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Power BI Pro & Power BI Premium: Flexibility to choose the licensing best for you and your organization

Headshot of article author Adam Wilson

Power BI is a business analytics service aimed at empowering people and organizations with access to critical intelligence.

There are two licensing options for Power BI: Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium.

This provides the flexibility to select the model that best meets the needs of individual users and entire organizations – whether that’s equipping users with access to self-service BI, broadening the reach of BI content for users occasionally viewing dashboards and reports, or elevating storage sizes, increasing refresh rates and introducing other performance capabilities based on workload requirements.

So how do you know when to choose Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium? And what are the differences between them?

We’ve compiled a list of the most common questions we’ve heard from customers to provide guidance that can help as a starting point when assessing licensing options.

What is the difference between Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium?

With Power BI Pro, users are licensed individually and participate fully in the use of Power BI – both the creation of content and the consumption. All Pro users can connect to hundreds of data sources on-premises and in the cloud, create interactive reports and 360-degree dashboards, share that content with other Pro users, and consume content shared by others.

With Power BI Premium, you are licensing capacity for your content rather than licensing all users of that content. Content (datasets, dashboards, and reports) is stored in Premium and can then be viewed by as many users as you want, without additional per-user costs. These users can only view content, not create it. Viewing includes looking at dashboards and reports on the web, in our mobile apps, or embedded in your organization’s portals or apps. The creators of content in Premium still need their own Pro licenses.

When would I choose Power BI Pro for my deployment?

For small and large deployments, Power BI Pro works great to deliver full Power BI capabilities to all users. Employees across roles, departments, etc. can engage in ad hoc analysis, dashboard sharing and report publishing, collaboration and other related activities.

What if all users don’t require the full capabilities of Power BI Pro – for example, many are only occasionally viewing reports?

If your deployment includes a combination of users engaging in self-service BI and a large number of users who are only occasionally viewing reports, one of the following examples may represent the right option for you:

1) If an organization consists of 200 total users – 50 are engaging in self-service BI, while the remaining 150 are limited to viewing BI content – Power BI Pro is the most economical deployment option for all users within the organization.

2) However, if the organization consists of 700 total users – 100 are engaging in self-service BI, while the remaining 600 occasionally view BI content – the most economical deployment option would be to license Power BI Pro for the 100 users engaging in self-service BI and to license Power BI Premium for the 600 seeking occasional access to view BI content.

3) If the organization instead consists of 5,000 total users – 4,000 are engaging in self-service BI, while the remaining 1,000 occasionally view BI content – the best deployment option would be for the organization to license Power BI Pro for the 4,000 users engaging in self-service BI and to license Power BI Premium for the 1,000 seeking occasional access to view BI content.

A calculator is available to help you determine the mix of Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium licenses that’s right for your organization.

Beyond providing users with the ability to view BI content, are there other reasons to deploy Power BI Premium?

Power BI Premium increases capacity limits and provides consistent performance, extending deployments with larger storage sizes, higher refresh rates, isolation and other performance capabilities in the future (e.g. pin to memory, read-only replicas, geo distribution).

Even if all users are licensed with Power BI Pro, adding Power BI Premium enables these performance capabilities to be extended across the entire Power BI deployment, or selectively applied to cases where specific teams or even individual users require them – whether it’s a team of 20 users managing large datasets or an entire company of 10,000 users. Power BI Premium is dedicated capacity that can be allocated and employed at your discretion.

Also included with Power BI Premium is Power BI Report Server*, as well as the ability to embed Power BI in your apps. Power BI Report Server is an on-premises server that allows the deployment and distribution of interactive Power BI reports and traditional paginated reports completely within an organization’s firewall. The same number of virtual cores provisioned in the cloud can also be deployed on-premises with Power BI Report Server – without the need to split the capacity – providing the freedom to move to the cloud at your pace.

For embedding, Power BI Premium includes access to one API surface, a consistent set of capabilities and access to the latest Power BI features.

Where should I go to learn more?

Power BI Premium is available in a range of capacity sizes, each with different numbers of virtual cores and memory sizes that can scale as requirements change – read the Power BI Premium whitepaper for more information. Visit documentation for purchasing details, as well as here for nonprofit and education pricing information.


*Power BI Report Server is also available as part of SQL Server Enterprise Edition for customers with Software Assurance