BI Options

The options for displaying data are vast and confusing. Following is a short(!) summary of some of the available options:


  • SSRS is great for displaying static reports, such as when users want the report to look a certain way each and every time the report is viewed
  • SSRS reports can be viewed in the browser or can be saved as PDF or Excel files and emailed to users
  • Since SSRS reports can be viewed in a browser, users can view them with no training other than telling them what link to click on
  • SSRS reports can be set to run the underlying queries on a set schedule so that slow queries can be run overnight
  • SSRS works by sending queries to database, allowing it to send a query to a large database and receive only the records that meet some criteria. This allows SSRS to present live data with no wait times for users, even when the underlying datasets are large.
  • SSRS can work in two modes:
    • SharePoint Integrated
      • Reports are stored in SharePoint libraries.
      • Permissions for reports are in-part handled by SharePoint.
    • Native Mode
      • In Native mode, SSRS provides a site where users can view reports
      • Permissions for reports are configured within the SSRS site
      • Native mode supports the following for authentication: Negotiate, Kerberos, NTLM, Basic
    • Reports can be surfaced in custom ASP.Net applications


  • Excel can use data from databases as the source of pivot tables and charts
  • Users who know how to use pivot tables can add/remove fields and otherwise rearrange the pivot table to meet their needs
  • Pivot Tables support “slicers”, which allow users to easily filter reports
  • Excel works by importing potentially large numbers of rows, and allowing users to filter/aggregate, etc. This is a nice capability for analysts, but this means that the data isn’t “live”. To get live data, the excel user must “refresh” the dataset, which can take a varying amount of time, depending on the amount of data.
  • Excel “reports” can be uploaded to a SharePoint library, and can be displayed on a SharePoint page via a web part
    • Excel “reports” that are uploaded to a SharePoint library can be refreshed with current data, but that feature requires the installation of additional components on SharePoint.
  • Quite of bit of Excel Documentation will mention “Power View”. However, Power View is based on Silverlight and is being phased out.

Power BI

  • The phrase “Power BI” has meant a few different things of the last couple years:
    • The set of BI tools that are available for Excel, including PowerPivot, Power Query, Power Maps, and Power View
    • A feature within Office 365 that allowed PowerBI Excel workbooks to be displayed and datasets within to be refreshed. This particular capability has been phased out, and has been replaced by
    • A cloud-based web site ( that allows users to create dashboards using data from cloud services as well as on-prem databases
    • As mentioned above, this supports building dashboards based on data from cloud sources or on-prem databases. There are a couple main ways of supporting this scecario:
      • Manual: a user creates an excel file with data from an on-prem source, uploads the file to, and then creates dashboards based on the data. Because there is no connection between and the on-prem data source, the free version of may be used.
      • Automated: A user installs and configures a “gateway”, and then builds a dashboard using data from the on-prem database. Once published to, the gateway allows to refresh the dataset on a configured schedule.




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