Skip to content

Microsoft Power BI: Which User License Works Best For You?


If you’re using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central or any other Microsoft enterprise product, you’re likely aware of Power BI, a data analytics tool – Microsoft’s cloud-based business intelligence (BI) solution.


Can Your SME Benefit From Business Intelligence? Research Suggests This Is The Case. Click Here To Find Out More.


It’s a powerful BI solution that consolidates data from across your business, and presents it in visually immersive dashboards that gives you quick, accurate insights about the state of your business in a glance.

Because it’s a cloud-based platform, you can also use Power BI to access these insights anywhere, at any time.

Best of all, you don’t need to pay for Power BI; you can download Power BI Desktop, the free version of the BI solution, to access its basic features at any time.

That said, Power BI also comes in two paid versions – Pro and Premium – which brings additional features to the table, for the right price.

The question is, does your organisation need them enough to justify the cost?

Let’s take a look at what each version of Microsoft Power BI brings to the table, so as to determine which of them is the best fit for your business’s particular set of needs.


Power BI Desktop – Best For Individual Users

pexels-rodnae-productions-10376169 (1) (2)

Power BI Desktop is the free version of the BI solution, which can be downloaded and installed onto your local system or computer as opposed to the cloud-based paid versions. Because of this, you also don’t need a Microsoft Office 365 Subscription to use it.

By itself, Power BI Desktop comes out-of-the-box with a robust set of BI features. These include:

  • The ability to connect to more than 70 cloud-based and on-premise data sources.
  • The same set of visualisations and filters available with Power BI Pro
  • Auto-detect for finding and creating data relationships between tables and formats.
  • The ability to export reports in various formats, such as CSV, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF
  • Support for Python
  • The ability to save, upload, and publish your reports online, as well as the full Power BI service
  • A storage limit of 10 GB per user.

This makes Power BI Desktop a sufficient tool for gleaning meaningful insights from business data, which can then be applied to further optimise said business.

On the other hand, there are some limitations to Power BI Desktop’s feature set, such as:

  • Inability to share created reports with non-users of Power BI Pro.
  • No App Workspaces, and inability to publish content to other workspaces
  • No API embedding
  • No email subscriptions,
  • No peer-to-peer sharing of content with others
  • No support for analytics in Microsoft Excel
  • Limited shared capacity for processing content.


Who Is Power BI Desktop For?

Ultimately, Power BI Desktop caters solely for individual users, such as owners of startups, who do not require support for large-scale collaboration between multiple users.

This means that as your business grows, Power BI Desktop will begin to fall short of your needs. To gain access to features and functionalities that will support your business beyond a certain level of growth, you should consider one of the paid versions of Power BI, such as the Pro user license.


Should You Pay For Power BI, Or Is The Free Version Sufficient? Find Out Here.


Power BI Pro – Suitable For Businesses Of All Sizes

pexels-jopwell-2422293 (1) (1)

Power BI Pro, the standard paid version of Microsoft’s BI solution, provides additional features and functionalities over the free Desktop version that enables collaboration between yourself and other colleagues and team members.

It does so by giving you the ability to share your data, as well as reports and dashboards that you’ve created with other Pro license users.

In addition, Power BI Pro also offers the following features that are not found in the free Desktop version:

  • Ability to embed Power BI visuals into Microsoft apps (PowerApps, SharePoint, Teams etc.)
  • Native integration with other Microsoft solutions through Azure Data Services
  • Ability to create App Workspaces to enable peer-to-peer sharing.


Who is Power PI Pro For?

Available at a subscription fee of US$9.99 per user/month, Power BI Pro is intended for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a majority of users that require the ability to create reports and dashboards that can be shared with their colleagues.

This is especially true if most of your staff will often need to collaborate with each other on the same sets of data, as Power BI Pro license users can do so only with other Pro users.

This is done through creating App Workspaces, on which Pro users can publish their content, share their dashboards and reports, and consume similar content created by other Pro users.


Power BI Premium – Advanced Features For Large Enterprises

pexels-fauxels-3183150 (1) (1) (1)

The top tier of the BI solution, Microsoft Power BI Premium is a tenant-level Microsoft 365 subscription that’s available in two stock-keeping units (SKUs) families:

  • The P SKU offers embedding and enterprise features, is billed monthly, requires a monthly or yearly commitment, and includes a license to install Power BI Report Server as an on-premise option.
  • The EM SKUs are intended for organisational embedding, are billed monthly, and requires a yearly commitment.

With Power BI Premium, you get a dedicated virtual container called a capacity, or a Premium Workspace, for all of the end users in your organsiation.

These Premium Workspaces can host large datasets up to 50 GB, while offering a total storage of 100 TB in the cloud.

Most importantly, your Pro license users can generate and publish reports and dashboards on Premium Workspaces, and these can be shared with Power BI Desktop users without them having to shell out for a Pro license.

This facilitates the widespread distribution of content by your Pro users to a much larger number of Desktop users.

Power BI Premium also comes with advanced features not available with Pro licesnse, such as paginated reports, advanced artificial intelligence (AI), self-service data preparation for big data, and simplified data management and access at the enterprise scale.

These advanced features are also available on an individual basis with the Power BI Premium Per User (PPU) license, although they do not grant the Premium Workspace which allows for content to be shared with Desktop users.


Who Is Power BI Premium For?

Available at a subscription fee of US$4,995 per capacity/month, Power BI Premium is geared towards addressing the challenges of large enterprise deployments and workloads.

Such large enterprise usually have a significantly larger number of users who only need to consume content (and thus only need the Desktop version), in contrast with a much smaller number of Pro-licensed content creators.

With the Premium Workspace, your Pro users tasked can create and publish reports and dashboards for wider distribution within your organisation.

If you require the advanced features of Power BI Premium (paginated reports, AI) for a small number of individual users without the need for widespread distribution of content, you can also purchase PPU licenses for each of them for US$20 per user/month.


Which Power BI License Should You Choose?

pexels-yan-krukov-8837382 (1)

From what we covered, it’s clear that if the basic BI features are all you needed, then you can save yourself some money and go with the free-of-charge Power BI Desktop.

This is especially true if you’re the only person in your business who needs access to the insights into your business that Power BI can offer, such as if you’re the owner or sole proprietor of a startup.

However, if your business has grown big enough, you’ll have some employees who need to be able to share reports and dashboards, in order to collaborate effectively and generate value for your business from the insights they bring.

At this point, it’s best to get Power Bi Pro licenses for each of your end users who would be responsible for generating these reports and dashboards.

But if your business has grown into a large enterprise, with many more users who need to consume content compared to those generating it, getting Power BI Premium will allow your content creators to distribute published content to all of your content consumers.

And if you want some of your end users to have access to Premium features without having to pay for a Premium Workspace you don’t need, purchasing PPU licenses for them will give you what you need.

If you’d like to know more about how Power BI can complement your instance of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central or SAP Business One, drop us a note here and we’ll get back to you soon.

Otherwise, take a look at The Ultimate ERP Systems Guide for SMEs for some answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions about ERP software by clicking the image below.


You May Also Like

These Stories on Leadership

What’s the Difference Between Business Central and Dynamics NAV?

November 30, 2020
If you’ve been looking for a cloud-based business management software, you'd have come across Microsoft Dynamics 365...

Webinar Highlights: Jet Reports & Power BI – What’s The Difference?

October 26, 2022
On 20 October 2022, insightsoftware hosted a webinar for its customers which covered the differences between Jet...

What Is Microsoft Fabric, And What Can It Offer For Your SME?

July 3, 2023
In an era where data plays a crucial role in business success, even small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) like...

Subscribe by Email