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  • Writer's pictureNathan

Power BI

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

What is Power BI?

Power BI is a collection of tools from Microsoft to help you gather & organize your data, build reports & dashboards from that data, and then share it with others.

There are three main components that fall under the Power BI name:

  1. Power BI Desktop

  2. Power BI Service

  3. Power BI Report Server

Power BI Desktop

Power BI Desktop is a free application you can install on your Windows machine. It lets you import data from various sources to create a dataset. The data can be tweaked and massaged heavily using the built-in Microsoft Power Query Editor tool. You can also use the modeling feature of Power BI Desktop to create relationships between your various sources of data.

Once your data is ready you can build a report. The report can include multiple pages of visualizations (pie charts, bar charts, and so on), graphics, text, and more. These reports are interactive. For example, if you were to click on a bar in a bar chart, then the rest of the visuals will change based on your selection.

Power BI Desktop has limited sharing options. You can export a report to a PDF file and share that. However, this PDF file would only contain static visuals. You could also save in the native .PBIX format, and send that file to someone else so they can open it on their own installation of Power BI Desktop. While those solutions do work, the best sharing options are only available after you publish your data and reports to the online Power BI Service.

Power BI Service

Power BI Service is the online, cloud-hosted portion of the Power BI ecosystem. With Power BI Service, your objects are organized into Workspaces. A workspace can contain multiple datasets, reports, dashboards, and more.

Dashboards are a feature that you'll only find in Power BI Service. Dashboards are a single page of visuals and can contain items from multiple separate Reports.

The Power BI Service also has new options when it comes to importing data. It introduces the idea of Power BI Apps (previously referred to as Content Packs). These apps let you import data from online services, including other Azure services, as well as other vendors such as SalesForce, GitHub, and more.

With Power BI Service, it's very simple to share your Reports and Dashboards with other Power BI users. You can even create public URLs for your Reports that can be shared with anyone, no account required. This is exactly how I'm sharing my example report: HERE

Power BI Report Server

Power BI Report Server is an on-premises report server. In many ways it is similar to both the Power BI Service & SQL Server Reporting Services. Power BI Report Server features are actually a superset of SQL Server Reporting Services: everything you can do in SSRS you can do in Power BI Report Server, plus it adds the ability to host Power BI Reports. Power BI Report Server includes a special version of Power BI Desktop that is optimized specifically for it.

Sample Online Report

I am a big retro video game enthusiast. To learn Power BI, I gathered some data online about some NES games and built a sample report out of that data. Check out the sample Report that I built: HERE





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