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What Power BI report server is, and how to create reports through it
Part one of a five-part series of blogs

Puzzled as to why there are two near-identical versions of Power BI Desktop? Wondering if web portal is anything like Power BI report server? Confused as to what a paginated report is? This blog answers all these questions, and more!

  1. Power BI Report Server (this blog)
  2. Installing and Setting Up Power BI Report Server
  3. Creating paginated reports
  4. Publishing Power BI reports to Power BI Report Server
  5. Creating mobile reports for Power BI Report Server

Posted by Andy Brown on 23 December 2020

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Power BI Report Server

In this series of blogs, I'm going to try to explain what Power BI Report Server is, exactly how a paginated report differs from a normal Power BI report, and whether you should be considering installing and using Power BI Report Server.

Power BI Report Server

Power BI report server, after uploading one Power BI, one mobile and one paginated report.

 

This blog supersedes (and expands on) my colleague Andy Gould's blog on the same subject, first published in March 2019.

What Power BI Report Server is

Power BI report server is the same as the old Reporting Services web server, but with two additional features - it can accommodate Power BI and mobile reports:

Report server set-up

You can publish three types of reports to Power BI report server. 

Advantages and disadvantages of Power BI Report Server 

Using Power BI report server gives three big advantages:

Advantage Notes
Convenience As you'll see throughout this blog, it's very easy to create reports from Power BI report server and then publish them.
A one-stop shop Having your paginated and Power BI reports accessible from a single website is convenient.
Local storage Since Power BI report server sits within a SQL Server database on your server, you don't need to worry about saving your organisation's confidential data in the cloud.

Against this, it has three disadvantages:

Disadvantage Notes
Cost As you can see from the licensing cost notes further down this page, Power BI report server is not cheap to run.
Modernity The version of Power BI used by Power BI report server is usually a few months behind the latest Power BI Desktop update.
Future-proofing Microsoft are quite clearly desperate for any organisation running Power BI report server to upgrade to holding their reports on Azure in the cloud.  There's always the tiny worry of how much longer they will let companies store their own data onsite.

The three types of reports you can publish and view

Here are examples of the three types of reports that you can create in Power BI report server.  First, Power BI reports:

A Power BI report

In a Power BI report you have a number of visuals (this report has one slicer and one column chart). When you click on a value on one visual, the other visuals on the page usually update to show that value's data (so for example choosing a director above such as Chris Columbus would show that director's films in the chart on the right).

The second type of report is a paginated report:

Paginated report

In a paginated report you typically see grouped data (here we're listing the films made by director). A paginated report (as the name would suggest) usually consists of a number of pages, with titles repeating at the top of each. Paginated reports often contain parameters at the top, and are used for printing.

The third type of report is a mobile report:

A mobile report

A mobile report typically consists of a grid of visuals for viewing on a tablet or mobile. The size of the visuals is responsive, adjusting to different screen sizes.

Licensing considerations

Microsoft software licensing is complicated and subject to frequent change, but here's a summary of my understanding of how it works with relation to Power BI report server at the time of writing.  There are three ways in which you can install and use Power BI report server:

  1. With a Power BI Premium licence covering your workplace (this will cost you from $5,000 a month).
  2. With a SQL Server Enterprise (Software Assurance) licence (also costing many thousands of dollars a month).
  3. With a free 180 day evaluation trial.

Furthermore, anyone wanting to publish Power BI reports to your report server will (as I understand it) need a Power BI Pro (or Power BI Premium) licence.

Contents of rest of blog

The rest of this blog is divided as follows:

Section Contents
Setting up PBRS Installing and configuring Power BI report server
Paginated reports How to create paginated reports for viewing within Power BI report server
Power BI reports How to create Power BI reports for viewing within Power BI report server
Moible reports How to create mobile publisher reports for viewing within Power BI report server
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