Power BI: Free vs Pro vs Premium

We talked about Power BI and what it essentially is and how you manage permissions and roles in Power BI.

We won’t go into the details again but to recap, Power BI is Microsoft’s premier business analytics service that is designed to enable access to interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities.

What sets Power BI apart from the other myriad of services is the simplicity of the user interface for ordinary individuals to easily navigate around and use to make their reports and dashboards.

However, as with any good customizable tool that can scale up according to the needs of its user. Power BI has options to provide more complex and varied functions if the user decides it.

This time around, we will be looking at the differences between and comparing the three currently available versions of Power BI: Power BI free, Power BI Pro, and Power BI Premium.

In reality, however, it will be fair to say we will be comparing and looking at what more the latter two offer with their expanded range of features.

Power BI free

The free version of Power BI is still a very versatile piece of software that, among other things, allows you to connect to 70+ data sources, publish to the web, and export to excel.

It is primarily used to become familiar with Power BI and allows single users to create and publish dashboards and reports for their use. This is where its function is slightly limited, however, since you can’t share those reports peer-to-peer or create App workspaces or embed APIs and controls.

If you want to move on from the free version, the Pro version for professionals is what you are likely looking for.

Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro offers a full suite of services for professional users who want to take full benefit of the Power BI ecosystem.

The biggest difference between Free and Pro is that with Pro you can share your data, reports, and dashboards with other users who also have a Power BI Pro license. You can also create App workspaces. Both Power BI Free and Pro have a 10 GB data storage limit and individual files for each are capped at 1 GB.

In addition, it allows connecting to numerous on-premises datasets and setting automatic refresh for these datasets.

Power BI Pro’s salient features are:

  • On-premise data gateways

If your data resides On-Premise (not somewhere in the cloud), you can now connect to this data and analyze it. A common example of this is a self-hosted SQL database.

  • Improved data refreshes

In Power BI Pro, you can better schedule data refreshes so that your team always has the latest version of your data.

  • Sharing and collaboration

The key feature here: If you want to share data, reports, and dashboards privately – you need to look at Power BI Pro. It allows you to share your data with individual coworkers or publish enterprise-wide “content packs” and “apps” with row-level data security. You can neither share with others nor consume shared content with Power BI Free. Everyone that you want to share content with must be assigned a Power BI Pro license UNLESS if you decide to upgrade to Power BI Premium.

Power BI Premium

Now, what do you get, when you want to expand and scale up the services and features of Power BI Pro from a single user to multiple ones or an organization’s worth of users at least?

That is where Power BI Premium comes in.

As the name itself mentions, this service is a premium offering designed to tackle and cater to the needs of many users of an organization who wish to make use of Power BI.

Power BI Premium is designed to address the challenges of large enterprise deployments and workloads. It enables your organization to use your dedicated capacity and hardware rather than relying on Microsoft’s shared capacity. You’ll need to provide that capacity and ensure you have enough for your reporting and analysis purposes.

Dedicated capacity refers to set of resources reserved for exclusive use by your organization in Premium. It enables you to publish dashboards, reports, and datasets to users throughout your organization without having to purchase per-user licenses for them.

It also offers dependable, consistent performance for the content hosted in capacity. The basic cost is $4,995 per month and we will later on tell you in which situation Premium is best and pays off.

Apart from capacity there are also autoscale options which respond to occasional, unplanned overage spikes in capacity by automatically adding one virtual core at a time per 24-hour period as your organization’s needs change. The pricing for this is $85 per virtual core per 24 hours.

This allows for a much larger scale and better performance if you size it properly.

Power BI Premium has several features that we will get to later, but the most major ones are the following:

  • Larger storage

Your company gets up to 100 TB of data storage to share in Power BI Premium.

  • Bigger datasets

Power BI Premium allows you to work with datasets up to 50 GB in size.

  • Free user sharing access

If you use Power BI Premium, then free users can consume shared dashboards.

Pro vs Premium

Now that a basic introduction and understanding of the two models on offer are out of the way, what does it all ultimately boil down to?

Performance.

Performance ultimately separates the Pro and Premium versions.

Pro is meant for licensing users individually and allows the creation and consumption of content at the same time. Pro users will be able to connect to hundreds of sources, pull data, create engaging reports, and view 360-degree dashboards.

Additionally, and more importantly, they will be able to share their content with other Pro licensed users and consume their shared content as well.

Meanwhile, in Premium you purchase a license for your content over your users. Your dashboards, datasets, and reports are stored in premium to be accessed and viewed by multiple users at no extra cost.

One caveat, however, is that those users will not be able to create content and instead merely view the content from the dashboards, web reports, mobile apps, or the organization portal/app.

Therefore, a content creator in a Premium license setup will need a Pro license for themselves.

What this means is that Pro is preferable for those who want to create and share their content internally while Premium is best for those who want to share their content externally from the organization.

We mentioned some of their major features before but here is a breakdown of a bit more of what the two programs can do and offer.

Pro features:

  • Mobile app
  • 10 GB storage per user
  • Connect to more than 100 data sources
  • 8 Data refreshes per day
  • Power to embed the visuals in Power BI into apps like SharePoint, PowerApps, and Teams
  • AI Visuals
  • Embedded controls and APIs
  • Create app work and peer to peer sharing
  • Local integration with all the other Microsoft solutions
  • Data security and encryption
  • Share datasets, dashboards, and reports with other Power Bi licensed users
  • Metrics with content creation and publishing

Premium features:

  • 100 TB storage
  • Data flow
  • Application lifecycle management
  • Geo distribution, read-only replicas, and pin to memory
  • Analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage
  • 100 GB model size limit
  • Access to one API surface
  • Power to embed the visuals in Power BI into apps like Teams, SharePoint, and PowerApps
  • XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity
  • Larger storage size for extended deployment
  • 48 daily data refreshes
  • Advanced AI features
  • On-premise reporting
  • Multi-location deployment management
  • 400 GB model size limit
  • Azure Autoscale add on

As we can see from the features, while the Pro offers the entire suite of Power BI services, the Premium model is the service’s apex platform.

With on-premises deployment and distribution of reports, users can maintain their reports on-premises until they’re ready to move to the cloud or other online storage systems.

Premium is intended to address large enterprise workload and deployment challenges. A business can use its dedicated capacity and hardware instead of relying on the shared capacity with Microsoft.

However, you must ensure that when providing this capacity then it’s enough for analysis and reporting. This will allow you large-scale and enhanced performance if adequately resized.

Power BI pricing per month

  • Power BI Free: Exactly what is in the name, it’s free!
  • Power BI Pro: $9.99 per user with access to all services and features
  • Power BI Premium per user: $20 in a compromise for smaller businesses who want to avail Premium license services but don’t want to pay the minimum $5,000; offers most of the Premium services except for unlimited distribution and multi-geo support
  • Power BI Premium per capacity: $4,995 basic cost with price scaling up as resource requirements increase though the basic package is sufficient for most businesses
Power BI features and pricing

Source: powerbi.microsoft.com

Choosing the right Power BI plan for you

Power BI Pro is the way to go if you’re a frequent business analyst user whose line of work involves creating, consuming, and sharing that data with others.

It will also be more appropriate if you have a limited team of employees who are responsible for those tasks in various departments and need to collaborate.

Pro is therefore fit for sole proprietors, small scale or medium scale businesses.

If you’re a large business, however, with many employees and users who will need to be able to see and interact with large amounts of data then Premium will be the investment to make.

A safe number to consider switching to Premium is around 500 users or business employees even if you are a medium-scale business. The investment you make in Premium will pay off in the long run as your business undoubtedly expands.

Managing security in Office 365 environment

We hope by this point you are better able to understand the two paid models of Power BI, what they offer and what would be the best use for you.

It must be reiterated that whichever option you go for, security will be paramount and as we discussed previously, there will be some cons inherent to both since they are part of the Power BI ecosystem.

Tools like Microsoft 365 Groups and Yammer can help you in mitigating those inherent cons to Power BI along with maintaining a secure M365 environment that allows you to fully optimize and leverage the benefits of a Power BI workspace no matter which model you go for.

Many IT Leaders use SysKit Point’s customized easy-to-use provisioning templates for Teams, Yammer Communities, Microsoft 365 Groups, and SharePoint Sites, to help solve the challenges of Power BI security.

Book a non-obligation demo to discover how you can stay in full control of your Office 365 environment and ensure that no matter which model you go for, you stay in control of your Power BI ecosystem.

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