How to Choose your Power BI License

Power BI is a business analytics service from Microsoft that allows users to analyze data and share insights. It offers various license categories to suit different business needs, from the free basic version to the premium version with advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered insights.

Insights

  • Data analytics is becoming increasingly important for businesses, and tools such as Power BI help businesses make better decisions with their data.
  • Businesses must understand Power BI license categories and their business use cases to effectively manage and analyze their data.
  • This is a comprehensive guide to help businesses choose the right license. By the end of this document, readers will know the advantages and limitations of each license category and identify the most suitable one for their business. The document is specifically helpful for program managers, product owners, and BI development teams.

Power BI is a leading business intelligence and analytics platform, with a 13.6% market share as of 2020 (Gartner, 2021).

Figure 1. Basics of Power BI

Figure 1. Basics of Power BI

Source: Infosys.com

1. Power BI license categories

Power BI offers three license categories: Free, Pro, and Premium, each providing distinct features and capabilities.

Figure 2. Licenses of Power BI

Power BI License pricing
Power Bi Free Power BI Pro Power BI Premium
Per user Per user Per user Per capacity
Free $10 per month $20 per month $4,995 per month

Source: Infosys.com

1.1 Power BI Free

Power BI Free is a basic and free license category. It allows users to create and share reports and dashboards but with limited features and functionalities.

Key features:

  • Creation and sharing of basic reports and dashboards.
  • Access to pre-built data visualizations.
  • Connectivity to limited data sources.
  • Data capacity limit of 1 GB per user.
  • No collaboration features.

It is ideal for small businesses, startups, educational and non-profit organizations, as well as individuals and hobbyists with limited budgets seeking to begin basic data analysis and visualization.

1.2 Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro is a paid license category that provides additional features and functionalities suitable for medium to large-sized businesses that require advanced data analysis and visualization capabilities.

Key features:

  • Creation and sharing of advanced reports and dashboards.
  • Connectivity to a wide range of data sources
  • Data governance and compliance features
  • Collaboration features, including shared workspaces and content sharing.
  • AI-powered data insights and visuals

Power BI Pro is priced per user, catering to businesses with department-level data analysis and visualization needs. It offers more advanced features than Power BI Free, which is ideal for businesses looking to collaborate and share data insights across departments and teams.

1.3 Power BI Premium (per user)

Power BI Premium (per user) offers even more advanced features and functionalities that suit large enterprises with significant data analysis needs.

Key features:

  • Larger data capacity than Power BI Pro.
  • Faster data processing and query performance.
  • Advanced AI-powered insights and visuals.
  • Enhanced security and compliance features.
  • Dedicated resources for large-scale data processing and analysis.

Premium (per user) is priced by user count, which is appropriate for large enterprises with high-volume data processing and analysis needs. It offers more advanced features and functionalities than both Power BI Free and Pro, making it ideal for businesses with complex data analysis and visualization needs.

1.4 Power BI Premium (per capacity)

Power BI Premium (per capacity) offers dedicated capacity for large enterprises with high-volume and complex data processing needs. It provides enhanced data processing and analysis capabilities, higher data refresh rates, and the ability to share reports and dashboards with a broader audience.

This license category is priced on a capacity basis and offers scalability and flexibility to accommodate the changing needs of a growing business. Therefore, businesses should analyze their needs and accordingly select this category.

Key features:

  • Dedicated hardware resources such as memory, CPU, and disk storage, ensuring consistent performance of reports and dashboards, even during peak usage.
  • Handles large data volumes for real-time processing and analysis. It supports large data models and complex calculations, making it ideal for enterprise-scale BI solutions.
  • Offers faster data refresh rates, ensuring up-to-date and accurate data. It can refresh data up to 48 times a day, compared to 8 times a day in Power BI Pro.
  • Offers advanced analytics capabilities, including AI and machine learning (ML) models, integration with Azure ML, and support for R and Python scripts.
  • Includes Power BI Report Server for on-premises deployment and management of reports and dashboards.
  • Customizable branding to align reports and dashboards with the company‚Äôs identity.
  • Offers higher capacity limits for data storage and data processing, accommodating larger volumes of data and complex calculations.

2. Use cases of Power BI licenses

Power BI offers customizable features and functionalities to meet various business needs. The following are common business use cases for each Power BI license category.

2.1 Power BI Free

  • Small businesses use it to create and share basic reports and dashboards, aiding data-driven decision making. For example, a small retailer can analyze sales data using Power BI Free to identify growth opportunities and trends.
  • Educational institutions use it to analyze data and provide insights into student performance. For example, a school can utilize Power BI Free to analyze student test scores and identify areas requiring additional support.

2.2 Power BI Pro

  • Businesses use it to create and share advanced reports and dashboards at the department level. This helps them identify trends and opportunities for growth within specific departments. A marketing department can analyze advertising campaigns and identify improvement areas through this license category.
  • Provides collaboration features that enable teams to work together on data analysis and visualization projects. For example, a finance team could use Power BI Pro for collaborative budget planning and forecasting.

Figure 3. Power BI modern dashboard and reporting

Figure 3. Power BI modern dashboard and reporting

Source: Infosys.com

2.3 Power BI Premium (per user)

  • It is ideal for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking advanced analytics capabilities without extensive data processing requirements. It offers AI/ML models, R and Python scripting, and dataflows for deeper insights and informed business decisions. Its affordable pay-per-user model allows SMEs to leverage advanced analytics features economically.

    Figure 4. Power BI Premium level architecture

    Figure 4. Power BI Premium level architecture

    Source: Infosys.com

  • Provides advanced AI-powered insights and visuals, making it suitable for complex data analysis tasks. For example, a pharmaceutical company can analyze clinical trial data and identify potential drug candidates using this license category.
  • Benefits businesses with cross-functional teams that require advanced analytics capabilities. It allows team members from different departments such as finance, sales, marketing, and operations to access and analyze data from a single source, ensuring everyone makes decisions based on the same insights. The affordable pay-per-user model makes it suitable for businesses with smaller cross-functional teams requiring advanced analytics without extensive data processing needs.

2.4 Power BI Premium (per capacity)

  • It is ideal for large enterprises with complex data processing needs. It provides dedicated hardware resources, higher data refresh rates, and the ability to handle large volumes of data and complex calculations. Large enterprises can use this category to create customized reports and dashboards that cater to their specific needs.
  • Benefits businesses with high-volume transactions. It handles large data volumes in real time, providing up-to-date insights that help businesses to make informed decisions, specifically beneficial for finance and banking industries.

    Figure 5. Power BI Premium level architecture

    Figure 5. Power BI Premium level architecture

    Source: Infosys.com

  • It offers advanced analytics capabilities such as AI and ML models, integration with Azure ML, and the ability to run R and Python scripts. Businesses requiring advanced analytics capabilities can use it to create customized models and algorithms that provide deeper insights into their data.
  • Benefits businesses in regulated industries like healthcare, finance, and government. It offers enhanced security and compliance features, allowing data storage on-premises or in a private cloud. This ensures the secure handling of sensitive data while meeting industry regulations.
  • Benefits businesses with large user bases or the need for broad report and dashboard sharing. It provides scalability and flexibility to accommodate evolving needs and growing user bases.

3. Key considerations while choosing license category

Selecting the right Power BI license category depends on several factors. Figure 6 shows some of the key considerations.

Figure 6. Power BI Premium level architecture

Figure 6. Power BI Premium level architecture

Source: Infosys.com

Based on the following factors, businesses can select the most appropriate Power BI license category for their specific requirements.

  • Data volume and complexity: Consider the amount and complexity of data for analysis when selecting a Power BI license. Power BI Premium suits businesses with high-volume and complex data processing needs.
  • Collaboration needs: Power BI Pro is suitable for businesses with collaboration requirements, enabling teams to work together on data analysis and visualization projects.
  • Data governance and compliance requirements: For businesses that require enhanced data governance and compliance features, such as data classification and sensitivity labeling, Power BI Pro is a better choice.
  • Budget: Budget is essential when selecting a Power BI license category. Power BI Free is suitable for small businesses or startups with limited budgets. On the other hand, Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium are priced on a per user or per capacity basis, respectively.
  • Reporting and visualization requirements: Consider the type and complexity of reports and visualizations required. Power BI Free is suitable for basic reporting needs, while Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium offer advanced reporting and visualization features.
  • Data connectivity: The number and type of data sources a business needs to connect to is also important. Power BI Free has limited data source connectors, while Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium offer connectivity to a wider range of sources.

4. Comparison of Power BI license categories

Figure 7. Comparison of license features across Power BI categories

Features Power BI Pro Power BI Premium
  Per user Per capacity
Model size limit 1 GB 100 GB Up to 400 GB
Refresh rate 8/Day 48/Day 48/Day
Publish reports to share and collaborate Yes Yes Yes
Paginated reports Yes Yes Yes
Connect to more than 100 data sources Yes Yes Yes
AI visuals Yes Yes Yes
AI capabilities (AutoML, Impact Analytics, Cognitive) No Yes Yes
Application life cycle management (deployment pipelines) No Yes Yes
XMLA Endpoint Connectivity No Yes Yes
Advanced dataflow features (direct query, etc.) No Yes Yes
DataMart creation No Yes Yes
Multi-Geo support No No Yes
Unlimited distribution No No Yes
Power BI reports on-premises No No Yes
Bring your own key No No Yes

Source: Infosys

5. Conclusion

Power BI helps businesses of all sizes succeed. Choosing the right analytics tool is essential to gaining insights and making informed decisions. Power BI broadly offers three license categories to meet different business requirements. Power BI Free suits small businesses or startups with limited budgets, while Power BI Pro provides advanced reporting and collaboration features. Power BI Premium offers enhanced data processing and analysis capabilities for large enterprises with complex data needs. When selecting a Power BI license category, businesses should consider factors such as data volume and complexity, collaboration needs, data governance and compliance requirements, budget, reporting and visualization requirements, and data connectivity. By selecting the right Power BI license category, businesses gain insights and make informed decisions that drive growth and success.

6. Sources

Author

Vasundhara Dhanabalan

Senior Technology Architect