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Power BI Paginated Reports: Worth Using or Too Expensive?

by | Jul 16, 2020 | Articles

With the introduction of paginated reports, Power BI got its own feature similar to the SQL Server Reporting services. With the paginated reports, users can now print and share pixel perfect paginated reports. In this article, we take a closer look at the paginated reports and how best to use them.

When sharing finished reports, one solution is to turn a report into a PDF file and email to others. This solution works well, as it provides high-quality printing and easy access to consumers.

However, this method has drawbacks as well. The numbers are merely the snapshots of a moment and if not updated will quickly become old. The second problem is the lack of security, as nobody knows where the PDFs might end up when left unchecked.

In search of the perfect data presentation, Microsoft introduced paginated reports in Power BI. This will help users share information in real-time and in a clear way.

Brief history of reporting

A year ago, Power BI introduced paginated reports, which are essentially the SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

The name “paginated” is used because the reports can be nicely formatted, fit perfectly on a page, and produce multiple pages. Generally, analysts use paginated reporting when sharing pixel-perfect, printable reports for better reporting.

Previously, analysts sacrificed interactivity when using traditional reporting tools to produce pixel perfect reports. A SSRS report can pinpoint a problem, but not really help you decide on a course of action. The snapshot view of traditional reporting is not enough to fill the needs of complex, modern businesses.

When Tableau came along, it introduced a much-needed interactivity element. However, the software still relies on the flat-table backend. Essentially, Tableau is “just fundamentally another tool on top of SQL,” said Rob Collie from P3.

With the introduction of Power BI, Microsoft added the revolutionary next step – an interactive tool with the analytical model. The only missing part Power BI was missing were the paginated reports.

Using Power BI together with paginated reports

When using Power BI and paginated reports one gets a full-package integration. Users get highly interactive reports with the analytical model under the hood of Power BI. Plus, the ability to create pixel-perfect, paginated reports.

With the paginated reports, users can send not only PDFs, but export data to Excel. For example, previously users could not correctly export a matrix to Excel, as the output was a flat Excel file, which made no sense.

Another great option is the ability to export unlimited number of rows. Traditional Power BI reports have the limit of 150 000 rows. Third, Power BI paginated reports have row and column-level security applied, which provides extra convenience and safety.

The only big caveat when using the integrated environment is that one needs a Power BI Premium license. Some argue that USD $5,000 a month is a steep price to pay. The alternative is to use two different tools separately – Power BI Pro and an SSRS server. Depending on a number of user licenses, the second option might be cheaper, and it will give you the same capabilities, but separately.

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