This article has the goal of helping people to comprehend the differences between the two softwares: Power BI and Google Data Studio.
Power BI is a very common tool in data analysis world, yet many data analysts ask me about the GDS possibilities and features. The Google’s tool is not very widespread as other data visualization softwares, but it is very easy to use and learn.
Power BI is a Microsoft software for Business Intelligence and Analysis launched in June 2015. Google Data Studio, also known as GDS, is a software by Google launched officially in September 2018.
Both have the same objective: offer a software with simple interface and interactive features for end-users to create reports and dashboards working with data.
They have the same objective but not the same audience!
Prices and Plans
The Microsoft’s software has three versions: Free, Pro and Premium. The three versions are client based for working with your data and Pro and Premium are based on client and cloud services. You can check the full comparison here: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/#powerbi-comparison-table.
Basically on the free version you can build your reports and dashboards but sharing it easily on cloud services will be an issue. That version would be recommended for students and people learning Power BI.
The second version: Pro, solves the sharing issue. Its pricing is per user account and it is important to say that if you have a Pro account, other people you’ll share with must have it too to access the reports and dashboards, unless you host it on a Sharepoint Site, for example. The main difference between Free and Pro is the capability to share in a self-service cloud ambience managed by Microsoft.
The third version: Premium, is the most complete of all and has many advanced features for a full professional BI. It starts by allowing the Power BI’s user to create a local infrastructure for a dedicated server to host all reports and dashboards with more admin options and Machine Learning features. A few other features are increased, such as: storage, daily data refresh and bigger individual datasets.
For the Google Data Studio, we have only one version: Free! To start using GDS, you must only create a Google account if you don’t have one yet. All features, connections and integrations are included for all.
Connections and Integrations
Both tools have a great variety of connections to work with: databases, spreadsheets, text files (xml, json, pdf, etc), web, etc.
As we speak of two tools from different gigantic companies, of course we’d expected a few limitations when connecting one to another’s services. I mean that because from Power BI we can expect more connections and ease of connection to all Microsoft’s softwares and services: SQL Server, Azure, Sharepoint, Outlook, OneDrive and others.
The opposite is true, for GDS it is a lot easier to connect to Google Analytics, Google ADs, YouTube, Google Drive, BigQuery and other Google’s services.
In my opinion, the main advantage goes to GDS because of a session called “Partner Connectors”. This is like a marketplace for connections that third-part people and companies create and make available in GDS. A simple example: if your company uses Pipedrive as CRM, the GDS does not have a native connection with Pipedrive’s data, but in “Partners Connectors” you can find others that have created this connection and you can buy it, or simply use it, if it is free.
Ease of Use
When we speak about softwares, most users expect a clean and simple UI, ease of use and often updates. In my experience I can say that, considering their objectives, both Power BI and Data Studio are ease of use, however with reservations.
Power BI has a lot more features, options and customizations and it is very powerful to work and show data, but it does not make it harder to use, I’d say it takes more time to learn.
As you start using Power BI, you’ll notice that you must know ETL processes to work with PowerQuery and M language, then you’ll have to understand data modeling in PowerPivot, DAX language for measures and metrics and, obviously, data visualization. As in a BI project, you’ll spend more time working on your data than creating beautiful and colorful visuals.
On the other hand, Google Data Studio was created to be simpler, not only for data analysts but to everyone that seeks to show their data. Basically you need to connect to your data origin, study it and start creating. There is no ETL process, no languages and no modeling. If your dataset is prepared, you’re good to go!
If you are new to data analysis, I’d recommend that you start using GDS to learn more about visualizations and possibilities with data, then you’ll understand Power BI better to know what you’re looking for.
Both tools have mobile responsive possibilities. By possibilities I mean that not always it’ll be native or intuitive.
Power BI has a specific feature of data visualization for mobile responsive reports. It is intuitive and very easy to show data for mobile, allowing more creativity and mobility for your audience.
GDS works fine for mobile, but building it may not be very intuitive. As this article is written, it does not have a native and easy way to create mobile responsive reports. Still, it can be done! You’ll need to adapt manually your report for a canvas size that fits most mobiles and change the display mode to “fit to width”. One alert: as it is not a native feature, it may cause bugs on a few devices.
For none of the softwares sharing would be a problem.
Power BI has many options for sharing and hosting its reports and dashboards. You can create a shareable link or send it by e-mail, host it on a Sharepoint Site, host it to a website, export to PowerPoint or even print it. Its important to remember that you’ll need at least Pro version to share it easily.
Although with less options to share, Data Studio is as easy as sharing other files from Google. You have two options: add your audience to a share list and they’ll receive its link or send them a shared link.
One last comparison: the amount of web content available for each tool. In this aspect, Power BI is the winner. It is much easier to find and there are plenty of content to learn how to use the Microsoft’s software.
This is a very difficult measure to compare, but in my experience, Power BI has a bigger community sharing content on web. But don’t get me wrong, you’ll be able to find a lot of content for GDS as well. Also I can notice that GDS community is growing and more content is being generated.
One thought about what might influence the amount of content: Power BI is older than and Microsoft have had a huge community around their softwares for decades. In contrast, GDS is newer and as it is a lot easier to build stuff, people might have less doubts and difficulty on use.
For both you can find a lot of content in YouTube, Udemy, LinkedIn Articles, LinkedIn Groups, Medium, Google Search (of course), official pages for each tool and many other pages.
One last thought
Both softwares are great and focused on two different audiences. During my experience, I’ve first used GDS and it helped me a lot to understand how to work with data visualization and later to imagine what I could do working on Power BI.
Until these days, I usually work with GDS whenever I have to create reports for marketing area and all data is host in Google services or if there is a connection on Partners Connectors.
Whenever I have to consume data from Microsoft’s services or third-part softwares, I’d rather use Power BI because all customization power I have in PowerQuery, PowerPivot and Dax.
My last recommendation is to learn both of them know their possibilities to make the best choice when you have to communicate with your data!