Power BI Report Server or Power BI SaaS: which is right for me?

Power BI

Recently, Crestwood was asked three questions that pertain to Power BI in the cloud (the Microsoft SaaS offering) and how it compares to the on-premise (or cloud-hosted) Power BI Report Server solution.  Both solutions enable Power BI reports and visualization construction by leveraging the power of Microsoft’s Power BI services, but there are notable differences between the offerings.

What is the Power BI Report Server?

Similar to Microsoft SQL Server Report Server, the Power BI Report Server can host .rdl (SSRS) reports (also known as “paginated reports”) and .pbix (Power BI) reports. It allows Power BI reports and data to be kept within the confines of the local domain network, with no gateway required, while allowing access to on-premise and cloud-sourced data. In short: everything that can be done with the Power BI Report Server can be done with the Power BI SaaS.

What are the key benefits/limitations of local (Power BI Report Server) versus remote (Power BI SaaS)?

When weighing the options between the two versions, there are several important things to keep in mind.

  1. The SaaS version is fully managed with monthly updates, while the on-premise solution is updated three times per year.
  2. Reports can be created in the browser with the SaaS model, but they can only be created using the Power BI Desktop using the Power BI Report Server. There is an optimized version of the Power BI Desktop to utilize the Power BI Report Server.
  3. The Power BI Gateway is not required for the Power BI Report Server to access local data, but it is required for SaaS if local SQL Server data or Excel spreadsheets, for example, need to be connected as data sources in Power BI data sets.
  4. Dashboards not available in the Power BI Report Server, but they are available in the SaaS.
  5. Shared data sets are available in the SaaS but not in the Report Server.
  6. Data can be downloaded and massaged in Excel using the SaaS offering, while this feature is not available using the Power BI Report Server.
  7. Q&A features are not available in the Power BI Report Server.

    Power BI SaaS

What are the server requirements for cloud hosting vs on premise?

Power BI is a software as a service (SaaS) and lives in the cloud as part of the O365 licensing.  The Report Server can be on-premise or in a hosted cloud.  Report creation is done either via Power BI Desktop or the browser.  Since the SaaS model lives in the cloud with no physical on-premise component, there are no “server requirements.”  However, for the Power BI Report Server, the following server hardware and software specifications are recommended:

  • .Net Framework 4.7
  • 1GB of HDD space
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 0GHz (or faster) x64 CPU
  • Windows Server 8 Enterprise through Windows Sever 2019 Datacenter
  • SQL Server 2012 through SQL Server 2019 (to host the dedicated Power BIU Report Server database)

Does all of this interest you, but confuse you a little? Don’t fret! If you have questions or need some assistance, visit our support page for more help.

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