You are likely familiar with Microsoft Power BI – it’s the proverbial 500-pound gorilla in the world of business intelligence and data visualization – and for good reasons. Power BI is great at what it’s designed to do — sort through mountains of data, analyze it, and create comprehensive, easy-to-read visuals so organizations can get a better read on their business.
But of course, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to business software – each organization has its particular use cases and needs.
While Power BI might be the perfect fit for some businesses, others may find themselves paying too much money, or struggling with a cloud-hosted model.
There are many reasons an organization may look for an alternative to Microsoft Power BI. Here are just a few:
Power BI is complicated
This may go against the marketing buzz you’ve heard about Power BI. But think about, you also hear that Microsoft Excel is simple. And how many people in your organization are truly experts in Excel?
Power BI is a powerful and generally easy tool for technical people. At its heart, it’s a power user application. But Power BI is more than just the front-end. Power BI is a cloud-based application, requiring syncing with a Microsoft Azure setup. If your data is on-premise and (hopefully!) behind a firewall, moving to Power BI will require setting up a Power BI Gateway to copy that data into the cloud.
Unless you have certified Microsoft professionals on staff, that will likely involve a lot of time spent with Microsoft support, or possibly hiring a consultant, which can add to the costs. And speaking of costs.…
Power BI is expensive
But wait – I heard that Power BI was free! Well, yes — Power BI Desktop is free, which is great if your organization legitimately has just one user. Otherwise, you may find there’s a bit of a juggling act going on to determine who gets to use that one license.
Once you get past the single-user option, there’s a $9.99 price tag — which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize it’s per user per month. Again, that might not be cost-prohibitive for five or so users, but once that number starts growing, so does the price tag – which will approach $2,000 a month for a team of 200. Ouch. And yet there’s a pretty big jump to go to the Premium plan, which starts at $4,995 per month – for a 300-user team, there really is no sweet spot.
For a detailed analysis of the Power BI pricing model, please check out our article here.
For a smaller company, or one with a single data analyst, the free Power BI Desktop version might be a cost-effective solution, and Power BI might also make sense depending on specific business needs and structure. But as with so many subscription software models, things start to get expensive and complicated as users and licenses are added. And there are other factors to consider.
Power BI is cloud-based
This may sound like a good thing, but it depends on each company’s needs. There are many benefits to the cloud, certainly – it’s accessible, useful, scalable, and can offer security benefits, but there are some downsides as well: Moving data to and from the cloud can create latency issues, and the cloud is not the cure-all for security many would make it out to be.
Many organizations prefer an on-premise solution or hybrid solution. Microsoft’s option for setting up a Power BI server on-premise comes with the Premium plan only — which, as mentioned above, starts at $4,995 per month.
Power BI was made for technical users
Business intelligence platforms are increasingly popular and common. While there was a time most users of BI software were technical users, big data is now big business, and users across the enterprise are digging into it – meaning the BI software should be user-friendly across the board. Otherwise, it’s going to be one more drain on a likely already overworked IT department.
Power BI is sometimes called “Microsoft Excel on steroids,” but it’s much more complex. Using Power BI involves learning a programming language called DAX (data analysis expressions), which creates a much bigger learning curve than might have been expected. Many users have told us they’ve spent more time learning to use the Power BI tool than they did using it and applying the data to their businesses.
Power BI is Microsoft
Is being a Microsoft product really a downside? Microsoft is a behemoth in the tech industry, meaning there is plenty of support out there and a lot of information. Additionally, your organization likely already uses Microsoft products at someplace in the organization, so it may seem like a natural fit. But some users just don’t like Microsoft products – maybe it’s too many traumatic experiences with the blue screen of death, or maybe it’s just a preference for alternative software.
Additionally, Microsoft has a lot of users. A lot. That has benefits, but also downsides – like trying to get one-on-one support without a pricey support contract. Many organizations prefer to work with smaller, more responsive companies that can help them find the intelligence in their BI product.
When deciding on BI software, Microsoft is likely to be one of the products in the mix — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s important not to make a buying decision based on name alone. Consider your organization's users, needs, and budget before diving in, and whether an alternative product might better meet those needs.
DashboardFox is an alternative to Power BI
We designed DashboardFox to be an alternative to Power BI for small to mid-sized businesses.
While we openly and honestly admit, DashboardFox does not have all the “bells and whistles” of Power BI, we don’t use the fact that we are a small bootstrapped business and Microsoft is one of the largest companies in the world as an excuse.
We’ve designed DashboardFox on purpose to be a lean, purpose-focused BI platform. And the focus is to empower users with access to data, to maintain the security of that data for the IT team, and to save the organization a lot of money.
A few key differences between Power BI and DashboardFox:
DashboardFox is a self-hosted solution. No pushing data into a 3rd party cloud, DashboardFox runs on your private server and in your private network, closest to your data. But because the DashboardFox interface is 100% web-based, we do offer managed hosting if you didn’t want to install DashboardFox locally.
DashboardFox is a one-time fee, not a subscription. Cut the cords on paying monthly or annual for the privilege of having dashboards and reports. Pay once, use forever. That puts the burden on us to keep delivering great features to give you an incentive to renew maintenance, but you never have to in order to continue to use DashboardFox.
You’re the star in the DashboardFox sky. That is a little cheesy but the concept, you’re important to a small business, no matter how big you are. You’re going to get attention from our support team, your features and feedback will get attention from our development team, and you’re not just customer number 1,434,345 but you are customer number 1 in our mind.
Contact Us Today To Discuss An Alternative To Power BI
Reach out and let’s start a conversation. We can understand your requirements and see if DashboardFox is a fit or not. Our goal is not to pressure anyone into buying our software, we want a happy customer, not one we’re constantly trying to smooth over promises and marketing hype. Give us a try today.