Buyer's Guide

A buyer's guide to choosing the right BI analytics tool

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Exploring Microsoft Power BI SaaS analytics products

Microsoft Power BI SaaS analytics lets users view their most critical data via a live dashboard, create interactive reports and access their data on the go.

Microsoft Power BI and Power BI Pro are business analytics software as a service (SaaS) products that enable nontechnical business users to visualize and analyze data. Power BI connects to a broad set of data sources residing both on premises and in the cloud. Built for the Web, Power BI is accessible from any device and operating system with an HTML5-capable browser.

Power BI comes in a free, or freemium, version and paid version, Power BI Pro. The two SaaS analytics products are differentiated based on the type of data users can consume.

Power BI includes the following features:

  • Connectors to a range of applications from SaaS partners such as Salesforce and Marketo, as well as hybrid connections to on-premises data.
  • Customized dashboards that enable business users to create and share live data visualizations.
  • Mobile apps for iOS, Windows and Android.

Power BI comes in Power BI for Desktop, as well as the Power BI app for Windows, iOS and Android. The Power BI Personal Gateway for the desktop allows users to keep dashboards and reports in sync with on-premises data. Power BI Gateway is available only with Power BI Pro.

The Power BI Analysis Services Connector lets users connect to on-premises data without moving it to the cloud. Users can also schedule the data in reports to refresh from on-premises sources.

Although designed for small and medium-size enterprise users, the free version of Power BI SaaS analytics allows anyone to start viewing dashboards and reports. Microsoft has reduced Power BI Pro to $9.99 per user, per month, with a 10 GB per-user data cap.

Using Power BI dashboards, users can pull data from multiple sources, regardless of where the data lives, create a consolidated view of the data, and explore all their data using natural language queries while receiving answers in the form of charts and graphs.

Power BI comes with prebuilt dashboards and out-of-the-box connectors to reports for SaaS applications, including those from GitHub, Marketo, Microsoft Dynamics CRM , Salesforce, SendGrid and Zendesk. Microsoft recently added new applications from Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and Visual Studio Online.

Native mobile apps allow users to share and collaborate with colleagues. The iPad and iPhone apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.

Microsoft also introduced Power BI Designer, a free desktop tool that lets users connect to and analyze a wide variety of data sources to create interactive visual reports for secure publishing to Power BI. Customers can also use Microsoft Excel for ad hoc data analysis, analytics, layout customization and charting data.

A Power BI connector for SQL Server Analysis Services lets customers use Power BI without moving data to the cloud.

Power BI SaaS analytics is available free from Microsoft. Customers can upgrade to Power BI Pro for $9.95 per month, per user.

Next Steps

Explore how to enhance SQL Service self-service BI with Microsoft Power BI

Learn how Microsoft Power BI makes analytics more accessible

Has your company made the jump to cloud?

This was first published in December 2015

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Buyer's Guide

A buyer's guide to choosing the right BI analytics tool
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