Power BI offers several licensing options which may confuse people who initially look into them. These are the main differences between the available options:
- As the name suggests this option is completely free.
- Anyone can download the Power BI Desktop app and start creating reports with full connection and modelling capabilities.
- With the free account it is also possible to publish reports to the personal cloud environment in the Power BI Service, however, sharing reports is not possible for Free accounts. It is still technically possible to just send each other .pbix files but this may lead to unwanted changes and other issues.
- This option is suitable mainly for learning, development and small projects with very low budgets.
- Pro is the main plan that most organizations will be using and is currently priced at $10 per user per month. Both the publishers and the end users of reports must have a license.
- Sharing is the main difference in comparison with the Free option, however there are also additional features like workspaces and increased space.
- This will be the go-to option for the majority of implementations.
- Power BI Premium is a licensing model designed for large companies with more than 500 end users. It starts at nearly $5 000 per month.
- In contrast with Pro, Premium runs on dedicated capacity which can be assigned to individual reports. Pro is based on shared capacity where workloads run on computational resources shared with other customers, a dedicated capacity is for exclusive use by an organization.
- Reports on dedicated capacity do not require individual end users to have licenses which means that the break-even point is around 500 users.
- Additionally Premium allows organizations to use Power BI Report Server.
- Power BI Embedded can be used when embedding reports in other applications and runs on a somewhat combined pay-as-you-go model starting at $736 per month.
- This model is based on Azure and is managed from centrally from there as well. Capacity can be managed from there as well.
- The embedded licensing model may be useful, however, its pricing strategy somewhat goes against the goal of most implementations which is to enable users to play around with data as much as possible. With the embedded model, the more the report is used the more you pay.
To conclude, if you are just starting with Power BI, just download the desktop app and give it a shot for yourself. If you find a use for Power BI in your organization (which you most likely will) you can try Pro for 2 months for free.