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What You Need to Know About Power BI Licensing

What You Need to Know About Power BI Licensing

What You Need to Know About Power BI Licensing (1)

What does it cost to use Power BI in my business or enterprise? This is a question I’m often asked by clients. One way I can answer that is it’s free, well, from a certain perspective; let me explain.

Five years ago, Microsoft wanted to streamline Power BI and make it successful. They did just that with James Phillips leading his development team to create a streamlined, elegant development tool called Power BI Desktop. Their mantra – 5 seconds to sign up and 5 minutes to Wow.

Power BI Desktop is used to create very simple desktop reports, as well as enterprise scale reports that can be used by 10s of 1000s of people. The great news is Power BI Desktop is free for an individual user and is completely unrestricted. You can import limitless data (up to the limits of your desktop hardware), as well publish to the web with the Power BI Service to share with other users. Simply go to PowerBI.com or install it in the Windows 10 App Store.

The downside of using Power BI this way is you can share with users around the world but there’s no guarantee that it’s secure. When you want to collaborate with other developers/users and have security in doing so, that’s when you need pay for licensing.

More good news – a Power BI Pro license is currently just under $10 per user/month. Microsoft offers discounts to many different categories of businesses and organizations such as people in education, the public sector or a non-profit and these discounts can be quite significant.

The price per user cost means that every person who authors, publishes or uses a report must have a Power BI Pro license. If you work in a large organization, that can add up, so you can upgrade to Power BI Premium. Power BI Premium is a pricing model that allows anybody in your organization to use and interact with reports without being licensed individually.

It’s important to know that if you have a Premium license, you still need to have a Power BI Pro license to develop or publish reports. Once reports are published to the Power BI Service, they can be packaged along with dashboards in a workspace app and this network app can be shared with anyone in the organization and they are free to use that under the Premium licensing.

Some Power BI Premium points:

  • P1 License – The entry point for premium capacity licensing with unlimited use throughout your organization is $4995/month. Surely a big step up from the Pro license price but it can be more cost effective than buying Pro licenses for everyone in your organization.
  • Capacity – With Power BI Premium you get a certain amount of dedicated capacity within you tenant. You don’t have to compete with ‘noisy neighbors’ or other Power BI users sharing a shared capacity tenant.
  • Power BI Premium purchasing tips:
    • Go to the Office 365 store and apply it through the Office 365 Admin portal. Then you can apply that capacity to your Power BI subscription.
    • It’s the Office 365 Admin that applies the license then it’s the Power BI Admin that adds the capacity to your tenant. If it’s one person that’s nice and easy. If you’re in a large organization where there’s a division of tasks, you’ll need to get together to coordinate that hand-off.
    • If you’re not an Office 365 shop but have purchased Power BI and intend to use Power BI Premium, you’ll still go to the Office portal to purchase and apply that license.
    • If you work with a Value Added Reseller (VAR) and you’re getting volume discounts and bundling services, be sure to work with someone who applies the license correctly to your organization as it doesn’t happen automatically.

One key reason to use Power BI Premium is you can exceed thresholds; there’s a one GB threshold per data model under Pro but that increases to 3 GB per data model in a P1 capacity and other capacities go up from there if you have larger models and implementations.

If you want to use Power BI on premises with the Power BI Report Server, there are two ways to license that. If you’ve bought a Premium license you can also deploy reports on premises into the Power BI Report Server. This is probably not cost effective if you plan to deploy only on prem and not to the cloud. In this case you can use your SQL Server Enterprise edition with software assurance to license your Power BI Report Server but keep in mind that anyone who authors or deploys reports needs to have a Power BI Pro license.

You do have one more option to license Premium if you need those features. Rather than just signing up for a Premium P1 license, you can go to the Azure portal and add a Power BI Embedded service to your account. Then you can go to your Power BI tenant and add that capacity.

You can start with the A1 SKU which is the least expensive Embedded service and that gives you capacity that you can scale up and scale down like many Azure services. If you scale that up to an A4 SKU level, it’s more cost effective to get started than a P1 and you’ll get all the same capabilities, plus you can scale down during development time.

We all know life can get hectic. Here at Pragmatic Works, we're no different. But one of our goals is to learn something new about Azure every day, as things are constantly changing and being updated. Many people are still learning all the amazing things they can do within the Azure cloud and we want to help. Our posts in our Azure Every Day series are a great way to learn more about Azure each week.

I hope this cleared up some of the mysteries of Power BI licensing. If you have any questions around Power BI licensing, Power BI in general or any Azure product or service, we have the answers. Click the link below or contact us—our experts are here to help you to grow your business with data.


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