An Introduction to Microsoft Power BI
Updated: Feb 7
Power BI, one of the most popular BI tools offered by leading software giant Microsoft, helps users understand trends and derive insights from their data to make tactical and strategic business decisions. Power BI provides a Natural Language Q & A with cognitive technology, which plays a significant role in making this a highlight feature.
Table of content
1. What is Microsoft Power BI?
Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence platform that provides non-technical business users with the means to gather, analyze, visualize, and share data. It transforms data into valuable business information relevant to all levels of the business. With its strong interaction with other Microsoft products, Power BI is an extremely adaptable self-service tool that requires little initial training. Its user interface is very intuitive for Excel users.
2. Benefits of Power BI
Power BI was initially developed as an add-on for Excel but has subsequently developed into a standalone product. Power BI meets the needs of a wide range of businesses, from small business owners to enterprise operators, at a reasonably moderate cost:
Provide real-time responses to questions and help forecast to ensure that departments achieve business metrics.
Offer a constantly free Desktop edition appropriate for creating customized reports and data visualizations individually.
Keep up with the latest real-time update with data-driven alerting and full report-sharing options.
View personalized dashboards and reports from anywhere with Power BI Mobile, offering optimized apps for Windows Mobile, iOS and Google Play.
Enable deeper visual data exploration with a library of powerful visualizations and a free-form drag-and-drop interface.
Provide security and safety for businesses' critical data for each Microsoft solution, including Power BI.
3. Key Features
Hybrid deployment support: Offer built-in connectors that allow Power BI tools to connect with a number of different data sources from Microsoft, Salesforce and other partners.
APIs for integration: Offer sample code and application performance interfaces (APIs) for embedding the Power BI dashboard in other software applications.
Self-service data preparation: Feed massive data into the Power BI web service, transform, integrate and enrich it using Power Query. Ingested data can be shared across multiple Power BI models, reports and dashboards.
Natural Language Processing: Explore data through conversational language with the built-in Q&A tool; find meaningful answers to data-related questions.
Collaboration: Team commenting, notifications, and content subscriptions. Users can also publish and share reports and dashboards with configurable permissions internally and externally.
4. Pricing Details
There are three levels of Power BI for users: Power BI Desktop, Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. The desktop version is free, while the Pro model costs $13 per user per month. Pricing for Power BI Premium depends on the deployment size and user amount. Learn more about Power BI pricing.
5. Drawbacks of Power BI
Some of Power BI's limitations include:
Table relationships: Power BI is good at handling simple relationships between tables in a data model. But, if there are complex relationships between tables, like more than one link between tables, Power BI might not handle them well.
Configuration of visual: Power BI does not provide many options to configure your visualizations per your requirements. Thus, users have limited options for what they can change in visuals.
Crowded user interface: Users may find the user interface of Power BI is often crowded and bulky.
The PowerBI web version had limited features, and for many advanced tasks, you need to turn to the desktop application.
Did you know that? Most of the modern data platforms are web-based, utilizing distributed cloud solutions and helping users access anywhere with an internet connection. Many companies use Rocket.BI, a self-service BI platform, to collect, store, analyze & visualize data all from the web browser.
Handling large data volumes: Power BI has a limit of ingesting data at a time. If you wish to import and use data of even greater volumes, you need to extend your free version to a paid version of Power BI. Also, users have reported that Power BI takes a little more than usual time or even hangs while processing millions of rows and columns of data.
Power BI is a data modeling software with data visualization in it. If you have a bunch of different sources you are working with and you need to transform them or clean up the data, Power BI is a better option for small businesses as it offers more affordable business solutions but with some limitations too.
From the disadvantages mentioned above, users can consider other business intelligence tools that will let the whole team tap into the power of data analytics. Depending on your needs, you might be able to pick the right option to replace or use alongside Power BI:
Data Insider Rocket.BI: Rocket.BI is a good alternative to Power BI as it is also an open-source business intelligence solution of Data Insider specifically designed for analytical databases. However, it offers a better comprehensive self-service capability and performs advanced data analysis, ad hoc, and more. See us introducing Rocket.BI
Google Looker Studio: Looker Studio is a free tool that turns your data into informative, easy-to-read, easy-to-share, and fully customizable dashboards and reports. See our article about An Overview of Google Looker Studio
Salesforce Tableau: Tableau can help anyone see and understand their data. Connect to almost any database, drag and drop to create visualizations, and share with a click. Discover more with us here
Here is a summary comparison table between Power BI and other tools:
Data Source Integration
Direct deep-dive settings on dashboard
Dynamic Metric Control
Handle huge volumes of data itself
From $13.70/user/month with a free desktop version
From $9/user/month with free trials
Free but extra paid for third-parties
From $15/user/month with a free platform
(*) Custom intervals for data refresh can be set at a minimum of 10 seconds but cannot reach the millisecond interval timer.