Power BI versions - What's the Difference?

Microsoft Power BI is more than just a tool for creating data-driven reports and dashboards. It also comprises infrastructure that allows you to publish these reports so you can collaborate and share them with other users at Davidson. There are two options for doing so: the first is the Power BI Service, which is a cloud-based platform hosted by Microsoft, and the other is Power BI Report Server, which is an on-premises server that is hosted on Davidson's network behind our firewall. Davidson runs a "hybrid" approach to implementing Power BI, meaning we utilize both the cloud and on-premises platforms together.

Platform Infrastructure Hosted by Location Requires license Mobile reports
Power BI Service Cloud Microsoft powerbi.com Yes Yes
Power BI Report Server On-premises Davidson data.davidson.edu No No

These two platforms both allow us to share datasets and reports with other users at Davidson, but they don't have equal capabilities. The Power BI Service hosted by Microsoft is much more robust; it is constantly adding new features and integrating with other platforms to give you easier access to data. It is the flagship of Microsoft's data analytics product line. However, Power BI Report Server only gets a handful of updates each year, and does not always have the same features that are available in its cloud-based cousin.

Because the Power BI Service is hosted on Microsoft's infrastructure, a license is required in order for you to collaborate and share reports with other users at Davidson. There are two tiers of user licenses available for Power BI, and these are currently purchased and managed by the Technology & Innovation department:

  • Power BI Pro costs $2.10 per user per month (or $25.20 per user annually) and is the "entry-level" license for using the Power BI Service.
  • Power BI Premium costs $4.50 per user per month (or $54 per user annually) and carries many additional features and functionality for Davidson teams in the Power BI Service.

Before deciding to give a license to staff or faculty, T&I must consider how the license will be used to make sure we're getting the most bang for our buck, and to make sure we don't take away licenses from teams who need them more. If you want to obtain a Power BI license for creating and sharing cloud-based reports, please email ti@davidson.edu.

Power BI Report Server is hosted on Davidson's infrastructure, so it is only limited by our network and resources. As a result, no license is required for the report server. However, its biggest advantage is also its biggest weakness: because the report server is on Davidson's infrastructure, you can only access it from on-campus, or by using VPN from off-campus. The Power BI Service, because it is in the cloud, has no such limitation.

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