I’m often asked by clients about which Power BI offering is best for their business and where they should store their data. The 3 main offerings around Power BI all have their strong points where they excel. It comes down to understanding what each offers to decide the best fit for your organization’s data and needs.
1. Traditional Power BI.com. This is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) reporting and analytics tool on the web. From here, you can connect to over 50 data sources, and using LiveConnect or DirectQuery, you can use import mode which brings your data closer to the visualization. A good option for smaller data sets, where you can live report data out of your environment, using a connector like on premises gateway.
2. Power BI Report Server. This is an on-premises version that allows you to deploy your Power BI reports locally in your environment. Good option for those who want to keep things in house and their data close, and for those who are not yet comfortable with putting data in the cloud. Think of Power BI Report Server as a super-set of SQL Server Reporting Services. With new added features in SQL Server 2016, with the enterprise edition and software assurance, you can now deploy your Power BI reports directly to that.
3. Power BI Embedded. This Azure service is based on compute, so you pay for the volume you think you’ll need. With this, you set up your workspaces with your visuals and reports in it and connect to that workspace from your application in which you want to display those reports, and you choose to display only what you want users to see. Power BI Embedded is great for customers who don’t want to build their own BI environment and want to display info quickly and securely, in the look and feel of their application.
Typically, we first lead people towards the Power BI Service because of the low cost of entry, as well as the ease of use and work in the environment. Then as business needs and requirements grow, we can look at the other options.