Power BI desktop or online?

When you are creating Power BI reports. Do you develop them online or in desktop mode? If you are doing pure self service BI for quick prototyping, it doesn't matter all that much. However, if you use live connections, you may want to use Desktop since you can easily switch between test and production servers.

If you are not very thrilled at the idea of your data being in the cloud (read, your data is going places) then you could make the decision to keep your data on premise with the Enterprise Gateway Data gateway (please stop renaming things all the time Microsoft?). This means your live database is on premise, but Power BI can "ask" that database the answers to fill your report. But what if I change my database? If my database changes, maybe my reports won't work anymore since Power BI relies on the datamodel being the same all the time. Most cubes and databases are developed with a development and a test server before the changes go to the production server. We would like to see if my reports still work when the changes for the database get rolled out to production.

Here is where Power BI desktop comes in handy; you can easily switch between servers and run the report on your database in test environment and adjust your report accordingly before you deploy your database and Power BI report simultaniously without your report users noticing any hiccup.

Consider the alternative: the database changes and all your Power BI reports stop showing up because a few fields were renamed or the underlying dimesions of your cube got renamed. You don't want to see your report go offline first and you having to fix it later.

But what if my report users modify the report online? My desktop and online versions will be out of sync?!

Yes, this used to be a big problem untill last week. You will be able to download your reports back to a PBIX-file if you created them with the latest version of Desktop.


Principal BI consultant at Rubicon

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  1. Yes, the PBIX download file is a good feature. Talking about the data modeling for PowerBI, in the past I used to create my initial model in Excel and got it exported to a desktop Power BI file.

  2. Do you know if there are any restrictions to downloading reports with regard to shared reports?

    • Jesse Gorter

      that's not an issue, you can download shared reports just the same if you are both in the same group. If you consume a content pack: i'm not quite sure.

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