What Power BI gives you for free, and when and how to pay for extra services
Part three of a three-part series of blogs

You can create and publish reports using Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service, both of which are free, but to share them you'll need to pay either for Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium. This blog explains when you'll need to start spending money, and what your options are.

  1. Power BI paid services (Pro and Premium)
  2. Power BI Pro: when you need it, and how to get it
  3. Power BI Premium (this blog)

This blog is part of a much longer series, which together comprise a full online training course in Power BI Service.  You can see get details of our classsrom Power BI training courses here.

Posted by Andy Brown on 08 July 2017

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Power BI Premium

This is a new service introduced by Microsoft in May 2017 (the I-was-there date for anyone working with Power BI!). 

Why you might subscribe to Power BI Premium

Here are some good reasons to subscribe to the Premium service:

Reason Notes
Cost If you are the only report developer in your organisation, but want to share your reports with hundreds of fellow employees, the $9.99 a month Power BI Pro per user charge is going to add up.  Power BI Premium allows you to share reports with other users without each one needing a separate Power BI Pro licence.
Onsite report server With Power BI Premium you can host your reports at your company's premises using Power BI Report Server - there's no need to send any data to the cloud.  This will be attractive to any organisation for whom data confidentiality is key.
Capacity planning The normal version of Power BI runs in a shared workspace.  With Power BI Premium you get a dedicated workspace, and can allocate capacity between users as you see fit.  There's also no limitation on how often you can refresh reports.
Deploying apps Power BI Premium makes it easier to roll out apps in your organisation.

This is only meant to give an introduction to Power BI Premium, so you can decide whether it's for you.  You can see an explanation of the first two benefits (which are likely to be the most important for most companies) below.

How much does Power BI Premium cost?

How long is a piece of string?  Microsoft provide a calculator so you can see what your monthly costs will be.  Microsoft divide your staff into 3 categories:

Type of user What they do
Pro The people who produce all your company's BI reports.
Frequent Managers who look at reports and dashboards many times throughout the week.
Occasional People who look at reports occasionally.

Here are a couple of examples (I've used dollars, not UK pounds - sorry, fellow countrymen) to give you the idea of how much Premium would set you back:

Pro usrs Frequent users Occasional users Monthly cost
3 10 20 $5,025
10 50 100 $5,095
10 200 300 $5,105
40 960 1000 $10,390

What this means is that you will only be interested in Power BI Premium if you've got hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of users.

The above table shows that there is a $5,000 minimum monthly floor for how much you'll pay.  This is so absurdly high that it seems almost certain that Microsoft will roll out a free or trial version for smaller companies.  Won't they?  Surely?

Onsite Report Server

You can download a trial version of Power BI Report Server (PBRS) here.  This is what you see when you run the installation software:

Report Server

So far, so good ...

You can go for a free 180-day trial, or (as here) the Developer edition.  I'm assuming this requires me to have SQL Server 2016 Developer edition installed on my computer too, which fortunately I do:

Choose free edition

It's worryingly hard to find on Google exactly what the developer edition entails.

After accepting Microsoft's conditions, you'll see this message:

Database engine

I will store my report server database in a named instance on my laptop called SQL2016.

The installation is remarkably quick:

Overall progress

The progress bar shot up to 100% overall progress in a few seconds, and installation finished within half a minute.

You can then manually configure PBRS:

PBRS configuration

Not to be confused with its anagram PSBR (the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement).

However, things then suddenly harder.  I did eventually get the PBRS home page up:

The PBRS website

The web portal looks just like the one in SSRS 2016.

In theory I should now have been able to create a Power BI report:

Power BI report menu

This option looked so promising ...

However, in practice I ran into problems with security and bugs, and there is virtually no help available on the Internet.

It's never a good idea to be at the leading edge of software use, and this has very much a pre-release feel.  My advice (written in July 2017) would be to leave this for a few months until the issues have been ironed out.

The question I really want the answer to is this: is the Developer edition free to use?  Please post your answers ...

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