Microsoft’s Power BI is one of the most well-known products in the business analytics space.
Power BI is a popular business intelligence (BI) tool that excels at what it’s designed to do — sort through mountains of data, analyze it, and turn it into actionable intelligence in the form of comprehensive, easy-to-understand visuals.
One of the reasons Power BI is so well known is because it’s Microsoft. Having such a well-known and (mostly) well-respected brand name attached to a product means it’s going to automatically have a lot of adopters – and it’s not unwarranted, as Microsoft certainly creates some quality products.
But of course, not every platform is going to be the right fit for every organization, and while Power BI might be the perfect fit for some businesses, for others there might be some flaws. Often, one of those is pricing. One of the checks in the “pro” column for Microsoft is that, unlike some other platforms, they publish their pricing clearly on their website.
However, it is essential that potential buyers take out the calculator to see what their actual costs will be based on product level needed, number of user licenses, and several other factors that may not be immediately apparent.
TL;DR; Power BI Pro starts at $119.88 per year and a license is needed for all users. Power BI Premium bumps the starting cost to $59,940 per year.
We’re going to be focusing on Power BI Pro in this article, so we’ll just quickly touch on Power BI Desktop, which is free for a single user – it installs on just one local computer, and is really intended as a companion app for Power BI Pro. It might be a viable solution for a small company but doesn’t include a lot of frequently used features. A Power BI Pro license is needed for distributing content to other users, peer-to-peer sharing, publishing content to Power BI Premium or Power BI Report Server, and receiving content from most other users unless that user is associated with dedicated capacity in Power BI Premium.
Power BI Premium falls on the other side of Power BI Pro in the features and cost model. More robust than Power BI Pro, it can be a self-hosted, local-server-based option, unlike the cloud-based Power BI Pro service, which uses Microsoft Azure to sync reports and data stored in the cloud. Some organizations prefer to not trust their data to the cloud and want a self-hosted server on their private network that offers more data processing power as well. This comes with a sizable price tag, however. Power BI Premium is billed on a resource basis rather than per user, and starts at $4,995 per dedicated cloud compute and storage resource (Plus you have to purchase at least 1 Power BI Pro license so add $119.88 per year to that price). Annually, that makes the smallest server size $59,940. It is definitely advisable to have a good understanding of power and storage requirements before entering into a Power BI Premium contract.
Microsoft Power BI Pro Costs and Licensing Model
The entry level cost of Power BI Pro is $9.99 per month, or $119.88 per year for a single user. That per-user cost might be reasonable for small teams, but as the number of users increases, so does the price tag – organizations may find they are paying nearly $2,000 a month for a team of 200. That adds up to $23,976 per year.
As with many software platforms and most Microsoft products, discounts may be available for education and non-profit usage, so it is worth looking into if your organization falls into one of those categories. Often, free trials are available as well, knocking a little off the total of an annual subscription. And Office 365 Enterprise subscribers will get a Power BI Pro license tacked onto the subscription for $35 per user per month, so that’s another calculation to work out. Unlike Tableau, which offers subscription pricing but requires an annual buy, Power BI does allow users to pay per month.
Microsoft Power BI’s Non-Cost Factors
While Microsoft does publish the costs of its products, as you can see, they aren’t necessarily as simple as that sounds. Additionally, there are many factors not directly associated with the product’s price tag that must be considered as well.
As we’ve noted, Power BI Pro is a cloud-based platform that requires synching with Microsoft Azure cloud. If your data is stored in an on-premise database behind a firewall (and it should be!) then you’ll need Power BI Gateway to push that data into the cloud. Gateway allows for a connection between Power BI Pro’s cloud-based processing technology and the on-premise data. It must be installed on local servers, which requires a knowledgeable IT team and places more of a burden on a department that is often already overworked.
Additionally, Power BI Pro limits automatic refreshes to eight per day, which may not be a problem, but is worth noting. There is also a mobile app required for smartphone access, which is free to download. However, depending on your company policies around change control, there may be operations and maintenance costs associated with app deployment, security, and app upgrades (users who need Power BI Desktop installed to create reports will face these same issues).
All these functions require an IT team that is well-versed in Microsoft technologies. Unless you have certified Microsoft professionals on staff, you may find yourself spending a lot of time with Microsoft support – taking away from time doing other jobs.
Additionally, because Microsoft products are so commonly used, it can be difficult to get one-on-one support without an expensive support contract. In fact, Microsoft is rolling out changes to its support contract structure, from Premier Support to Unified Support. Pricing for Unified Support is based on a percentage of the organization’s annual costs related to Microsoft software, and some reports show a significant price increase over Premier Support.
So unless you have a team well-versed in Microsoft technology or hire a contractor (more costs!) you may need to get out the calculator again to make sure you’re getting an accurate overall picture of the cost of dedicated support. For these reasons, many organizations shy away from Microsoft, preferring to work with smaller, more responsive companies with support teams that can provide needed assistance without adding to the costs.
Limitations of Microsoft Power BI
We’ve already noted the limit of eight automatic refreshes per day in Power BI Gateway. Power BI Pro also limits the size of each data set to 1 GB maximum. With Power BI Pro there is also a 10 GB maximum storage limitation per user, requiring organizations with larger data requirements to upgrade to the much more expensive Power BI Premium if they want to stay in the Microsoft ecosystem.
Power BI Pro also has some limitations on pixel perfect style report output. Unlike many other BI platforms, Power BI Pro does not provide paginated reports with fixed-layout documents optimized for printing and archiving.
How Can DashboardFox Help?
DashboardFox is an alternative to Microsoft Power BI that may be a better fit if cost, complexity, or other limitation make Power BI not an ideal fit for your environments.
A few key differences between DashboardFox and Microsoft Power BI
One-time fee vs Subscription costs
DashboardFox has a no-subscription pricing model. Pay once and you have the rights to use the software forever. With Power BI Service, you’re hooked into an Annual subscription and when you stop paying, you lose access to your software and your data
Self-hosted vs Azure Cloud
DashboardFox is self-hosted, so you install DashboardFox on a Windows Server in your environment, that you control. No copying or caching or refresh periods needed for your data to a 3rd party cloud, DashboardFox does a real-time live query against your private databases. And if you don’t want to host or be responsible for managing a Windows Server, don’t worry, we can host DashboardFox for you in our manage cloud with the benefit being, you always have the option to install the software and keep your data if you stop hosting with us.
Leaner, Simpler Approach to Business Intelligence
DashboardFox doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as Power BI. We are the first to tell you that Microsoft Power BI can meet the requirements of some places better than DashboardFox. But for the majority of businesses, who are simply looking to convert data into secure and actionable reports and dashboards, DashboardFox works perfectly (and in some cases better than Power BI). The key, simplicity. By design, we limit the features of DashboardFox to the core things that most organizations need. So we have a user interface designed for business users, no technical pedigree needed. With Power BI you get the software, and you’re probably going to need to have a highly skilled and trained technical developer work with it to get what you need (or pay a consultant). Those are all hidden costs.
Big Fish, Small Pond
DashboardFox is a small, bootstrapped company. Why does that matter? Well as a customer you’re a big fish in our small pond. You’re important and you get direct access to our team (no partners or middle companies to deal with), and we listen and actively improve our product to help you meet your needs. Power BI is already feature rich and powerful, but trying to get support, new features, or just to be heard can sometimes be a challenge.
Let’s Discuss Your Requirements
The best way to know if DashboardFox is a fit for you is to talk to us. Schedule a live demo with one of our experts (not a high-pressured sales pitch) and we’ll listen to what you need and show and discuss if DashboardFox will work or not. Then we’ll help you get set up with a free trial to prove it.