The Top 7 Power BI Alternatives to Empower Your Non-Tech Teams
May 11, 2021
To effectively leverage your company’s data, your teams need to be able to quickly and easily access business analytics and insights to make better decisions. But internal data requests eat into your analysts or engineers’ time and cause bottlenecks. This, in turn, can hamper your team’s ability to do their jobs, predict trends, and react to changes.
The solution is a self-service business intelligence platform that everyone can use, regardless of their technical skill level. Microsoft’s Power BI is the go-to BI solution for many companies, but it’s not for everyone.
A steep learning curve and the need to work with clean data create more work for data teams, at least initially. And while it’s competitively priced, per-user subscriptions can get expensive quickly as teams grow. These considerations are important for any business, but especially startups and SMEs.
We analysed some of the best alternatives to Power BI to see how they stack up on ease-of-use, features, price, security and support.
7 Best Power BI alternatives
Here's our pick for the 7 best Power BI alternatives to empower your non-tech teams:
Power BI at a glance
Power BI is one of the leading business analytics platforms on the market. It is an on-premise business intelligence tool that enables self-service, enterprise-level analytics for data analysts and business users to ask ad hoc questions.
As a Microsoft product, Power BI uses the MS ecosystem, including Azure and Office 365, and a proprietary formula and query language called DAX. It comes in six packages: Desktop, Pro, Premium, Mobile, Embedded, and Report Server.
Power BI features:
- Self-service Power Query processes, transforms, integrates and enriches data for analysis.
- Natural language query tool enables questions in conversational language.
- Intuitive drag-and-drop interface and hundreds of data visualisations to build customisable, interactive reports and dashboards.
- Built-in connectors and APIs to on-premises and cloud data sources like spreadsheets, Salesforce and Google Analytics.
- Integrates with Office 365 and other business tools for cross-organisation sharing and collaboration.
- Embed reports and analytics in your blog or website.
- Power Apps and Power Automate enable workflow automation.
- Build machine learning models to get insights from structured and unstructured data, including text and images.
- End-to-end encryption, real-time access monitoring and configuration of roles and access permissions.
- Pro users can submit a ticket for free support.
Power BI limitations:
- Steep learning curve: engineers must learn DAX to provide setup and support for non-techs.
- With so many different products, it’s hard to know where to start and what to focus on.
- Designed for MS, so not Mac-friendly.
- Can be slow to handle large data sources.
- Unless recipients also have Pro, you need a Premium license to share outside your organisation.
Power BI pricing:
- Desktop is free for individual users.
- To collaborate and share, upgrade to Pro at $9.99 per user/month. Free 60-day trial.
- Premium costs $20 per user/month. Free 60-day trial.
- License your whole organisation from $4,995 per month.
- Competitively priced compared to other top-right quadrant providers like Tableau, so a good option for small companies and SMEs with a data team that can set it up.
- Widely used by software and ICT companies.
- Companies using the MS ecosystem.
7 Power BI alternatives and competitors
These Power BI alternatives also enable self-service data exploration, with varying degrees of user-friendliness and versatility. Many also compare well on price, support and security.
Trevor.io is an online Business Intelligence tool used mainly by businesses operating online platforms, including companies like One.org, Goodtime.io, Influencer.com, Scalapay.com, and hundreds more.
It stacks up well for versatility and ease of use against other self-service data analytics tools like Power BI, and is recognised for it's powerful query builder and excellent live support.
Trevor.io works out of the box and takes minutes to set up.
- Intuitive interface and powerful no-code Query Builder allows non-techies to ask even complex ad hoc questions. Also supports SQL for technical users.
- Easily perform joins and explore connected data in a few clicks. You can also automatically visualise your database schema with an interactive diagram that updates automatically.
- Filter data and create unlimited customised, interactive dashboards with multiple visualisations.
- Integrates with apps like Salesforce to automate workflows.
- Securely share dashboards with unlimited collaborators via email, URLs, Slack, and more.
- Stream data and have it automatically update to tools like Google Sheets and Excel.
- Connects directly to SQL databases or data warehouses. No need to model your data first.
- Encrypted, read-only connections. Trevor doesn’t write to or store a copy of your database.
- Live onboarding and training for all teams, and in-app customer support via live chat whenever it’s needed.
- Trevor.io offers a generous free plan (no credit card required).
- Once you exceed the limits of this plan, you are charged based on your usage, starting from $75 / mo.
- There is an enterprise plan, starting at $500 / mo, which includes priority support, full user audit-logs, a self-hosted options, SSO, and more.
- Easy setup and no learning curve make it ideal to empower non-tech users without in-house support.
- Going beyond standard query builders and dashboards to dig deep into data and uncover hidden insights.
- Suitable for any size company, but especially rapidly growing SaaS and marketplace startups.
- Less suitable for companies that want to use a standard set of dashboards, like ecommerce.
- Less suitable for those who want to connect directly to multiple data sources like Google Analytics or Facebook Ads without streaming to their database.
Holistics.io is a powerful, cloud-based alternative to Power BI. It enables data teams to define reusable models so business users can ask queries without SQL.
- Drag-and-drop interface. Get answers and build charts in a few clicks. Also supports SQL for advanced users.
- Custom filters allow you to slice and dice data.
- Embed custom dashboards in your mobile app to share insights with customers, partners or stakeholders.
- Export, schedule alerts and share reports and dashboards via Google Sheets, URL, PDF, email and Slack.
- Connects to your SQL database.
- Uses encrypted connections between servers and doesn’t store your data.
- Customer support (in Singapore) is via email ticket and takes 1-8 business hours depending on the severity of the issue.
- Entry - $120 per month for 10 users.
- Standard - $300 per month for 20 users. Includes PDF report delivery, map visualisations and metrics sheets.
- Professional - $600 per month with unlimited reports.
- Custom-priced Enterprise for non-standard requirements.
All plans come with a 14-day free trial.
Discounts are available for annual billing.
Standard plans limit the number of objects (things you create in Holistics) and embedded analytics. You can top up to add more.
- Designed with overworked data engineers in mind, so a good option to empower non-tech teams.
- Analysing data from retail, finance, gaming, advertising, hospitality, real estate, and logistics.
- More focused on analytics, so lacks the rich visualisation tools of some Power BI alternatives.
- A relative newcomer with many features still in development.
- You need to understand data modelling concepts to really master it.
- Doesn’t currently support building machine learning models.
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Cloud-based Looker is one of the leading Power BI competitors. It uses a proprietary SQL-based data modelling language called LookML. Following setup by the data team, business users can ask ad hoc queries and drill down with numerous filters.
- Real-time reports and customisable, interactive drag-and-drop dashboards.
- APIs for integration with custom or third-party applications.
- Schedule and share insights and updates internally and externally via email, links, Segment, Slack and more.
- Embed dashboards and explorable analytics in third-party websites, portals and applications.
- Integrates with a range of third-party apps to automate workflows.
- Connects to multiple cloud or on-premises databases.
- Single, secure database connection. Results are cached, with no long-term storage.
- Well-rated customer support via the platform for developers and admins.
- Customised by number of users and deployment, so rates vary widely. Online sources suggest $3,000-$5,000 per month for 10 users (annual subscription).
- Enterprise-wide deployment in companies with a data team that can leverage the full range of Looker’s functionality.
- Small companies and SMEs in varied industries, but particularly software.
- Steep learning curve, complex setup and need for in-house support for business users. Data analysts must learn LookML.
- Can be slow to load and render certain queries.
- Comparatively expensive.
Ubiq is a cloud-based Power BI alternative that enables self-service data exploration without coding or SQL.
- Drag-and-drop interface and up to 24 visualisations for customisable charts and dashboards.
- Analyse data from multiple tables and drill down with dynamic filters to slice and dice data in real-time.
- Supports SQL for advanced analytics.
- Export and share via email as PDF, CSV or image. Schedule daily or weekly updates.
- Online access from PC, Mac, mobile devices and tablets. No setup required; just sign up and get started.
- Connects to MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server databases, AWS, Azure and Redshift.
- Secure connection and read-only access. Data stays in your network and isn’t stored by Ubiq.
By number of users and dashboards. Starts at Individual ($29, one dashboard) through Very Large Team ($299, 20 users, 60 dashboards). Custom pricing is also available.
14-day free trial for all plans.
- Startups and SMEs with small teams that want data visualisation without installing BI software.
- Limited number of users and dashboards per plan, so less suitable for growing teams wanting to control costs.
- Training and customer support options are opaque, to say the least. Non-techs will need help to get up and running and make the most of it.
- Reports don’t auto-update so you need to refresh.
Data Studio is Google’s cloud-based alternative to Power BI. It’s part of the Google Marketing Platform and integrates with other GA360 tools.
Google Data Studio features:
- Ask ad hoc questions with the no-code, no-SQL Explorer.
- Create new dimensions and metrics with custom formulae. Combine functions to transform data into useful values.
- Intuitive, customisable report templates. Visualisations have comparison functions to track changes over time.
- Share reports via URL internally or externally and collaborate in real-time using Drive technology.
- Native connectors to Google Analytics, Ads, Google BigQuery, MySQL, PostgreSQL, YouTube and more. Hundreds of paid partner-developed connectors to other data sources like Facebook Ads.
- Support via the Help Centre or community.
Google Data Studio pricing:
Free for Google account holders.
- Tracking and reporting on website traffic and Ads, social media and digital marketing campaigns.
- Small companies and SMEs using the Google ecosystem and lacking a big budget to invest in a BI platform.
- Visualisations and complex analysis functions are limited compared to other BI tools.
- A bit of a learning curve, especially for advanced functionalities. Beginners may need in-house support.
- Doesn’t support Excel.
Metabase is one of many open-source Microsoft Power BI alternatives. It can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud for non-tech users to ask no-SQL queries.
- Add filters, joins, aggregations and variables with SQL or the Notebook Editor.
- A range of visuals and helpful suggestions to build auto-refreshing dashboards.
- Schedule and share reports via URLs in email or Slack.
- Embed analytics in your apps with Enterprise Edition.
- Connects to a range of SQL and NoSQL databases.
- Priority support for Enterprise customers. Otherwise, 3-day-response email support for other Cloud packages or the community if self-hosting.
- Self-hosted Open-Source is free, with 20+ databases, unlimited charts and dashboards but no automatic feature upgrades or backups.
- Cloud Starter costs $85 per month for 5 users ($5 per additional user). Free 14-day trial.
- Cloud Growth costs $749 a month for 10 users ( $15 per month per additional user). Free 14-day trial.
- Enterprise starts at $15 k/year (cloud or self-hosted). Free 30-day trial.
- Advanced and semi-technical users capable of making use of the query builder options which require knowledge of SQL.
- With an open-source platform you run on your own infrastructure, unless you pay for a pricey support contract, you’re on your own if things don’t work as expected.
- The query builder is basic compared to other tools like Power BI. There’s a limit to the number of questions you can ask and you need some SQL knowledge and technical skill to make the most of it.
- Not the first choice for advanced statistical modelling, machine learning or AI.
- URL recipients must also be running Metabase and have an account to access shared reports.
Apache Superset is a cloud-native, open-source Power BI alternative. It started life at Airbnb in 2015 and exited the Apache incubator program in 2021.
- Lightweight semantic layer allows data analysts to define custom dimensions and metrics.
- Simple, no-code viz builder allows business users to integrate and explore data and create charts and dashboards. For power users, there’s the SQL Lab.
- Comes with a range of visualisations and a plug-in option to create your own.
- Connects to most SQL databases through SQL Alchemy.
- Deployed on your server, so your data doesn’t leave your premises.
- Support is available from the community.
- As Superset started out at Airbnb, it’s ideal for large environments with hundreds of active users.
- No subscriptions or provider lock-ins means you can trial it as long as you like.
- Requires SQL to make the most of it, so there’s a learning curve.
- Open-source and no customer support means non-tech users need in-house setup and troubleshooting.
1. Is Power BI free?
Power BI Desktop is free for individual users. To collaborate and share, you’ll need to upgrade to Pro ($9.99 per user/month).
2. What’s the best alternative to Power BI?
Trevor.io is the best alternative to Power BI to empower non-tech users to answer ad hoc questions from your database without help from your engineer. Versatility, ease of use and unlimited users make it a good fit for fast-growing companies, particularly SaaS and marketplace.
If you have the time and budget to invest in a BI solution that’s managed by your data team or need one that connects to multiple sources, Looker is a great choice.
3. How to choose the right Power BI alternative for your company.
Choosing the right Power BI alternative for your company involves finding a solution that delivers understandable, actionable insights and fits the skill level of your end-users. Shop around and use free trials for non-techs and data teams to try out different options.
Think about the following:
- Who’s going to use it and how? How tech-savvy are your users and what are their roles? How complex are the questions they need to ask? Which features will provide the answers?
- Data sources. Are you connecting to your company database/data warehouse or multiple online sources?
- Accessibility. Which features will enable you to collaborate and share insights? And which channels do you need to use?
- Budget. Is it worth licensing your whole organisation, or will you be better off with a per-user model? If opting for per user, you’ll need to think about who to give access to.