Data Modernization

Microsoft Power BI License Types – A Complete User Guide

12 January 2022

Data fluency is what enterprises require nowadays to quickly turn data into meaningful information for better decision-making. This can be attained by deploying advanced business intelligence and analytics to curate and visualize data. Creating insightful information and intuitive visualizations is a multi-step process that can be achieved by a self-service BI tool: Microsoft Power BI.

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is a suite of apps, tools, and services that enable businesses to have a deeper understanding of their organizational data with robust data analytics and visualizations.

  • Data analytics is geared towards future predictions and trends.
  • Power BI enables business users to analyze data and share interactive insights through intuitive dashboards.

Power BI lets you connect to any data source—Excel spreadsheets, cloud, hybrid, or on-premises data warehouses—and transform that into coherent, visually intuitive insights to share with others.

To understand Microsoft Power BI, its license models, and features and functionalities, there are a few terminologies with which you need to be familiar:

1. Power BI elements

There are three elements of Power BI: Power BI Desktop, the service, and mobile apps.

a. Power BI Desktop

Power BI Desktop is a business intelligence and data analysis application that can be downloaded and installed for free on your Windows desktop. You can also use the tool to connect to different data sources and assemble them into a data model. You can then design reports based on the data model and share the reports with others directly or publish them to the Power BI service.

b. Power BI service

Power BI service—also referred to as Power BI online—is a cloud-based or software-as-a-service (SaaS) part of the Power BI. It can be used to connect to several data sources, analyze data, create dashboards, and feel the pulse of your business. Data modeling is limited with this module.

c. Power BI mobile apps

Power BI offers mobile apps for all Windows, Android, and iOS devices allowing you to connect and interact with your cloud or on-premises data. On the Power BI mobile apps, you can view reports and dashboards whether they are on-premises or in the cloud.

2. Workspace

Workspace is a feature of Power BI that holds the collection of reports and dashboards and can be shared with other colleagues—places to collaborate with colleagues on specific content. You can even assign permissions to workspaces: Viewer, Member, Admin, or Contributor to determine who can have access. Alternatively, ‘My Workspace’ is a personal sandbox or work area where you can create content for yourself.

Licensing plays a part in determining what you can or cannot do in a workspace. Suppose the user who creates the workspace has the Premium capacity cloud storage (a special type of cloud storage). In that case, other users (decision-makers) will be able to view and interact with the content in the workspace. If the content is not stored in the Premium capacity, business users will not have access. Oftentimes, business users only go for a free version as they generally don’t contribute to the data but make decisions.

3. Apps

Apps is another feature of Power BI created in workspaces that bundles a collection of reports, dashboards, spreadsheets, and datasets that can be distributed to the entire community, organization, or specific groups. The app is an easy way to share different content at the same time. Since the app can have permissions (different from that of workspaces), you can manage who has access to collections. Opening and viewing an app requires specific permissions. The app can be shared with the recipient either through the Premium capacity cloud storage or a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User license.

As soon as you create the app, you can publish it to a location from where the business users can access it. They can either install it to the Power BI service or on their mobile device. Whenever you launch updates to your app, the business user either receives a notification or automatically sees the changes. You can also schedule the frequency of app data refresh, enabling business users to view up-to-date content.

The following are capabilities based on the type of license you choose for your subscription:

4. Power BI License Types

There are three kinds of Power BI user licenses: Free, Pro, and Premium Per User to deliver the most permissive subscription type that suits your business needs. You can decide the license type based on where your content is stored, how business users will interact with that content, and if the content uses Premium features.

What a user can do with the Power BI service depends on the license type, and all users must have a license. There are two ways to get a license: you can use self-service sign-up capability and a work account to get the free, Pro, or Premium Per User license. Alternately, admins can get the Power BI subscription and assign licenses to users. If you are not ready to purchase the license immediately, go for the Power BI Pro trial and get 25 licenses for one month.

4.1 Self-service sign-up model

Individual users can sign up with their work account to obtain their own Power BI free license and explore data analysis and visualization using My Workspace, but they cannot share content with others. A Power BI Premium Per User or Power BI Pro license is required to share content with other users.

A Power BI Premium subscription unlocks access to various features, functionalities, and types of content but restricts features access only to other users who also have Power BI Premium Per User subscription. The Premium subscription allows users with free licenses to access any content, but only users with a Pro or Premium license can create content. You can enable or disable the self-service sign-up capability of users in your organization.

4.2 Subscription license types

All commercial or individual licenses from Microsoft are based on the Azure Active Directory identities using which users can sign-up and start exploring the tool. There are two types of Power BI subscription licenses – standard and premium. With the standard Power BI subscription, admins assign user licenses. The Power BI Pro license comes with a monthly pro user fee that enables ad-hoc analysis, publishing, sharing, and collaboration.

Alternately, the Premium subscription license allocates a capacity to an organization that provides advanced administration and deployment controls suitable for big data analytics, enterprise BI, on-premises and cloud reporting, and more. Capacity admins in your organization can manage the reserved computing and storage resources with the monthly cost. A user can have both standard and premium subscriptions.

4.2.1 Power BI Premium capacity subscription

Power BI Premium is an organizational subscription that provides a different way to store content – in a virtual container called capacity. Anyone with permissions can view content stored in the Premium capacity, inside or outside of the organization, without requiring to purchase a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User license. The goal of the Premium capacity is to enable the widespread distribution of content (by Pro users) without requiring Pro licenses.

  • A person who creates content in the Premium capacity uses a Pro license to connect to data sources, process data, and create reports and dashboards stored in the Premium capacity workspace.
  • Remember, users without a Pro license can still access the workspace in the Premium capacity as long as they are assigned a role in the workspace.
  • When the workspace owner creates an app, users without a Pro license can still view the app in Premium capacity, as long as they have permission to access the app.
  • Roles can be assigned to business users or colleagues – Viewer, Member, Administrator, or Contributor to determine the level of accessibility they have to interact with the content. For example, permissions can be any of the following: connect to datasets, make copies of reports, share the content, etc.
  • Content created by a Premium Per User license user can only be shared with other users of Premium Per User license holders unless the content is put on a workspace hosted on the Premium capacity.
4.2.2 Power BI Free subscription

Power BI free or Power BI Desktop is accessible to anybody and does not require a Microsoft Office 365 subscription. In fact, you can download the software from Microsoft as an MSI package, but there are a few prerequisites to use the free license, basically the operating system. Power BI free version is supported by the Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows 7 operating systems.

Power BI Premium capacity subscription allows free license users to act on content in workspaces in the Premium capacity. Outside of Premium capacity, the free license user can leverage the Power BI service to connect to data and create reports or dashboards in My Workspace but cannot share content with others or publish content to other workspaces.

The Power BI free version allows you to access all the basic features, connect to more than 70 data sources, analyze the data, publish to the web, export to Excel, and a lot more. Power BI Desktop is ideal for small business owners for whom large-scale collaboration is not necessary.  

4.2.3 Power BI Pro

The Power BI Pro is an individual user license that enables users to interact with reports and dashboards that others published to the Power BI service. Power BI Pro users can share content and collaborate with other Power BI Pro users. All Pro users can connect to hundreds of data sources, extract data, create interactive reports and dashboards and share them with others while consuming content shared by others. You can purchase a Power BI Pro license when you want all the users in your organization to have self-service BI capabilities and unlimitedly share reports and dashboards with others.

You can easily embed Power BI visuals into apps such as Teams, SharePoint, PowerApps, etc. You can also integrate them into Microsoft solutions such as Dynamics, Excel, etc., create app workspaces and enable peer-to-peer sharing.

Power BI Pro is the best option for small to medium businesses with medium to heavy data analytics requirements and for users who want to create and share data with others and consume content created by others within the organization. In comparison, Premium can be chosen for large enterprises that want a large number of people across the organization to view reports and dashboards and share content with individuals outside of the organization.

PreludeSys’s Power BI Expertise

PreludeSys is a Microsoft Gold Partner and an industry leader in Power BI installations. PreludeSys has deployed all types of Power BI subscription models to businesses across a myriad of industries—meeting their requirements and improving operations. Get in touch with us to learn how we can bring the benefits of Power BI to your business. Call us now!

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