Power BI can be used in a variety of different ways. Therefore, you do not need to master all of the Power BI techniques to use Power BI in the way that best fits your circumstances. This section discusses the four key ways in which you can use Power BI as part of a business intelligence solution, as well as notes which chapters you can use to learn how to use Power BI in these four distinct ways.

Power BI Connection Types

Power BI – for Reports’ consumers

For those of you looking to work with Power BI only as consumers, suggesting that others will generate Power BI reports for you to use, what you need to know is how to find these reports and how to communicate with them in order to get the answers you need.

Power BI – for Data Visualizations

In certain organizations, others can collect data from data sources and create one or more data models for you. In these cases, you simply need to link to an existing data model and start making maps, tables, gauges, and so on. Power BI only acts as a data visualization tool.

There are two ways that Power BI can only be used as a visualization method. The first is in business intelligence environments where one or more tabular data models are hosted by the Microsoft SQL Server Research Services server. The second is in an environment where one or more Power BI data models have been released for your use by the Power BI Service.

In both cases, a function called “Live Connection” is used to communicate with the current data model (see Figure above). There are no data stored in your Power BI file. The data is queried from the data model any time a visualization is required, so the name Live Connection.

Power BI – for Data Modelling

In certain cases, we do not want to store data within Power BI, but we do want to use Power BI to construct our data model. This is valid in cases where our research has to be performed in real time. We can’t add any delay that could come from collecting and storing data in Power BI. For real time, we use a function called “Direct Query” (see Figure above).

Similar to Live Connection, Direct Query performs queries against the source data any time a visualization needs to be made. In comparison to Live Connection, Direct Query works with SQL Server relational databases and some other associated data storage platforms. Since these relational data sources do not have the ability to define a data model, we define the data model within Power BI with Direct Query.

Power BI – as Data Warehouse/Mart

The remaining scenario uses all the materials in the Power BI toolbox. In this case, we use the Query Editor to make connections to the source data and to import the data to be stored in Power BI. This form of connection is known as a “Import” connection (refer to Figure above). Given that all of the Power BI resources are used here to capture, store, model, and visualize data, it should come as no surprise that those who want to use Power BI this way, should learn how to use Power BI completely.

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