost within the Power BI license models.

Summary

Use Power BI for dashboard and report building, unlimited viewing, sharing, and use of reports (both created and shared). Power BI Pro is needed to create and manage workspaces, manage datasets, and share assets. Most organizations will have at least one Pro license. A Power BI Free License is good for someone learning Power BI or building reports and dashboards that will be for their use and will not be shared. For a large organization, Power BI Pro will not meet the business needs and the comparison should expand to that of not Free vs Pro, but Pro vs Premium, or possibility, Premium per user vs Premium capacity.

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