Power BI - Self-service Business Intelligence tool

Posted By Dawid Detko, 21 April 2017

Power BI belongs to the self-service BI class solutions, which means that it is directed to the end-users and gives them the opportunity to build their own analysis.

The initial preview Power BI was unveiled by Microsoft in September 2013 as Power BI for Office 365. The first release of Power BI was based on the Microsoft Excel add-ins: Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View. Every month, Microsoft releases regular updates with new features and functionalities. Microsoft introduced into Power BI features that allows use this tool in enterprises, like enterprise level data connectivity, row level security options and access to on-premises data sources through Power BI Gateways. Power BI was first released to the public on July 24, 2015.

The Power BI architecture:

  • Power BI Desktop is a desktop application that anyone can download for free from Microsoft’s website,
  • Cloud application available in the SaaS model that allows you to build analyses and share reports between different users,
  • Mobile app that we can read more about here. This app is available on all iOS devices, Android smartphones, and Windows 10 devices.

POWER BI Desktop

This is an application installed on the client computer. In Power BI, the data processing engine is derived from Power Pivot, Power Query Integration, and Power View and Power Maps. All of them have been expanded and introduced into one consistent tool. Data processing takes place in the computer’s memory. The data is properly compressed and their model is optimized to allow quick ad-hoc queries. Without going into details, the mechanism allows you to collect hundreds of thousands or millions of records, processing queries in memory, and answering queries from within less than a second.

With Power BI Desktop, we can execute the following scenario:

1. Connect to the data source Power BI offers a wide range of connectors to different data sources. There are classic sources (databases, files) as well as online sources. For example, we can easily retrieve the current exchange rate from the central bank website and apply it to our calculations.

2. Preparation of data for analysis In Power BI in easy way we prepare data, remove unnecessary columns, change data types and delete duplicates. It is one of the most important steps in data analysis, because well prepared data can deliver trustworthy knowledge.

3. Data Transformations Power BI is the perfect tool to transform data, split columns based on the separators or number of characters, prepare aggregations and create measures with advanced arithmetic operations.

4. Model building It is possible to build your own data model in Tabular mode, create relations between tables and see your structure globally.

5. Impressive visualisations In Power BI desktop, you can use built-in visualisation, traditional charts, showing data on the map and make interactions between them. Furthermore, you can stretch pallet of available visualization by R programming feature and make more personalized visualization.

Power BI desktop has one very important constraint - it is a single user oriented tool. If I prepare a report and want to share it, I can send the file to another person who also has the Power BI installed. This approach doesn’t allow us to manage permissions or proper process of updating reports. That’s why Power BI is built into the cloud so that users can share reports with their target audience.

POWER BI cloud service

Power BI in the cloud is a service that allows you to collaborate on report creation. It significantly simplifies the process of implementing Business intelligence in the company. This system is a part of the Office 365 service, so all data securities are integrated with o365 privileges.

Of course, Power BI in the cloud and Power BI desktop work together. When you publish report from Power BI Desktop into service, you can give the access to the report to other users.

Power BI mobile - Reports on your mobile device

This is an application by which we can connect to Power BI and analyse data on a mobile device. We do not have the ability to create reports, but just browse in an optimized form for our device.


Power BI has two editions in terms of price.

  • Free version of Power BI, where we have limited access to Power BI
  • Power BI Pro version, $ 9.99 per user per month

In free tier data capacity is limited to 1GB/user per day, but in Pro version we can 10x more. Refreshing data once per day in free version, once per hour in the PRO. Main differences are in connections and collaboration. Because in the free version, you cannot live consume data and on-premises data sources are unavailable to connect. In the PRO version, we have special data gateway, thanks to which we can touch on-premises data sources.

Power BI Desktop and Power BI Mobile applications are available for free.


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