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5 Alternatives to Looker Customer-Hosted to Customise your Business Intelligence

Written by

James Watney

Posted on

January 31, 2022

When your company makes data-driven decisions on a daily basis, your data analysts spend a lot of valuable time answering reporting requests. 

If you’re looking for a customer-hosted Looker alternative, then you know that leveraging data insights is an effective way of improving your company’s financial performance. But it’s got to be fast, scalable, and secure. That’s where self-service business intelligence software comes in.

At least 46% of businesses report that BI software is integral to their business strategy, according to Finances Online. That’s because deploying a powerful business intelligence platform with data visualisation functionality makes interpreting data more intuitive and efficient. It empowers even non-technical colleagues to access crucial insights and frees up your engineers to focus on critical tasks.

But how do you choose the best on-premise BI tool to easily embed within your existing infrastructure? This guide will investigate 5 alternatives to Looker customer-hosted to help you choose the best on-premise data analytics platform for your business. 

Related article: Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboards: Everything You Need to Know

Table of Contents


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Cloud vs. on-premise business intelligence

Since you’re looking for customer-hosted alternatives to Looker, you might already be confident that on-premise BI is the right solution for your business. 

But making the wrong choice between cloud-based vs. on-premise business intelligence could have major implications. If you’re still in any doubt about whether on-premise BI is right for you, here are some key considerations:

  • Speed. Companies with large data management expectations usually prefer on-premise BI tools, since it’s much faster than transferring data to and from the cloud. However, a cloud solution can offer quick data transfer if you use a tool like Trevor.io, which doesn’t copy your data.
  • Security. Data security is a big challenge for companies using BI software. If you’re from an industry with strict data regulations, on-premise BI could be a compliance requirement and will give you greater control over your security protocols.
  • Price. On the face of it, cloud-based BI is cheaper. But again, this isn’t the best option if you’ll be dealing with a lot of data. Often, self-service BI will charge extra for larger data transfers or multiple databases.

Ultimately it comes down to the level of security you need and the infrastructure you already have in place:

If you’re a startup without massive datasets or a flexible budget, you might prefer to try cloud-based Looker alternatives. Just be sure you know how the costs will add up as your business grows.

If your company has strict data regulations and a big existing database, you’ll want to consider a customer-hosted solution. Compare our top 5 alternatives to Looker customer-hosted below.

Looker customer-hosted

An example of a Looker dashboard for ecommerce including an interactive map.
Looker e-commerce dashboard. Image source: https://looker.com/solutions/ecommerce

Looker’s browser-based tool provides simple visualisations of custom data queries. Owned by Google, Looker supports seamless integration with Google BigQuery and is a big operator when it comes to customer-hosted business intelligence.

Main features and benefits 

Being browser-based makes Looker a popular solution for collaborative teams that want real-time access to reports on a variety of topics. 

There’s no need to download or maintain desktop software and Looker users will enjoy the simplicity of link-based report sharing. Looker’s unique modelling layer, LookML, allows teams to pre-define dimensions and metrics in an SQL database. 

Looker also offers:

  • Drag-and-drop dashboards
  • Integration with third-party applications using APIs
  • Exportable reports and visualisations

Pricing and offers 

Looker doesn’t have a free trial or tiered pricing plans like most software solutions. Instead, you’ll need to request a quote that is customised to your use case.

Best for 

One of the pricier customer-hosted tools, Looker is best suited to larger companies with budget to spare. Companies that already have a developed IT team will be able to make the most of its powerful analytics capabilities, but non-technical colleagues won’t feel as comfortable using it without extensive training.

Main drawbacks 

  • Cost. Steep pricing is one of the major causes of churn for potential Looker users.
  • Accessibility. The UI is difficult to understand so Looker isn’t the best choice for non-technical teams.
  • Simplicity. Looker’s simple system makes it inflexible and, compared to other BI platforms, its visualisations are limited.

1. Trevor.io Self-Hosted

A colourful dashboard on Trevor.io Self Hosted
Source: Trevor

Trevor.io is a user-friendly data query and reporting tool that allows users to segment data using customisable dashboard filters. It’s known for being incredibly easy to deploy and ready to use in minutes.

Main features and benefits 

Trevor.io never stores a copy of your database and SQL/results are transmitted using SSL security. And the self-hosted option can be run on your servers, behind your firewall.

It’s easy to use, even for non-technical users, with beautiful visualizations and versatile dashboards. You can also set up automatic workflows, including live data updates in Google Sheets and important data alerts received via Slack. 

Trevor.io includes:

  • Customisable data-drill down
  • Transparent pricing plans with options to suit most businesses 
  • Super-fast support and free training

Pricing and offers 

Trevor.io comes with a 14-day free trial and 75% off for your first 3 months. 

The self-hosted plan comes with custom pricing to suit your business needs, and always includes unlimited users, unlimited dashboards and unlimited database size.

Best for 

Any company with data queries can use Trevor.io on-premise or to cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure. Trevor.io Self-Hosted is well suited to companies with data security needs looking for easy set-up and implementation. SaaS and marketplace startups will be especially at home here.

2. Apache Superset

An example dashboard showing bar charts on Apache Superset
Apache Superset dashboard. Image source: https://superset.apache.org/docs/creating-charts-dashboards/

Apache Superset is an open-source, lightweight data exploration platform used by the likes of Airbnb and American Express. Like Looker, Apache Superset is a strong BI solution that offers a code-free interface for building SQL queries.

Main features and benefits

Apache Superset’s high granularity security model is worth noting, plus it integrates with authentication providers like OpenID for ultra customisable access permissions. Its code-free model is popular with teams that want fast answers without writing SQL. 

Apache Superset also offers:

  • API integration for varied chart creation
  • Support for any SQL database using SQLAlchemy
  • Both application and web-based versions

Pricing and offers 

Free.

Best for 

Apache Superset is good for companies with a small software budget (but an experienced in-house data team). The software is free to download, but if you don’t have team members with SQL experience, you'll find setting up difficult and your usage will be limited to pre-built dashboards. Businesses with existing internal data teams will enjoy quick deployment and a wide variety of visualisation charts.

Main drawbacks  

  • Inconvenient table queries. You can’t query multiple tables at one time using the Data Exploration layer. The extra step of joining tables before creating a visualisation may feel inconvenient for some business users.
  • Limited to SQL data sources. Although Apache Superset does support some NoSQL databases, like Druid, its focus is mostly on SQL data sources.
  • Accessibility. Non-technical colleagues will only really be able to use the pre-built dashboards, so data analyst support is a must.

Related post: 8 Alternatives to Superset That’ll Empower Start-ups and Small Businesses with BI

3. Tableau Server

A Tableau Server dashboard with blue and orange line graphs
Tableau Server dashboard. Image source: https://www.tableau.com/products/server

Tableau Server is one of the most scalable BI solutions on the market, offering connectivity with hundreds of data sources including flat files, big data, cloud sources, databases and data warehouses.

Main features and benefits 

A unique feature of Tableau Server is that it uses a natural language query builder. This means that you won’t be limited to pre-defined queries but can build queries using more conversational language. Tableau Server is your on-premise option, but Tableau can also  be used in the cloud via integration with Amazon Web Services, Azure or Google Cloud.

Tableau Server also offers:

  • An intuitive drag-and-drop interface
  • Integration with a range of third-party tools
  • Interactive maps created from geographic data

Pricing and offers 

Tableau Server comes with a 14-day free trial. To use Tableau Server (rather than an entirely cloud-based version of Tableau) you’ll need the Tableau Creator license which starts at $70 per user/month with optional add-ons. You can also purchase Tableau Viewer licenses at $12 per month for colleagues who only need minimal access.

Best for 

Tableau Server is a strong option for medium to large-sized companies with an interest in creating attractive presentations, and highly interactive workbooks. Once again, this self-hosted BI solution is best suited to companies with strong existing IT teams.

Main drawbacks  

  • Support. The customer support options are very limited, especially when compared to most Tableau Server alternatives. If you have an issue with Tableau Server, you’ll need to track down an elusive website form to submit a query, and response times can take up to one week.
  • Cost. Like Looker, Tableau Server is one of the more expensive BI tools out there, with increasing prices the more users you have.
  • Steep learning curve. Even your data engineers will need some time to familiarise themselves with Tableau’s complex connection interface, and non-technical colleagues will need significant support.

4. Power BI Report Server

Power BI dashboard. Image source: https://docs.microsoft.com/fr-fr/power-bi/create-reports/service-dashboards

Part of the Microsoft Power Platform, Power BI uses the MS ecosystem to deliver enterprise-level analytics. Power BI Report Server is the self-hosted version, which allows companies to apply their own governance.

Main features and benefits 

Power BI Report Server is cloud-ready, meaning you have the flexibility to move from on-premise to cloud-based BI without causing major disruption for the end-user. Integration with Office 365 and Power apps like Power Automate means users can collaborate on reports and set up automated workflows.

Power BI Report Server also includes:

  • Per-user pricing for scalability
  • Machine learning data models for analysing structured and unstructured data
  • Embeddable reports for websites, apps and blogs

Pricing and offers 

Report Server is included in the Power BI Premium package which can be billed per user, at $20 per month, or per capacity at $4,995 per month. There’s no free trial available for Power Bi Premium. 

Best for

Power BI Report Server is best for large scale companies, or SMEs with an established data team. Companies that are already committed to Microsoft products and have Excel literacy will benefit the most from this BI platform.

Main drawbacks

  • Limited to MS. You’ll only be able to use Power BI products if you already have Microsoft apps like Excel. And since it’s designed for MS products, you may find it difficult to use on Mac. Dedicated Apple users should consider Power BI alternatives.
  • Steep learning curve. Power BI Report Server uses DAX for its programming language, so if your data engineers aren’t familiar with it they’ll have a steep learning curve.
  • Isolated features. It works in isolation from other Power BI apps so you’ll have limited use of features like data alerts.

5. OWOX BI

OWOX BI dashboard with red and green charts.
OWOX BI dashboard. Image source: https://www.owox.com/blog/articles/marketing-reports/

OWOXI BI is an all-in-one marketing analytics software that automatically imports unlimited cost data from your website, offline shop, and advertising sources into Google BigQuery and Google Analytics. 

Main features and benefits

OWOX BI delivers combined datasets in a manageable format to support your marketing team with data-driven decision-making. You can easily build queries by inputting the desired metrics, dimensions, and time frame, without knowing SQL or adhering to the platform’s default wording. 

OWOX BI can:

  • Monitor and normalize raw data 24/7
  • Integrate with other visualisation tools like Data Studio and Looker
  • Create charts and tables and export reports as csv. or .xls files

Pricing and offers

Users can test OWOX BI out with a free plan for one cost data pipeline from an ad service to Google Analytics.

For full use of their business intelligence reporting features, you’ll need the top tier Marketing Reports and Attribution plan starting from $970 per month. 

The Marketing Data Plan starts from $42 per month and will be suitable for businesses that just want to collect cost data.

Best for 

OWOX BI is a great marketing tool for e-commerce companies. It’s best used by skilled marketing teams who need data from various channels to be automatically aggregated and cleaned without wasting time on manual uploads. 

Main drawbacks

  • Cost. You’ll need to pay more per data source, so costs add up.
  • Limited visualisation. Since OWOX BI relies on integrations with other visualisation tools like Looker, you may need another subscription to achieve the best dashboards.
  • Requires expertise. Your marketing team will need support from data analysts to make the most of the platform, as it’s tricky to build the data architecture.

Related article: 7 OWOX BI Alternatives To Empower your Marketing Teams with Data

What to look out for when choosing a self-hosted business intelligence solution

Knowing how to choose an on-premise business intelligence tool can be tough, as there are lots of powerful options out there. Each one has a different speciality, so you’ll need to choose based on your specific business needs. When researching BI solutions, look out for:

  • Dashboards. Customisable dashboards will make data easier to interpret, especially for non-tech teams.
  • Workflows. Automated workflows that are compatible with your existing infrastructure will save you time and make your processes more efficient.
  • Permissions. If you have to follow strict data regulations, make sure your BI software is security-focused and has customisable access permissions.
  • Price. Watch out for extra costs that come with implementation, training and support, especially if you want non-tech business users to have access.

Which alternative to Looker customer-hosted is best for your business?

Customisable business intelligence software will free up time for your data analysts and make reporting more efficient. But choosing a customer-hosted platform that can connect seamlessly with your existing data infrastructure is crucial.

Looker is a strong data analytics tool, but if you’re researching customer-hosted alternatives, you’ve probably already decided that this Google-owned platform is too expensive or inflexible for your needs.

Luckily, the top on-premise business intelligence tools come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll be sure to find one that can be embedded seamlessly with your database.

Trevor.io is a great choice if you want self-hosted business intelligence that can be rapidly deployed to run behind your firewall

With Trevor.io Self Hosted, you can:

  • Build unlimited dashboards
  • Customize your charts
  • Explore a visual, interactive diagram of your database
  • Embed dashboards and share via URLs
  • Live stream data to Google Sheets 
  • Automate email updates and Slack alerts
  • Set chart-level permissions to control access

Want to see if Trevor.io would work for your team? Try it free for 2 weeks!

Frequently asked questions about Looker

Can you self-host Looker?

Yes, you can self-host Looker. Looker customer-hosted connects to pre-existing on-premise databases and offers the support of Google Cloud.

Can Looker be deployed on-premise?

Yes, Looker can be deployed on-premise. Looker connects data across on-premise databases as well as cloud-hosted, using integrations with Google Cloud, Azure and AWS.

Is Looker better than Tableau?

Looker is better than Tableau if you want an entirely browser-based experience and have the SQL skill to perform more complex data analysis. However, both platforms have steep learning curves and costly subscriptions. Looker may be the pricier option upfront, but growing businesses will find that costs stack up with Tableau.

Is Looker expensive?

Yes, Looker users do find the platform expensive and the price is a primary factor in customer churn. Pricing varies depending on the amount of data you’ll be handling and the size of your company, so Looker is better suited to those with budget to spare.