Microsoft BI Review

A complete ecosystem with an builtin ETL tool, good integrations with python and R, and support of DAX and Power Query (M languages)


What is our primary use case?

Tariq: I am currently using it for my professional and training use. I am using the Power BI Premium per user recent scheme announced by Microsoft. In my current company, we are using Tableau.

What is most valuable?

Tariq: I’m going to go cover my TOP 5 Features for getting you started on your own visualisations so you can be up and running and leveraging Power BI within your own business in no time at all. Power BI Desktop Sure you probably want to build some beautiful and interactive reports and dashboards to share all those insights from your data with your business, but perhaps lacking the experience that report designers, data queries specialists or Excel Power Users have? Well now all your end users can easily access data and build their own reports using a simple yet powerful interface, Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop is a free download which provides an excellent canvas for creating your own masterpiece’s or perhaps just a simple report or dashboard tile. Power BI Desktop with its monthly release cycle is constantly evolving with newly added features or enhancements that can ‘bring data alive’ often in just a few minutes or hours. Visibility Data is arguably one of most precious resource that businesses are generating today. The key aim to be able to manipulate and easily combine this valuable data with other datasets, and then have a simple way to gain a deeper understanding of their business. With data often residing across multiple systems and formats, a valuable resource that businesses need is to be able to collate the various datasets and generate different ways to visual and understand it. In order to identify trends and relationships which were not previously visible and help make those important DECISIONS that business need to make every day based on the right facts. With a deeper understanding that comes from interpreting data in a visual form, the data world has become even more important for a business to be able to leverage and gain the competitive edge it needs; so it’s no wonder that Microsoft’s BI can provide so much value with the data-shaping and modelling capabilities to unlock hidden insights. Custom Visualisations Every business has its own culture and way of doing things, sometimes the ‘standard way’ of doing something just doesn’t cut it and a need to customise it to make it work is needed. The same goes for visualisations that come as standard with Power BI tool, which for some may not provide the depth or complexity of visualisation that is needed in order to ‘bring data alive’. However by accessing the growing library of custom visualisations or even creating ones that meet a specific need is perhaps a way to find a competitive edge. Import Excel Data One of the recent improvements that was added was the ability to import data from Excel. It has a wizard for making it very straight forward so your Excel ‘Power User’s’ now have even greater functionality to make sense of the data. Power Q&A Have you wanted to be able to ask questions in your own language and have it answered? Now Power BI makes that very easy with the Dashboard Power Q&A and the underlying data models. You just start typing in your question and the data model provides the context and answer which can then be manipulated to suit your own visualisation needs.

What needs improvement?

me to throw some light on the disadvantages of Power BI.


Power BI is good with handling simple relationships between tables in a data model. But, if there are complex relationships between tables, that is, if they have more than one links between tables, Power BI might not handle them well. You need to create a data model carefully by having more unique fields so that Power BI does not confuse the relationships when it comes to complex relationships.


In most cases, you might not feel the need to configure and optimize visualizations in Power BI. But even if you do, Power BI does not provide many options to configure your visualizations as per your requirements. Thus, users have limited options for what they can change in visuals.


The user interface of Power BI is often found crowded and bulky by the users. It is in the sense that there are many icons of options that block the view of dashboard or report. Most users wish that the user interface or the report canvas was clearer with fewer icons and options. Also, creating scrolling dashboards is a native feature.


As we know, the expression language used to deal with data in Power BI is DAX. However, you can perform a lot of actions using the DAX formula in Power BI, it is still not the easiest language to work with. Sometimes the formulas you create work well in Power BI, sometimes they don’t. You can concatenate up to two elements but concatenating more than two elements needs nesting statements.


Power BI has a limit of ingesting data at a time which is approximately 2 GBs of data. If you wish to import and use data of even greater volumes, you need to extend your free version to a paid version of Power BI. Also, users have reported that Power BI takes a little more than usual time or even hangs while processing millions of rows and columns of data.


Usually, Power BI is the easiest to use BI tool if you are using it simply to import data and create reports. But Power BI is an entire suite having a lot of other interrelated tools. When the purpose of your use is more than just creating reports in Power BI Desktop, you need to learn and master several other tools like Gateways, Power BI Report Server, Power BI Services, etc.


For how long have I used the solution?

Tariq: I have been using this solution for more than three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Tariq:

I am currently using it for my personal training, and I didn't find any stability issues, but when it comes to big data, there may be some sort of issues where the system might hang.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Tariq:

In terms of adding more users, there shouldn't be any issues or limitations. Currently, I am using it for my personal use.

For very big companies with large-scale data and many rules, there would be speed issues with Power BI. Therefore, I don't recommend Power BI at this level. For such organizations, Tableau is the best solution. I have tried Tableau in many companies with many nodes, and I found no speed issues with Tableau. So, I won't recommend Power BI for organizations where 2,000 or 4,000 computers are connected, and there are multiple branches with data coming from different countries.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tariq:

I contacted them for an installation issue related to the RPA Power Automate Desktop. I had downloaded this software, and I was trying to use it with Office, but there were some installation issues. I contacted Microsoft's technical team, and they logged in to my computer and fixed the issue.

Their support is very nice. They called me and then remotely connected to my computer through Teams. They gave me very good support, and I am perfectly satisfied with them.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Tariq: I can mentions main difference between Power BI and tableau which is as under. Advantages of Tableau Here, are pros/benefits of using Tableau BI: •Less cost of training •Very fast and easy to create visualizations •Good customer support •Data Interpreter Story-telling ability •Tableau offers a feature of visualization •It helps you to combine shape & clean the data for analysis. •It helps you to handle a large amount of data. •Uses scripting languages like R & Python to avoid performance for complex table calculations. •Allows users to create reports, dashboards, and stories using Tableau Desktop. Advantages of Power BI Here, are pros/benefits of Power BI •Offers pre-built dashboards and reports for SaaS Solutions •Provide real-time dashboard updates. •Secure and reliable connection to your data sources in the cloud or on-premises •Power BI offers quick deployment, hybrid configuration, and a secure environment. •Data exploration using natural language query. •Feature for dashboard visualization •New features frequently added that are great for excel users. •Extensive database connectivity capabilities Q&A feature publish to the web. •integration with both Python and R coding to use visualizations. •Power Query provides many options related to wrangling and clean the data. •Post publishing the data into Power BI web service can schedule refresh without manual intervention. •Power BI backed by the superpower of with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Disadvantages of Power BI Here, are cons/drawbacks of Power BI •Dashboards and reports only shared with users having the same email domains. •Power Bl will never mix imported data, which is accessed from real-time connections. •Power BI can't accept file size larger than 1 GB. •Dashboard never accept or pass user, account, or other entity parameters. Disadvantages of Tableau Here, are cons/drawbacks of Tableau •Relatively high cost •No change management or versioning •It is expensive, BI, when compared to other tools. •Importing custom visualization is a bit difficult. •Not offers easy methods for embedding reports to other applications. •Tableau is suitable only for a large organization which can pay for licensing cost. •The tableau does not offer support for artificial intelligence and machine learning. •There is integration with other Microsoft products like Power Apps , Dynamics 365, Office 365, and Microsoft Flow, which uses Single Sign-On (SSO).

How was the initial setup?

Tariq:

Its initial setup is very simple. There is no issue at all. If you have everything set up on your computer, it takes only 10 minutes.

In terms of maintenance, Power BI does not require any maintenance, but the database behind Power BI requires some sort of maintenance. Power BI is like a tap. It is just providing what is in the tank. For clean water, you just need to clean the tank at the back. To get good visualizations, you need to clean your database, tabling structure, and data modeling. If you are doing all data modeling in Power BI, then data modeling requires some sort of maintenance.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Tariq: Power BI comes in three levels – Desktop, Pro, and Premium. The Desktop level is free for individual users. Pro – The Pro plan costs $9.99 per user, per month and includes a mobile app, the ability to publish and share reports, a 1 GB model size limit, eight data refreshes daily, the ability to connect to over 100 data sources, embedded APIs and controls, AI visuals, data security and encryption, metrics for content creation and publishing and up to 10 GB per user maximum storage. Pro is available for free for companies that have the Microsoft 365 E5 solution. Premium (per user) – Microsoft launched this new pricing strategy that costs $20 per user, per month. It includes all of the features of the Pro plan, plus paginated reports, a 100 GB model size limit, 48 data refreshes daily, advanced AI features, XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity, data flows, the ability to analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, application lifecycle management and up to 100 TB of maximum storage. Premium (per capacity) – This plan starts at $4,995 per month per dedicated cloud compute and storage resource. It includes all of the features of the Premium per user plan, plus on-premise reporting, a 400 GB model limit, multi-location deployment management, Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) and autoscale add-on.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Tariq: No, I am diehard fan and accredited professional of Microsoft technologies, so I have no other thought.

What other advice do I have?

Tariq: I will suggest below guidelines to Power BI users. Limit the number of visuals in dashboards and reports According to Microsoft's Optimization guide for Power BI, placing many visuals in a single report slows report performance. Limit widget visuals to eight per report page and grids to one per page. Limit pages 30 points (cards: 1, gauges: 2, charts: 3, maps: 3, grids: 5). Limit tiles to 10 per dashboard. To improve Power BI report performance, remove unnecessary interactions between visuals By default, all visuals on a report page can interact with one another. For optimal report performance, interactivity should be minimized. Reduce the number of queries fired at the back end and improve report performance by disabling unnecessary interactivity. Enable Row-Level Security (RLS) Row Level Security restricts user access to certain rows in a database depending on the characteristics (role) of the user executing a query. With RLS, Power BI only imports data the user is authorized to view. Combining Power BI roles with roles in the back end can result in substantial performance gains. Test all roles before rolling out to production. Use Microsoft AppSource certified custom visuals Power BI certified visuals are AppSource visuals that have passed rigorous quality testing. Microsoft verifies that certified custom visuals have robust, high-performance code. Certified custom visuals are the only custom visuals that can be viewed in Export to PowerPoint mode and email subscriptions. Use preview feature of hierarchy slicers instead of custom visual If you need to show hierarchy in slicers, enable the preview feature provided by the Power BI desktop instead of using of a custom visual. Provide data categorization for Power BI reports (HBI, MBI, LBI) High Business Impact (HBI) data requires users to get a policy exception to share the data externally. Low Business Impact (LBI) and Medium Business Impact (MBI) data do not require exceptions. By using Power BI data sensitivity labels, you raise user awareness about required security and how reports should be shared inside and outside the organization. Use on-premises data gateway instead of Personal Gateway Personal Gateway takes data and imports it into Power BI. Enterprise Gateway (on-premises data gateway) imports nothing, which is more efficient when working with large databases. Use different Power BI gateways for Live Connection and Scheduled Data Refresh If the same gateway is used for Scheduled Data Refresh and Live Connection, Live Connection performance will slow down when Scheduled Data Refresh is active. Avoid this issue by creating separate gateways for Live Connection and Scheduled Data Refresh. Test custom visual performance on reports to ensure fast report load time; use an alternative visual if the chosen visual performs poorly Uncertified custom visuals are generally not tested by the Power BI team. Custom visuals can perform poorly when handling large datasets or complex aggregations. If a custom visual performs poorly, consider replacing it with a different visual. Limit complicated complex measures and aggregations in data models Push calculated columns and measures to the source where possible. The closer they are to the source, the higher the likelihood of improved performance. Create calculated measures instead of calculated columns. Use star schema to design data models. Use slicers sparingly Slicers are a great way of allowing users to navigate data, but they come at a performance cost. Each slicer generates two queries: one gets the data, and the other fetches selection details. Creating too many slicers negatively impacts performance. To evaluate which slicers are infrequently used, use the Filter pane and remove unnecessary slicers. Ensure the Power BI report and data source are in the same region With the tenant and data source in the same region, you can reduce network latency. The results are faster data transfer and faster query execution. Import only necessary fields and tables instead of entire datasets Ensure the model is as narrow and lean as possible. Power BI works on columnar indexes; longer and leaner tables are preferred. Ensure the cache update frequency aligns with the data source refresh frequency Cache update frequency should be set at similar intervals to data source refresh frequency. By default, the Power BI cache update frequency is set to one hour. If, for example, your data set refreshes only once per day, you should update the cache frequency accordingly. Use white or light background colors For users distributing printed reports, white or light backgrounds are printer friendly. Shorten numbers Don’t exceed three or four numerals when displaying numbers. Display measures to one or two numerals left of the decimal point and scale for thousands or millions. Use Report Tooltip pages to provide more context for the highlighted measure Report tooltips are a great way of sharing additional information on the metric. Use limited visuals in Report Tooltip. Ensure you select Tooltip field carefully (categorical or measure). Use templates (.PBIT files) to speed up and standardize report development instead of starting with an empty .PBIX Templates can be saved with custom color palettes and themes pre-incorporated. Templates ensure corporate branding is pre-applied to all pages. Templates ensure connections to commonly used data sources are already in place. Templates create commonly used DAX measures. Source: LinkedIn Use names that are meaningful to your business users or intended audience Power BI provides the ability to give aliases to report objects. Avoid ambiguity when naming columns and measures. Consider hiding unused columns in the data model. Source: LinkedIn Reduce queries Reduce the number of queries sent by Power BI using the settings for Slicers and Filters.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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