There really is no such thing as a free lunch. Whether you think about the popular phrase in terms of economics and opportunity cost, in terms of science and the four laws of ecology, or in terms of that delicious sandwich at the shop down the street, there sadly is no way you’re getting lunch without giving something up.
While Power BI offers flexibility and robust analytics capabilities, it’s easy to get confused with the licensing structure compared to other competitors.
In this blog, we’ll answer the free “lunch” question when it comes to the free features in Power BI and we’ll help you make the right licensing decisions for your organization to make sure the cost isn’t eating your lunch.
Is Power BI Free?
One of the most common questions when it comes to Power BI is, “Is Power BI really free?” While they certainly offer a free license option, it is more suited for personal use. Things like direct query and unlimited refresh schedules aren’t available, and free capacity doesn’t give you the ability to share reports.
For use within your organization, the free license might as well be treated as a trial license, although it does also function as a viewer license (which we’ll go into later).
What is Power BI Premium?
In order to understand the different license tiers in Power BI, it’s important to understand what Power BI Premium means in the context of your organization’s subscription. Power BI Premium is a capacity-based offering that includes:
- Flexibility to publish reports broadly across an enterprise, without requiring recipients to be licensed individually per user.
- Greater scale and performance than shared capacity in the Power BI service.
- The ability to maintain BI assets on-premises with Power BI Report Server.
- One API surface, a consistent set of capabilities, and access to the latest features for embedded analytics.
Power BI Premium consists of all capacity allocated within your organization, and is supported by dedicated hardware fully managed by Microsoft. Your organization can choose how to apply the capacity and allocate it to different workspaces and users based on workload needs, as well as scale-up and down as requirements change.
Power BI Premium is different from Power BI Pr (which we’ll cover below) in the sense that it is a capacity-based setup rather than a user-based license. While a Power BI Pro license is still required to use Premium capacity, it is not required to solely consume content.
If your organization has at least 500 users, you’re probably a good candidate for Power BI Premium. Additionally, if you have less than 500 users but work with very large datasets, need dedicated capacity, or require larger storage capacity, you’ll also want Power BI Premium.
Pricing starts at $4,995 per capacity per month, but there are several tiers to choose from.
What are the Different Licenses in Power BI?
There are three kinds of Power BI per-user licenses: Free, Pro, and Premium Per User. Determining which type of license a user needs is going to depend on where content is stored, how they will interact with the content, and if that content needs to utilize any Premium features.
Content storage in itself will depend on your organization’s subscription license type. Power BI Premium is the most common type of organizational subscription, which is a capacity-based license. Using Premium allows free license users to interact with content in workspaces, whereas with a non-premium capacity subscription these users can only create content in their own private workspace and aren’t able to share it.
Power BI organizations with free and Pro per-user licenses will have a shared and limited capacity to process content. Pro users will be able to collaborate with other pro users, but not with free users. See the table below for a high-level breakdown of the basic capabilities of each license type when in either a shared or premium capacity workspace.
Now that we’ve covered the three license types at a high level, let’s dive into the differences between Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium Per User.
What Does Power BI Pro Include?
As we covered above, Power BI Pro is the full version of Power BI. It comes complete with the ability to develop reports and dashboards as well as unlimited sharing and consumption of your reports and those shared by others.
The Pro license gives you a maximum dataset size of 1GB and maximum storage of 10GB per user. Data can be refreshed up to eight times each day and costs $10/month/user if your organization isn’t on an Office 365 Enterprise license, where it’s included. Power BI Pro is suitable for smaller organizations, or instances where very few users need to be able to create and collaborate on reports.
What Does Power BI Premium Per User Include?
Power BI Premium Per User is a relatively new license type from Microsoft that allows organizations to take advantage of Premium capacity features on a per-user basis. It includes all Power BI Pro license capabilities, along with features like paginated reports, AI, and others that were previously only available with Premium capacity.
As a Premium Per User licensed user you get an increased model size limit of 100GB, up to 48 refreshes each day, and maximum storage of 100TB just like Premium capacity. Premium Per User costs $20/month/user and covers almost every feature available in Premium capacity, making it a great option for smaller organizations that still need the robust capabilities offered in Premium capacity.
The decision to have either Power BI Free, Pro, Premium, or both ultimately boils down to the assessment of your organization’s size, consumption needs, and analytics goals. If you’re a larger organization that has far more consumers than developers, Premium is going to be the optimal choice.
Additionally, as you look to grow and scale up your self-service analytics capabilities, Premium is going to offer the scalability and flexibility you need. Take the time to assess each tier available and determine the best fit for your business and its goals.
As a Microsoft Gold Partner, phData is passionate about enabling organizations to develop, share, and utilize the entire Microsoft Power Platform. We help organizations of all sizes build Power Platform solutions in a matter of weeks, enabling you to go from data to insights in as little time as possible.
To learn more about what the Microsoft Power Platform can do for you, and how to plan your Power BI deployment, reach out to our experts for a personalized consultation!
Power BI Premium is available as an add-on to Power BI Pro. Office 365 E5 includes Power BI Pro. E5 customers can purchase Premium as an add-on to their existing Pro licenses.
Power BI Report Server is an on-premises server that allows the deployment and distribution of interactive Power BI reports, and paginated reports, completely within the boundaries of the organization’s firewall. Power BI Report Server is available through Power BI Premium or as a benefit for customers with SQL Server Enterprise Edition with Software Assurance.
Power BI Premium is purchased based on the number of virtual cores.