Power BI Getting Started


Power BI (bee eye) is a powerful data analysis and visualization tool. All Geneseo users have access to Power BI pro and can use Power BI Desktop on Windows to create reports that they can publish to the web.


This is a collection of tips and getting started guides for people new to Power BI

Before You Start

  • Power BI Desktop is the tool you use to develop and create reports. It is only available for Windows.

  • Power BI Desktop reports can be published to the Web where they can be viewed in a browser, Microsoft Teams, or mobile. Published reports have multiple ways they can refresh their data.

  • Install Power BI from the Microsoft Store, this ensures your Power BI installation is always up to date.  (You may need to disconnect from the VPN to use the Microsoft Store - Microsoft Store & VPN bug)

  • Power BI allows you to securely share reports and the associated Data Models with any other Geneseo user.

  • Power BI can work on Millions of rows of data very easily (with a proper data model) and can even work against 100s of million row datasets.

Accessing Your Data

Power BI can access Data in 3 ways. Here is a nice video overview if you prefer.

  1. It imports it.
    This is default way Power BI likes to work with your data and the way you most often will work with data. Power BI supports over 300 data sources. 

  2. Direct Query. 
    In this method the data stays in the source system. You can query directly against a file or database or any of the other supported Power BI data source. This method can be slow unless the data source you are reporting against has been setup in a good data model for reporting. It also can require a gateway connection be setup by your administrators so the data can be accessed by reports running in the Power BI cloud service. You also will have trouble supporting calculated fields using DAX with this method.

  3. Composite Mode. This method mixes Direct Query and Import data modes. This allows more flexibility 

One of the easiest ways to get data into Power BI is to load it from a CSV or Excel file, you can even point it at a file on your OneDrive or Microsoft Team and it can update whenever you update the data in that file. Once you do that you will be able to manipulate it into a good data model and then you can begin reporting against it. If your file is in OneDrive or SharePoint it makes refreshing the data extremely easy.

Note that with the default Import option where Power BI is importing the data there are built in ways to have your data refresh on a schedule so a dashboard can be kept up to date with the latest data.

Star Schemas and Data Models

Star schemas are a well known way of laying out data for reporting purposes. Microsoft covers them well in their document on them. This video "The Perfect Data Model for Power BI - Creating a STAR SCHEMA from a Flat File / Excel Table source!" is an awesome overview of going from a single table flat file data import to a star schema and why you would want to go through the effort of doing so. Also check out Flat file to data modelData modeling best practices - Part 1 - in Power BI and Analysis Services and Where to create your columns in Power BI | Data Modeling Best Practices

It's important to put time into your data model, if you do your reports will become a lot easier!

Training Notes

Power BI Pro is limited to 1GB datasets per dashboard and a total of 10GB of data. Power BI is extremely efficient at compressing data so you can fit a lot of data within those limits.

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