Is Power BI Really Free?

Is Power BI Really Free?

“The world cannot be understood without numbers. But the world cannot be understood with numbers alone.” Hans Rosling

Numbers and Data helps to showcase stories that we may not be even aware of yet, such stories throw light on the most critical issues and help us to tackle them. For organizations, data visualization allows them to narrate stories about where they were, where they are now and where they will be in future.

With the help of Microsoft Power BI, storytelling with data is made possible. Organizations can leverage Power BI to visualize and decode their data with ease. But what is Microsoft Power BI and can your organization use it for free?

Let’s understand in this blog.

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is a Business Intelligence and Analytics service solution. It is a cloud-based platform that enables the designing of interactive dashboards and reports. These dashboards and reports can also be embedded in your application to share with the external users or with larger audience.

Power BI can extract data from the data source, model it, create dashboards or visualizations and publish for larger audience. Organizations can get quick access to key insights that can help decision-makers to take critical calls promptly.

Microsoft Power BI comes in three versions: Power BI free (Desktop), Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. Power BI Desktop can be used without a license whereas Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium requires licenses for each user and comes with many more features than Power BI Desktop.

    What is Microsoft Power BI?

    Power BI Desktop

    Power BI Desktop is the free version of Power BI which is a perfect fit for personal use or small business. Dashboards and reports can be created using Power BI Desktop which will allow you to gain quick access to insights into your personal or organization data.

    Power BI Desktop Limitations

    Since it is free version, Power BI Desktop has feature limitations. Some of them are listed below:

    • Reports cannot be shared with other users.
    • Cannot view the reports shared by other pro-license users
    • No option for API embedding.
    • Non-availability of email subscription feature.

    Which means, whenever there is a need to share or collaborate with other users or use advanced functionalities, you will need to subscribe for Power BI service which is Power BI pro or Power BI premium licenses.

    For detailed comparison of Power BI versions read our blog: Power BI free vs. Pro

    After looking at the Power BI overview and Licenses, you must be still thinking is Power BI really free?

    Here are some daily life scenarios for the better understanding:

    Scenario 1:

    1. You are a report publisher, who wants to share a Sales Dashboard with Sales Head along with the Regional Managers.
    2. You are asked to slice the data reason wise and should be shown to respective region owners only. Whereas you want to share the entire data with Sales Head.
    3. You are asked to send dashboard screenshot to respective users every Monday.
    4. The data size of your data set is less than 1 GB.

    In this case, you would need a Power BI pro license to share the dashboard, implement Row Level Security and create email subscriptions.

    Scenario 2:

    1. Manufacturing Plant head is having a production planning dashboard created in Power BI. Dashboard shows projected requirements of raw material needed from external vendors. Raw material values keep changing based on the daily production volume.
    2. The data size of a data set is more than 1 GB and requires refresh every 1 hour.
    3. Plant head wants to share the live dashboard with external vendors so that they can provide the required raw material on time.

    In this case, both Organization requires Power BI premium license whereas External Vendor can have Power BI pro license.

    Scenario 3:

    1. Large multinational organisation having 500+ managerial and CXO’s who needs access to different dashboards.
    2. All the dashboards must be at Point-of-use so that it is easy for data-driven decision making.
    3. Organization has users within and outside the organization.
    4. Since the Power BI Dashboard user count is high, organization may not want to get into buying so many licenses.

    In this case organization should go for Power BI embedded which can be easily integrated within an internal applications or systems.

    Intellify has Embedded analytics solution which lets you integrate BI tools of your choice to render reports and dashboards within your application quickly. Check out about our Embedded Analytics solution for more details.


    After understanding Power BI and the different types of licensing models that are available, it is fair to conclude that Power BI is not free. The Desktop version may provide basic features for free but its for individual use, A licensed version of Power BI, either Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium, will allow your organization to enjoy sharing and collaboration of insights, reports and dashboards seamlessly across various teams or departments. 

    Intellify has years of expertise in the domain of providing state-of-the-art data visualization solutions that allow your organization to narrate its story with the help of the most advanced visualization tools. If you are looking to deploy business intelligence and data analytics solutions for your business, feel free to get in touch with our experts here.