Power BI Cloud vs On-Premise: What Are the Key Differences Between Power BI Cloud and Power Bi Report Server?

Do you wish to improve your data analytics and business intelligence (BI)?

Once you go through the best Power BI books, you need to start learning and exploring Microsoft’s dynamic Power BI server.

It allows you to create visually appealing reports and dashboards. It also assists you in making strategic decisions based on detailed company data analysis.

However, in order to transition to the Power BI system, you must make a few critical decisions.

You must carefully evaluate and decide whether you want to invest in Power BI Cloud Services or on-premise Power BI Report Server.

So, which one will it be?

Both models have a lot of outstanding features, but each of them also has certain shortcomings.

This blog will assist you in identifying the Power BI system that is most suited to your organization’s needs so that you can utilize your analytics data more efficiently.

Let’s dive into the details of Power BI Cloud vs On-premise.

What Is Power BI Cloud?

Power BI cloud is a cloud-based business intelligence software solution that is used for real-time data analysis and visualization.

Tableau Dashboard

Users can generate business reports and interactive dashboards using data from various sources. This will give users access to critical insights that will aid strategic business decision-making.

The Power BI solution comprises several sub-platforms, including Power BI Service (a SaaS-based solution), Power BI Desktop, and various other mobile application solutions.

Power BI Services

Source: Power BI

The ability to generate illustrative and data-driven reports and create real-time dashboards assists business organizations in finding solutions to the right problems. It also offers an objective foundation for decisions for the organization’s management.

What Is Power BI Report Server?

Power BI Report Server runs on-premises and is a report server tool that is used to host Power BI reports.

Users can access the analytical reports hosted on the on-premises report server through a web interface.

Because the report server is built on the SQL Server Reporting Service (SSRS) architecture, it lets you host mobile reports, paginated reports, and KPIs (key performance indicators) on it. All kinds of reports on this report server tool can be accessed and viewed using a web browser, mobile device, or email.

Power BI Report Server

Source: Power BI

There are several advantages to hosting Power BI reports on an on-premises report server. It works with the Power BI Service and is simple to integrate with your existing business model reporting services.

Furthermore, many firms choose an on-premises report server for security reasons. Organizations believe it is safer to host critical analytical reports on-premises instead of in the cloud.

Key Differences Between Power BI Cloud and Power BI Report Server

Check the following table to know the differences between Power BI on-premise vs cloud based on different core factors.

Core Features Public cloud On-premises Notes
Source data Cloud and/or on-premises Cloud and/or on-premises Not applicable.
Lifecycle Fully managed service Modern lifecycle policy Not applicable.
License Power BI Pro and/or Power BI Premium Power BI Premium or SQL Server EE with SA Not applicable.
Create Power BI reports in Power BI Desktop Yes Yes Not applicable.
Release cycle Once a month Once every 4 months Power BI Service receives the most recent features and updates first. The majority of core functionality will be added to Power BI Report Server in the next versions or updates, with some features reserved for the Power BI service.
Gateway required Yes for on-premises data sources No Not applicable.
Real-time streaming Yes No Real-time streaming available in Power BI.
Create Power BI reports in the browser Yes No Not applicable.
Dashboards Yes No Dashboards are accessible in the Power BI service.
Content packs Yes No Introduction to organizational content packs.
Distribute group of reports using apps Yes No Create and deploy apps with dashboards and reports generated via Power BI.
Q&A Yes No Q&A functionality available in the Power BI Desktop and Power BI service.
Connect to services like Salesforce Yes Yes Connect to the services you use in the Power BI service using content packs. To connect to services in Power BI Report Server, utilize certified connectors. For more information, see Power BI report data sources in Power BI Report Server.
ARC GIS maps Yes No ArcGIS maps in Power BI service and Power BI Desktop by Esri.
Email subscriptions for paginated reports No Yes E-Mail delivery in Reporting Services.
Paginated reports Yes Yes Paginated reports are provided as a premium preview in the Power BI service.
Data alerts Yes No Utilize data alerts functionality in the Power BI service.
Power BI mobile apps Yes Yes Power BI mobile apps overview.
Email subscriptions for Power BI report Yes No Subscribe yourself or others to a report or dashboard in the Power BI service.
Quick insights Yes No Automatically generate data insights with Power BI.
Row-level security (RLS) Yes Yes RLS is available in both DirectQuery (data source) and Import mode.
Row-level security in the Power BI service.
Row-level security in Power BI Report Server.
Full-screen mode Yes No Full-screen mode feature is accessible in the Power BI service.
Analyze in Excel Yes No Analyze in Excel.
Custom visuals Yes Yes Custom visuals in Power BI.
R visuals Yes No Create R visuals in Power BI Desktop and publish them to the Power BI service.
You can’t save Power BI reports with R visuals to Power BI Report Server.
Advanced Office 365 collaboration Yes No Collaborate with other users in an app workspace with Office 365.
Preview features Yes No Opt-in for Power BI service preview features.

Importance of Power BI Cloud

The advantage of using software like Power BI is that it is effortless and automatic, and once the software application is set up, you don’t have to do anything to input or access data.

Irrespective of where the data originated from, Power BI provides the facility of getting it to where it needs to go. To facilitate decision-making, the program processes the data in such a way that it is dependable, intelligible, and relevant.

But, what does Microsoft Power BI do? Well, Power BI can be utilized to manage various aspects of a business, such as human resources, customer interactions, logistics, financial transactions, market analysis, sales, and manufacturing processes. The data from each division can be examined in a visual, interactive, and comprehensible manner.

Another key advantage of Power BI is its ease of use, as it only takes a few taps and clicks for a manager or data analyst to get access to the data. Each user can customize the analysis of the data to their specific requirements and role-related characteristics.

Because Business Analytics has already segmented the raw data for you, you don’t have to. A personalized dashboard enables the user to immediately see the data that is relevant to them.

With the installation of Power BI, it transforms into a collaborative tool that allows teams to operate more autonomously, promoting the flow of information exchange between different departments and users through its advanced analytical features.

Features of Power BI Cloud

  1. Interactive user interfaces

    The Power BI interface is centered on an easy-to-use drag-and-drop user interface. Learning Power BI is easy. The data can be used to generate reports that do not require any prior programming experience.

  2. Data visualizations with customizability

    The platform has a range of preset templates that can be used by various organizations depending on their needs. Furthermore, it allows comprehensive customization of its templates to address the requirements of report or dashboard generation.

  3. Platform security

    To grant access to the control panel, Power BI leverages a feature known as Active Directory. In addition to the typical security layer, the platform is intended to build security in which each user is provided with regulated access to data.

  4. Easy implementation

    The Power BI platform requires few IT skills to set up and integrate into the workflow across the department or organization. Many elements of creating a report do not necessitate any programming experience.

Importance of Power BI Report Server

Power BI Report Server on-premise allows users to store all of their data on-site or behind a firewall on your company’s own cloud servers. Then, using the Power BI Desktop or mobile applications, you can create and publish Power BI reports and share them with other users or team members.

Power BI Report Server’s secure web portal is the main interface with which the user can and would interact the most. This portal allows users to access their reports, dashboards, and KPIs from any device that can run a modern browser.

The data files are organized and stored in a regular folder system, and the interface is simple to use. The data is also divided into sections such as Power BI reports, Paginated Reports, KPIs, Mobile Reports, and Excel workbooks.

Power BI reports of the Power BI Report Server are views of data visualizations from multiple angles to analyze and represent the objective dataset. This feature enables users to create .pbix reports in Power BI Desktop, then deploy them to the online site and view them at their convenience.

Features of Power BI Report Server

  1. On-premise capabilities

    Power BI Report Server reports are hosted on-premises.
    On-premise systems encourage secure collaboration and interaction among their users. There is also the option to host .rsmobile (Mobile Reports) and .rdl (Paginated Reports) files, as well as KPI dashboards.

  2. Custom visualizations

    Custom visualizations can be rendered using the Power BI Report Server.
    In addition to the basic customizations, almost 100 new ones were introduced.

  3. Connectivity via mobile

    The reports stored in Power BI Report Server can be accessed using Power BI Mobile via mobile connectivity. Platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile are supported.

  4. Exporting data

    Power BI Report Server allows users to export data into CSV, .xlsx, and other file formats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Power BI hosted in the cloud or on-premise?

Power BI service allows you to store reports in the cloud that are based on on-premise data. This is accomplished by utilizing a gateway data source. The Power BI admin portal has a section for configuring gateway data sources using an on-premise server database, name, and credentials.

What is the standard difference between on-premise and off-premise?
On-premise refers to a proposed solution that operates or is installed on the organization’s system of the user. It could be supported by a third party (although not mandatory).

Off-premise is a completely separate model in which hosting and support are handled by several different third parties.

Is Power BI cloud-based?

Power BI is now offered on three different national clouds. These clouds provide the same levels of security, transparency, privacy, and compliance as the global Power BI. However, they do so with a unique model for local regulations on data residency, service delivery, access, and control.

Is Power BI cloud accessible for free?

If you’re just getting started with Power BI, you can use the “free” Power BI service to create and publish analytical reports and dashboards for yourself. However, if you want to connect to on-premises data or use a Power BI gateway, you will need to upgrade to the Pro edition by purchasing Power BI premium.

What’s the difference between Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service?

Power BI Desktop is a full-featured report creating and publishing tool for report architects. It is installed on a local computer after being downloaded as a free application. You can integrate with several types of data sources and then convert them into a data model using the Power BI desktop. The last step in creating a report is to add visualizations depending on the data model.

The Power BI service is a cloud-based program that allows people to view and collaborate while working on reports. To publish Power BI reports to the Service, report creators utilize the Desktop application. Users in the Service can modify reports and create visualizations using the existing data structure, as well as share and interact with teammates.

Is Power BI Pro available as a cloud service?

Power BI Pro is a software application solution that is cloud-based and costs $10 per user per month. It facilitates the ability to collaborate with other Power BI users, such as your department’s team members.

It also enables you to deliver reports and visualizations to other Power BI subscribers across the enterprise. These are the most significant distinction between Power BI Desktop and Power BI Pro.

Power BI Cloud Service or On-Premise: What’s the Right Choice for You?

In this blog, you learned and understood what Power BI Cloud is and what is Power BI Report Server, their importance, key functionalities, and core differences too.

But which is the most appropriate option for you?

Well, that totally depends on your organizational needs.

If your company wants to use reporting capabilities within its security and firewall, Power BI Report Server is the way to go.

However, if your company wants to analyze, test, and utilize other advanced features with AI and ML capabilities, Power BI Cloud Service is recommended.

Carefully analyze their differences and features individually and make a wise decision for your organization.

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.