Business Intelligence software comparison: Looker versus Power BI
Looker and Microsoft Power BI are two popular business intelligence software solutions. Each software has robust features so companies can make better decisions based on their data.
Here, we compare Looker and Power BI on several factors.
What is the difference between Looker and Power BI?
- While both software solutions are deployed in the cloud, Power BI is only available in the Microsoft Azure environment. Looker, on the other hand, can be deployed in multiple cloud environments (e.g., Azure, Google Cloud, AWS).
- Looker requires a custom price quote, but Power BI’s pricing is displayed on its website.
- Both vendors offer similar customer support features. However, Looker has built-in live chat, while Power BI doesn’t.
The following excerpts from our Looker and Power BI reviews summarize each software solution:
Google Cloud’s Looker Data Platform is a data-discovery platform that helps companies make better business decisions through real-time access to data. Data, no matter the size, can be analyzed within Looker’s 100% in-database and 100% browser-based platform. Looker analytics integrate with any SQL database or data warehouse, such as Amazon Athena, Greenplum and Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse.
The platform is accessible on any browser as well as on mobile devices – reports and data can be shared via email or URLs. Data can be integrated into different applications such as Google Docs, Excel, and even customer and third-party applications. It can also be manually exported in .csv or text files.
Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based business intelligence and analytics service that provides users with a full overview of your most critical data. Connecting to all of your data sources, Power BI simplifies data evaluation and sharing with scalable dashboards, interactive reports, embedded visuals and more.
There are several versions. Power BI Desktop is an on-premise solution that connects to a cloud-based service to easily upload and share data and information across the company. Power BI Mobile has the same capabilities, but in an app, so you can have a 360-degree view of your company anytime, anywhere.
Power BI has two additional versions with advanced features: Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. Power BI Pro allows users to share insights with collaborators. They can analyze data by using conversational language (the Q&A feature) and get insights from pre-built visualization and reporting templates. Users can share data in other Microsoft platforms like Teams or Dynamics 365. Power BI Premium allows an organization’s internal or external users (e.g., clients) to view Power BI reports without a license. It also empowers users to prepare and transform big datasets.
Looker connects with over 50 SQL-compliant databases (e.g., Google BigQuery, Amazon RedShift, Snowflake). Its proprietary LookML data modeling tool lets users develop custom data models. After connecting with a SQL database, Looker automatically creates a basic LookML model. Users can then build on that model by adding in their own code or by selecting from over 100 pre-built Looker Blocks, as well as customizing the model with unique metrics. The LookML model can be saved for future use, so users won’t need to write SQL queries each time. LookML can also perform any data transformations at the time of the query, so users won’t need to manually store the data elsewhere.
Power BI connects with over 100 cloud-based and on-premise data sources (e.g., Excel, Salesforce, Azure SQL database). It includes automated daily refreshes, so data stays up to date. Note that the amount of daily refreshes depends on the tier: Power BI Pro performs up to eight refreshes per day, while Power BI Premium refreshes data up to 48 times daily. Users can prepare their data with the Power Query tool. Power Query has prebuilt transformation functions (e.g., removing columns, filtering rows) that users can simply select from within the interface. If a user needs to add a new transformation function, Power Query automatically adds in an M code, so the user doesn’t need to write any new code.
Both software solutions connect with a variety of data sources. However, their data transformation features are different. Users won’t need to perform any data transformation within Looker as the software handles that automatically. But there’s minimal data transformation work that Power BI users will need to perform manually.
Data Visualizations and Dashboards
Looker has interactive visualizations and dashboards that let users drill down into the data at row-level detail. It includes a library of visualization templates in different formats (e.g., timelines, funnel, combined charts, treemaps), but users can build their own visualizations, too. It also includes a drag-and-drop functionality for users to explore and ask questions in their data. Users can also take action or complete a task directly in their data, such as sending an email or a Slack chat, with the Actions feature that has prebuilt integrations for third-party software systems.
Users can create visualizations using the drag-and-drop tool by choosing from many templates from Microsoft and third-party providers or by creating their own. They can create mobile-optimized reports by selecting the Phone Layout button, and then adjusting the chart or graph. The Power BI Pro tier lets users share the reports with their external or internal colleagues. Those colleagues can add comments to the visualization, as well as subscribe for updates or alerts.
Both software solutions have robust visualization and dashboard options, but Looker currently doesn’t offer the ability for other users to add their comments to the visualization, while Power BI does. We do want to note that due to its Actions features, Looker users can perform tasks in their data without logging onto their third-party system account, while Power BI doesn’t have this functionality.
Companies can offer their clients and employees the opportunity to analyze data within their existing third-party application. Developers can build their app with Looker’s native integrations and public APIs, and they can also collaborate using Git version-control and workflow features. Companies can grow their revenue streams by offering product tiers that feature customization, ad hoc analysis, data granularity and admin reporting functionalities.
Looker has a multi-cloud data platform, but Power BI can only be deployed in the Microsoft Azure environment.
Looker provides custom pricing that’s tailored to each organization based on deployment scale, number of users and other factors. Prospects will need to contact the vendor directly for a quote. Looker does offer discounts to nonprofits and schools.
Power BI Desktop is free to individual users. Here’s the pricing for Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium:
- Pro – The Pro version costs $9.99 per user, per month and includes a mobile app, the ability to publish and share reports, a 1 GB model size limit, eight data refreshes daily, the ability to connect to over 100 data sources, embedded APIs and controls, AI visuals, data security and encryption, metrics for content creation and publishing and up to 10 GB per user maximum storage. Pro is available for free for companies that have the Microsoft 365 E5 solution.
- Premium (per user) – The Premium per user plan costs $20 per user, per month. It includes all of the features of the Pro plan, plus paginated reports, a 100 GB model size limit, 48 data refreshes daily, advanced AI features, XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity, data flows, the ability to analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, application lifecycle management and up to 100 TB of maximum storage.
- Premium (per capacity) – This version starts at $4,995 per month, per dedicated cloud compute and storage resource. It includes all of the features of the Premium per user plan, plus on-premise reporting, a 400 GB model limit, multi-location deployment management, Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) and autoscale add-on.
Looker prefers to provide custom quotes to prospective clients, while Microsoft displays its pricing up front, which may be preferable to some customers.
Users can access Looker’s Help Center to:
- Browse articles
- Submit a support request
In addition, the Looker Community allows users to network with other users and receive troubleshooting tips, ideas and best practices.
Users can also email the support team or contact them via live chat directly from the Looker platform. Looker has the following response times based on severity (during normal business hours):
- Severity 1 (critical) – Up to one hour
- Severity 2 (urgent) – Up to four hours
- Severity 3 (tolerable) and Severity 4 (non-critical) – Up to one business day
Finally, Looker offers guided learning paths via its Looker Connect solution for users to grow their BI skills.
Microsoft offers several resources:
- In-depth documentation on tools and features
- Guided learning courses
- A community forum
- Samples of Power BI reports and dashboards
In addition, Power BI Pro users can submit a support ticket.
While both vendors provide customers with a help center and community forum, Looker has live in-app chat, and Power BI doesn’t offer this feature at all.
Author: Melissa Pardo-Bunte