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Free Vs. Paid Power BI: Which One Should You Choose?


Smart business leaders know that data analysis is critical to staying ahead of the competition. After all, understanding current internal and external trends, and then basing your decisions on actual evidence is the most effective method of influencing your company’s future.

Microsoft Power BI is taking analytics to the next level; democratizing access to information so that users don’t have to possess specialized technological skill sets in order to make the most of available data. However, transitioning to the Power BI tool does require an understanding the differences between free Power BI and paid Power BI Pro.

Key Differences Between Free Power BI and Paid Power BI

At the simplest level, the primary difference between the free and paid versions of Power BI is this: The free version is a Web-based cloud application, whereas the paid version is a desktop client. However, there are a variety of other useful Power BI Pro features, like a much larger data capacity, that we’ll discuss later in the post.

The free version offers basic analytics and visual dashboards, where you can easily generate high-quality reports that illustrate a data set. Consider starting with the free version of Power BI if your spreadsheets are currently in order, and you don’t have to connect to a variety of data sources or model the data to make it useful.

The Power BI “Pro” desktop client, on the other hand, is intended for customers that require additional customization, with the ability to perform deep-dives into information. Businesses who use the desktop client generally need a tool that connects to multiple resources and enables real-time communication and updates. If you plan to do significant data mining across different data sources, the paid version is more appropriate for your needs.

Still Undecided? Specific Features of Free vs. Paid Power BI Pro

The following features are available for all users with the free version of Power BI:

  • Data capacity of 1 GB per user
  • Create, view and share your personal dashboards and reports with other Power BI users
  • Author content with the Power BI desktop
  • Explore data with Natural Language (query tool)
  • Access your dashboards on mobile devices using native apps for iOS, Windows and Android
  • Consume curated content packs for services like Dynamics, Salesforce and Google Analytics
  • Import data and reports from Excel, CSV and Power BI Desktop files
  • Consume content that is scheduled to refresh daily
  • Consume streaming data in your dashboards and reports at 10,000 rows per hour

The paid version of the Power BI desktop client – Power BI Pro – includes all of the features of the free version and adds the following additional features:

  • Data capacity of 10 GB per user
  • Content refreshes hourly
  • Consume streaming data in your dashboards and reports at 1 million rows per hour
  • Consume live data sources with full interactivity
  • Access on-premises data using the Data Connectivity Gateways (Personal and Data Management)
  • Collaborate with your team using Office 365 Groups in Power BI
  • Create, publish and view organizational content packs
  • Manage access control and sharing through Active Directory groups
  • Shared data queries through the Data Catalog

Final Thought

You can’t make a wrong decision when it comes to free Power BI vs. paid Power BI Pro, but you can be strategic in terms of how you make your choice. For example, if you’re unsure which version you should go with, take the standard version for a test drive before making any sort of financial commitment to Power BI. It may fit your needs perfectly. If not, you can always choose to upgrade in the future — Microsoft currently offers a free 60-day trial for the Power BI Pro service.

Ready to join disparate data, visualize it, and glean transformational insight? Click here and we’ll visualize your data for free.


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