I have been working with Power BI recently and wanted to share a big lesson learned regarding the Pro license vs the Free license. Our Office365 license grants everyone access to the free license and for most users that will be sufficient. However, if you need the ability to link Power BI directly to a database you may need a Pro license.
Microsoft provides connectors to several types of databases and depending on your specific needs there are several options available for connectivity. In all of these scenarios I'm assuming that you have a database that you want to prepare reports and dashboards.
Scenario 1 - Your reports and dashboards do not need to be updated on a regular basis. In this case you do not need a Pro license. You can setup Power BI desktop on your computer with the appropriate connector and publish your reports and dashboards to the Power BI service.
Scenario 2 - Your reports and dashboards need to be updated on a regular basis, but not dynamically. As an example, you want to have your reports updated on a monthly basis and it isn't a problem for you to login to the Power BI application or service to update the data. This does not require a Pro license, either. There are two options in this scenario, you can launch the Power BI desktop application, update the data, and then publish the updated reports. You can also use the Data Gateway software to update the data via the Power BI service.
Scenario 3 - Your reports rely on dynamic data and should be updated automatically on a schedule. This is when we get into needing a Pro license. In conjunction with the Data Gateway software you can create a schedule to update your datasource. Unfortunately, anyone that you want to view reports that are based on a dataset like this will also need Pro licenses. That means that if you have a team that needs access to the dashboard and reports, every team member will need a Pro license.
I hope these examples help clarify whether or not you need to purchase Pro licenses for Power BI. With our education discount they are not terribly expensive but it is a cost that will need to be considered if they may be required for your project.
1. I'll write more about the Data Gateway in another post