8 Popular myths about Power BI

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As a part of working as a consultant, we get to talk with both business and technical users and that is something I really enjoy about this job. One thing I noticed while talking them is that there are certain things they believe about Power BI which are far from being true and some of those misunderstandings have led them to stop using Power BI within their organizations. In this post, I’m going to talk about these misconceptions and clarify them as much as possible.

1. Power BI can only handle up to 1GB of data volume

This is something I find most people get confused. Let me clarify how data volume limits works on Power BI. if you have a Power BI Pro license, Power BI service allows you to publish maximum of 1GB size PBIX file. It does not mean that a Power BI file can not store data more than 1 GB volume. If the PBIX file is your computer, only size limitation is available memory in your machine. it can be 10GB or 15GB. When it comes to Power BI Premium, maximum size of a PBIX file you can publish is 10GB (depend on the capacity) and it can grow up to 12 GB within the Service. Most importantly, remember that Power BI uses columnar data storage and hence claims to achieve up to 10X compression. Therefore, if you have 5GB data in the source system, I believe you should still be able to fit that into a single PBIX file within Power BI Service even if you are a pro user.

NOTE: With the introduction of Large Data Model for Power BI Premium (still in preview), your data model can store data up to 400GB after compression. You still can not upload a PBIX file more than 10GB.However, it can grow up to 400GB within Service. Thanks for Reza Rad for pointing this out.

Large Data Models in Power BI Premium: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/large-models-in-power-bi-premium-public-preview/

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/admin/service-premium-large-models

2. You cannot share a Power BI report to anyone outside your organization

This is again something I have heard from people frequently. Yes, Power BI is tightly coupled with Azure AD when it comes to authentication and authorization. However, it does not mean that you can’t share content with people outside your organization.  Check below link to know how to share reports outside your organization.

Share outside the organization:  https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/collaborate-share/service-share-dashboards#share-a-dashboard-or-report-outside-your-organization

B2B Sharing: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/admin/service-admin-azure-ad-b2b

Publish Sharing: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/collaborate-share/service-publish-to-web

3. You need to buy a license to use Power BI service

Some people think that only Power BI desktop is free and if you want to user Power BI service, you need to purchase licenses. It is not completely true. You can use Power BI service free as far as you are not going to share your reports with others, or you are not going to access other’s reports. As far as you are using Power BI service to manage your own content, you don’t need to purchase Power BI licenses to use Power BI Service.

4. You need to have Office 365 to use Power BI

Well, this is very confusing area and some believe that you need to have Office 365 licensing to use Power BI. That is not true. You still can use Power BI and purchase Pro licenses even if you are not part of O365. However, note that Power BI uses Azure AD for authentication and authorization. Therefore, once you use Power BI as a non O365 user, an Azure AD will be created for you behind the seen and you will have to manage users manually.

Licensing in Power BI: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/admin/service-admin-licensing-organization

Use Power BI without O365:

https://community.powerbi.com/t5/Service/Using-Power-BI-service-without-an-Office-365-account/td-p/131287/page/2

5. Power BI is just a data visualization tool

Isn’t Power BI just a visualization tool? This is something I hear from lots of business users. Trust me, it is not. It is all depend on how you use Power BI. You can obviously use Power BI to visualize data. Nevertheless, Data modeling capabilities, data sharing capabilities, Dataflow, CDS and Certified datasets makes it more of a business intelligence platform rather than just a visualization tool.

6. Get Power BI and it will solve all your data problems

Sometimes I overhear people say that now we have Power BI, we don’t need to worry about all the data and analytical requirements . At the same time, I have seen data engineers complain by saying that they don’t get proper recognition as business users only look at fancy Power BI reports and give all the credits to report developers and business analysists. Power BI is not a magic tool. You still need a proper data solution to your organization. Components like Data Lake, Data Warehouse, Master Data Management and Data Quality solutions  still play a huge role in catering data analytical needs of an organization. Power BI is just a part of a big picture.  

7. Import mode is always better than direct query

This is something I have seen always all the time when people develop reports.  Although the default choice in Power BI is Import mode, it does not mean it is better than Direct Query mode. Performance wise, it may be (again may be) better than Direct Query mode, but you need to sacrifice certain important things such as real time data analysis, scheduling / maintaining data refreshes and data volume. To be honest, you might not notice a difference in report rendering time when you use Direct Query instead of Import Mode in most cases.

8. One report, one model

I wouldn’t call this is a myth per se. it’s something most people unaware of.  When someone learn to use Power BI, you bring the data to PBIX file and create a report using that data. That practice continues and people create so many data models and schedules to refresh for all those models within Power BI service.   Most people don’t use Share datasets, Certified/Endorsed datasets to create Power BI report. You can use one model to create multiple reports and trust me, that is how you should do it.

Shared Datasets: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/connect-data/service-datasets-share

Certified Datasets: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/connect-data/service-datasets-certify

Well, that is it for this post. As always, if you think I have missed something or I got something wrong, free free to add those in comment section.  Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!!

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