Power BI Desktop, Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium – What’s the difference?

Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based data and analytics reporting tool that delivers insights to enable fast and informed decisions. There are several licensing options of Power BI available which each come with varying levels of features. This often leads to us being asked – “Which version is the best fit for my business?”.

Within this blog, we discuss the differences between the Power BI licenses, highlight the features available at each level, break down the pricing structure and detail what type of organisation they best suit.

What are the types of Power BI License available?

There are three kinds of Power BI per-user license: Desktop (Free), Pro, and Premium. Which type of license a user needs is determined by where data is stored, how they’ll interact with that data, and if that data reuires Premium features. Where data can be stored is determined by your organisation’s license type.

  1. Microsoft Power BI Desktop (previously referred to as Microsoft Power BI Free)
  2. Microsoft Power BI Pro
  3. Microsoft Power BI Premium

To view our Microsoft Power BI Demo video, click here.

What is Power BI Desktop?

The Power BI desktop application is a free download from Microsoft and is the entry-level license for Power BI.

It is worth noting that a user with a free license can only use the Power BI service to connect to data and create reports and dashboards in ‘My Workspace’. They can’t share content with others or publish content to other workspaces.

Despite Microsoft Power BI Desktop being free, it includes a surprising amount of functionality and features:

  • Connect and import data from over 70 cloud-based and/or on-premise sources
  • The same visualisations and filters as in Power BI Pro – learn more about Power BI visualisations here
  • Export your reports to CVS, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and PDF
  • Publish to the web
  • Auto-detect finds and creates data relationships between tables and formats
  • Python support
  • Save, upload and publish your reports to the Web and the full Power BI service
  • Storage limit of 10GB per user

As you would expect, there are limitations with the free version which provide incentives to upgrade:

  • No app workspaces
  • No API embedding
  • No email subscriptions
  • No peer-to-peer sharing
  • Cannot share created reports with users without a Power BI Pro licence
  • No support to analyse in Excel within Power BI Desktop

The core functionality and features available in Power BI Desktop are also standard in Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium – cleaning and preparing data, connectors to data sources, custom reports, visualisations and exports to Microsoft apps.

Power BI Desktop is ideal for those doing their own analysis who don’t need to distribute it to other end users. You don’t need a Microsoft 365 subscription to use Power BI Desktop and it is available directly from Microsoft as a free download.

What is Power BI Pro?

Power BI Pro provides the complete ability to use Power BI for building dashboards and reports as well as unlimited viewing, sharing and use of your reports and those shared by others.

Additional, features and functionality with Power BI Pro are:

  • Connect to over 100 data sources
  • Ability to embed Power BI visuals in apps such as PowerApps, SharePoint and Teams
  • Mobile app
  • 1GB model size limit
  • 10GB per user storage
  • 8 Data refreshes daily
  • Embedded APIs and controls
  • AI visuals
  • Data security and encryption
  • Metrics with content creation and publishing
  • Native integration with other Microsoft solutions
  • Share dashboards, datasets and reports with other Power BI users
  • Create app work and peer-to-peer sharing

Power BI Pro is licensed per individual user, therefore if you are an organisation of 10 employees who all require the full capabilities of Power BI you will need 10 licenses. The Power BI Pro license will provide these users with the ability to create reports and unlimited viewing of any created content.

On the date of publishing this article, Power BI Pro is priced at £7.50 per user per month. For more information on pricing and licensing for Power BI Desktop, Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium, click here.

What is Power BI Premium?

Power BI Premium is the most expensive option currently available of Power BI and is designed to address the challenges of large enterprise deployments and workloads. Given the enterprise-scale demands, Premium comes with considerably more features and advanced functionality.

On top of the standard features and functionality that come with all of the Power BI options, users of Power BI Premium can utilise:

  • 100GB model size limit
  • 100TB of storage
  • Access to one API surface
  • XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity
  • Data flows
  • Analyse data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage
  • Application lifecycle management
  • Ability to embed Power BI visuals into apps such as PowerApps, SharePoint and Teams
  • Larger storage size for extended deployment
  • Advanced AI features
  • 48 data refreshes daily
  • Geo distribution, pin to memory and read-only replicas

Microsoft has recently launched a new pricing strategy for Power BI Premium users. Previously, Premium was only available Per Capacity/Month, however, a new offering is available which is Per User/Month. This is priced at £15.10 per user, per month.

Additionally, Power BI Premium can be licensed at an organisational level, starting at £3766.70 depending on the computing power required. This includes the additional following features:

  • On-premise reporting
  • 400GB model size limit
  • Multi-location deployment management
  • Azure Autoscale add-on

Get in touch…

If you would like more information about Microsoft Power BI, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or calling us on 01908 038110. Alternatively, fill out the form below and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

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