8 Major Differences Between Power BI and MSBI

Are you looking for the right business intelligence tool but can’t decide between Power BI and MSBI? If yes, you are landed on the right blog post.

Business Intelligence (BI) tools are necessary to make data reports for better decision-making in businesses. Better tools offer in-depth insights and manipulate data with more proficiency.

Microsoft offers two of its top tools in this field: Power BI and MSBI.

But why does Microsoft offer two products for the same function? What is the difference between Power BI and MSBI? And which one should you choose for your business? By the end of this blog, you will have answers to all your queries. So, let’s get started.

8 Key Differences Between Power BI and MSBI

Check the following table to know the quick differences between MSBI and Power BI.

Factors Power BI MSBI
Definition Power BI is Microsoft’s premiere BI tool. It comes packed with features and capabilities. MSBI is Microsoft’s first attempt at creating BI tools for different industries. Still, it holds up well against some of the new tools.
User experience Power BI has a better user experience due to its similarity to Excel UI. For non-technical users, it can be highly challenging to navigate through MSBI’s UI.
Data handling Power BI handles all kinds of data. It has different presets to help you organize the data before entering the Power BI system. MSBI is most suitable for more straightforward calculations. It cannot process unorganized data. But it does pretty well with structured and semi-structured data with SQL Server Reporting Service (SSRS) and other tools like SSAS and SSIS.
Implementation As long as you have access to the Azure cloud platform, you can implement Power BI. You can even access it from your mobile phones and tablets. You can only implement MSBI with on-premise servers. It also relies on its Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) capabilities.
Learning curve Power BI is easier to understand. Non-technical users can jump in and start creating good reports because of its numerous report templates. Microsoft also offers multiple courses on Power BI to help you learn. MSBI has a steep learning curve. You need knowledge about advanced programming and SQL even before starting with MSBI. But if you are already a developer, you will find MSBI easy to use.
License pricing Power BI offers numerous features at competitive prices. The features compared to the price of MSBI packages makes it less attractive.
Working Mechanism Power BI promotes sharing and collaboration, given its cloud-computing features. On-premise software also works seamlessly with Power BI. MSBI exclusively works on on-premise servers.
Scalability Power BI makes it easier to scale businesses. It is challenging to add and remove numbers in MSBI.

Now that we’ve scanned through the differences, let’s understand each of them in detail.

Detailed Comparison of Power BI and MSBI On 8 Key Factors

Above you have gone through the quick comparison of Power BI and MSBI. Now, let’s go through an in-depth comparison between Power BI and MSBI.

  1. Factor: Definition

    Power BI:

    Power BI service is a collection of apps, connectors, and software services. This collection works together to transform unrelated data sources into coherent, interactive, and visually appealing insights. It is an interactive data visualization software with a focus on business intelligence. With the best Power BI visuals, you are able to create interactive BI reports for effective decision-making.

    Whether your data is an excel spreadsheet or a collection of on-premises and cloud-based data warehouses, Power BI service enables you to connect your data sources, visualize data, discover what’s important, and share it with others. It is known to produce effective data analysis. Moreover, if you are an enterprise organization, to manage your data you can get SQL Server enterprise edition. So, you are able to take decisions that are based on calculated risks.


    MSBI refers to Microsoft Business Intelligence. MSBI can extract, transform, and load various kinds of data. You can also organize and visualize multi-dimensional data with it. This MSBI tool turns raw data into meaningful insights. But the process to analyze data in MSBI is much more complex.

    Winner: Tie

    It’s a tie between both business intelligence tools.

    MSBI (Microsoft Business Intelligence) comes with ETL capabilities. It extracts, transforms, and loads data. It can also organize and visualize multidimensional data.

    On the other hand, Power BI is a data analytics tool that offers various data modeling capabilities, data preparation, and data discovery. Power BI also enables users to create interactive dashboards.

  2. Factor: User Experience

    Power BI:

    Power BI is repeatedly called Excel on steroids. Partly due to its simple and linear user interface. While developing Power BI, Microsoft focused on creating an interface that non-technical users could easily understand. So, you will come across multiple graphical icons to easily navigate the program.


    Some users will find MSBI’s UI overwhelming. MSBI requires more manual input and works with inflexible formulas. Microsoft developed MSBI during the early 2000s. Only the top developers used hardcoded BI tools during that era to create and share dashboards. Hence, design aesthetics and user accessibility were not priorities during its development.

    Winner: Power BI

    Power BI wins here over since it carries modern aesthetics and the most useful accessibility features.

  3. Factor: Data Handling

    Power BI:

    The data handling powers of the Power BI business intelligence tool is superior to that of MSBI. With Power BI, you can access multiple handy data visualization and analysis tools. It also supports multiple ML data modeling capabilities that even help amateur data analysts to complete complex calculations. Also, Power BI can connect with over 100 data sources. Such connections allow you to handle structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data sets.


    Since MSBI is a comparatively older BI tool, it lacks robust data handling capabilities. MSBI can only process semi-structured and structured data. This limitation is because it relies on one of the SQL server data tools—SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), which minimizes data engine usage. But in exchange, you receive the capability to create larger reports. MSBI also uses SQL Server Analytics Services (SSAS) to enhance the servers and improve higher data engine loads. As a result, you can do some heavy calculations.

    Winner: Power BI

    Power BI wins here in MSBI vs Power BI, as the advanced ML models and greater data visualization capabilities can make MSBI seem outdated. Also, MSBI offers minimal data handling.

  4. Factor: Implementation

    Power BI:

    You can host Power BI on both on-premise and cloud servers. Cloud servers enjoy the most benefit as they utilize the Azure platform to connect the datasets. The on-premise Power BI also connects to cloud operations through multiple gateways. You and your employees can access a connected data unit through Power BI software and Power BI mobile apps. It is also possible to access it through a web browser.


    You can only host MSBI (Microsoft Business Intelligence tool) on on-premise servers and local systems. For this reason, some of its cloud access features are limited. However, you can overcome some of these limitations by using data analytics (SQL Server Analytics Services/ SSAS) and data integrating (SQL Server Integration Services/SSIS) partners. These tools help ETL implementation. For example, the SSIS tool works as a data integration service and draws data warehouses from different data sources.

    Winner: Power BI

    Power BI wins here. In MSBI vs Power BI data analysis tool, while MSBI only supports on-premise servers, Power BI supports on-premise and cloud servers. So, you get more flexibility of the platform.

  5. Factor: Learning Curve

    Power BI:

    Power BI is more user-friendly. It has countless report templates to reduce the creative and designing process for you. Users highly praise its drag-and-drop editor, which makes Power BI accessible to non-technical users. Thanks to its PowerQuery feature, you can ask questions in natural language and get quick answers. Here, even non-technical users can process and analyze raw information. Further, check this guide to learn how much time it takes to learn Power BI.


    MSBI is difficult to learn and even more challenging to master. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft created MSBI for developers. Therefore, if you want to operate MSBI now, you must learn a programing language such as SQL or Python. MSBI prefers SQL. Now, there are no templates for interactive or analytical reports and dashboards. You have to manually code everything from scratch. This repeated process of creating tables from scratch might be tedious. Learn in detail about the Power BI reports and dashboards to avoid any confusion in the future.

    Winner: Power BI

    Friendly Power BI reporting services make it the easy winner in this category.

  6. Factor: License and Pricing

    Power BI:

    Power BI comes in multiple variants. Power BI Premium is the most expensive one, priced at $27.50 per user/month. This version also has a minimum licensing fee of $6858.10 per year. Power BI Pro is available at $13.70 per user/month. This plan is most suitable for mid to small-scale companies. Power BI also has a free version that you can download and use on individual desktops.


    MSBI has a free trial period of 6 months. Once it is over, you need to pay $931 for the basic version. Some features are limited, but it is perfectly usable for small companies. The pro version costs around $10 per user/month. And, the premium version has a minimum licensing fee of $5000 per year.

    Winner: Power BI

    Power BI wins here because MSBI features are too few compared to its high price point.

  7. Factor: Working Mechanism

    Power BI:

    Power BI heavily relies on cloud-based data connections. This comes with a lot of benefits. Sharing and collaboration on reports also become a lot easier. Even if the on-premise hardware fails, you will still have a copy of the data in your cloud-based services on the vendor’s servers. However, some IT professionals think that cloud-based services compromise some essential security features.


    Since MSBI exclusively works with on-premise servers, it faces less risk of online cyber-attacks. But this comes as a disadvantage. Employees do not get easy access to their data. You can lose the entire data overnight if you do not maintain the on-premise hardware properly at all times.

    Winner: Power BI

    Again, Power BI takes the win here due to its multi-operational channels.

  8. Factor: Scalability

    Power BI:

    Power BI is perfect for scalability if you are already working with the Azure cloud platform. You can expand the data analytics team with an easy onboarding procedure. But Power BI restricts these scaling efforts if you are working on a cloud platform other than Azure. This can restrict your flourishing business as Power BI compels you to move to the Azure cloud.


    MSBI is extremely limited when it comes to scaling due to its outdated data analysis mechanics. The 2008 SSIS upgrade did try to add some sparks, but still, it remained uncompetitive in the scaling factor. Again, MSBI is more suitable for more straightforward calculations. For anything else, you will face a lot of difficulties.

    Winner: Power BI

    Power BI is hands-down the better alternative to scaling with Azure Cloud Platform.

Check the following FAQ section to get the answers to frequently asked questions on Google between MSBI and Power BI tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, MSBI or Power BI?

Power BI is the superior software out of the two. Because Power BI has an intuitive UI and various features to help you make the most of your datasets. But some hardcore developers prefer MSBI as it lets them drill down into these datasets.

How long does it take to learn MSBI?

Most online courses cover the entirety of MSBI in about 70 hours. But it does require some previous knowledge of coding, SQL, data analysis, and programming.

What are the drawbacks of the MSBI tool?

To begin with, it has a crowded UI. Many users will find this overwhelming. You will also struggle with operating MSBI without prior programming knowledge. Lastly, the free version offers limited control over data manipulation.


MSBI and Power BI, both are top tools in the business intelligence world today.

But in a head-to-head comparison, Power BI tools come ahead of MSBI. All of Power BI’s features are more inclined to make things easier for you. Furthermore, MSBI does not even compare when visualizing raw data and converting them into insightful reports. Power BI is far ahead in generating reports and is known as a powerful reporting tool.

However, that does not mean MSBI isn’t an efficient tool. It helps you approach organized data in a more structured manner. But Power BI is more straightforward with a shorter learning curve. Hence, it is the better choice in most cases.

Gaurang Bhatt

Written by

Gaurang Bhatt

Gaurang has 15+ years of experience solving complex business problems and enabling businesses with data-driven decisions using data analysis and predictive modeling tools like Tableau, Power BI, Looker, and Google Data Studio. His expertise lies in data visualization, reporting, and creating ETL pipelines. In addition, he is passionate about exploring different technologies like machine learning and AI. He shares his knowledge and learnings on the LabsMedia platform.