A Comparison of Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau

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If you’ve spent any time on the internet at all searching for data visualization tools, you’ve probably come across the Microsoft Power BI vs. Tableau matchup. Both options offer great ways for your company to get a better handle on its data, and both have a devoted user base of followers happy to tout its benefits. 

But as someone famous once said, “there can be only one.” 

You’re likely already familiar with the basics of each platform, so we won’t cover individual features. Instead, let’s review the pros and cons of both Microsoft Power BI and Tableau to help you make your decision.

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based tool that fits right in with the Microsoft software suite. The platform comes with several subscription options and offers a simple, effective way for end users to tap into the benefits of a quality business intelligence tool.

The Pros

  • Cost: At $9.99/user, the rock-bottom price of Power BI is one of its biggest selling points. 
  • User-friendly: With a user interface based on the Microsoft suite, Power BI offers a simple, intuitive interface that most people can pick up without much trouble. Compared to Tableau, this platform is much easier to use as a “self-service” platform. 
  • Microsoft integration: Naturally, Power BI integrates well with Azure, Office, Excel, and most other applications in the Microsoft family.

The Cons

  • Lack of features: Not to say that Power BI isn’t an effective data visualization tool; it certainly is. But compared to the industry-leading power of Tableau, Power BI comes up short. In particular, it lacks the extensive visualization options of Tableau and isn’t well-suited to handling large datasets. 
  • Poor deployment flexibility: As a primarily cloud-based service, Power BI doesn’t make it easy to deploy the platform on-premise. Users will need to install the Power BI Report Server and SQL Server to do so.

Tableau

Tableau has been an industry leader in BI platforms since its release in 2003. And in the Tableau vs Microsoft Power BI arena, it’s managed to keep its own among BI platforms due to the rich features, functionality, and multiple integration options.

The Pros

  • Sophisticated tools: Tableau offers one of the most sophisticated tool sets out there for BI management, from natural language processing to newer machine learning integrations. Overall, it offers some of the most advanced visualization options on the market. 
  • Large data management: Compared to Power BI, Tableau can handle larger datasets and data sources with ease. 
  • Flexible deployment: Where Power BI works only as a cloud service, Tableau can be deployed as an on-premise solution or via cloud services like Azure or AWS. 
  • Advanced customization: Though too complex for some (which we’ll get into in a moment), data analysts will appreciate the advanced customization options offered by Tableau. The platform has a substantial number of native connections and APIs for integrating new processes such as ETL functions, and overall works well for integration across different programming languages. 

The Cons

  • Cost: There’s no getting around it—Tableau comes with the cost you’d expect from industry-leading software. Although newer licensing options like Tableau Creator, Tableau Server, and Tableau Online help companies customize their licensing, you’ll invariably end up paying more for the service than you will with Power BI. 
  • Complexity: If you’re a less tech-savvy business user who’s primarily interested in report generation, Tableau may not be for you. It’s a feature-rich platform, but it’s not as user-friendly for those who live outside the world of data analytics, particularly when you start integrating new connections.

Choosing One

So, which analytics tool is the better buy for your business intelligence efforts?

If you’re a smaller business who’s just starting out with BI visualization, Microsoft Power BI might be more up your alley. It’s a competitively-priced platform that works well as an entry-level BI tool, and with the strength of Microsoft behind it, there’s an assurance of reliability and customer support. 

We’d recommend Power BI to business users who aren’t familiar with data analysis—the simple, user-friendly platform is a great starting point for determining the kind of analytics tool your business needs.

Conversely, Tableau is ideal for companies seeking power features. It works best with bigger data sets, and has higher integration capabilities. Unfortunately, what that entails is a steeper learning curve for those new to it. This costs money, time, and additional training resources that your business has to bear.

When weighing Microsoft Power BI vs. Tableau, keep in mind these fundamental points: If you’re just starting out with BI, Microsoft will give you a taste of what visualization platforms can do. If you’re seeking something more in-depth and your company can bear the cost, Tableau might be your preferred platform.

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