Free Business Intelligence Software

Free business intelligence software sounds like the best of all worlds. Technology to get your business the data it needs, and a price that works: $0. In reality though, there are some definite things to consider when going down this route.  For our purposes, we are examining proprietary software packages here, as open source is a little bit of a different game.

If you are a shop that is used to open IT systems and implementations this can be a good way to go. All of the obvious advantages apply here, with developer communities and the ability to do customizations. Of course you need someone knowledgeable on your staff to work with the tools. Official support is often limited or non existent.

Recently, other mainstream BI vendors have added no-cost versions to their lineups. While these products are free, they definitely come with caveats the differentiate them from their paid offerings. For this list, we haven't considered trial versions with expiration dates as those are more for evaluation and validation purposes.

Here’s a few of the options:

As a part of the SQL 2016 Express download, Microsoft also includes SSRS as a report writing tool.  While the database has certain performance and sizing limitations, for basic reporting it can be a good option as an alternative to things like Crystal Reports.  Also, while Excel is paid software, the Power Pivot add-in is free in Excel 2010, 2013, and 2016.  The developer version of SQL 2016 is also no charge now, but is not intended for production use and requires an account with Microsoft.

Power BI is also a free offering, although enterprise features such as sync with AD are a paid feature.  Power Query is a free add-on for Excel users as is Power Pivot if you have the right tier of Office 365.

Zoho has a free reporting tool as part of its online Zoho Reports tool. They have multiple tiered paid versions and are an interesting cloud based model for a small or midsized organizations. Their free version is not widely advertised but would also be an option for a personal user. You get 2 free users but only 10000 rows of data in the free tier though.

Qlikview is available in a Personal edition that can be downloaded direct from their website. While it is free, users are limited to developing and reviewing their own work only. Datasources are also limited to Excel and a generic ODBC connection.  Still, its a good way to Sharing files is only possible with the paid server versions.  The new Qlik Sense is also available in a gratis personal version as well. Expressor is a free download as well for personal use.

Tableau has a Public version with an upload area for creating a visualization based on data. As the name suggests, the resulting graphs are then publicly available, so be careful with sensitive data, although authors can now prevent downloads.  You're also limited to certain basic spreadsheet and csv sources, as well as a 10GB upload limit, which was an increase in 2015.

Inetsoft has its Visualize Free Edition and Style Scope Agile, which is more of a dashboarding tool than business intelligence, but still may be an option.

JoliCharts is a charting tool that offers unlimited charts and up to 5 sources per dashboard, but just 50MB of data overall.  Plotly is another similar tool with a free personal edition.

Datahero is another cloud based BI solution and has a limited free package plan available.  Clicdata is also a similar competitor.

Cognos has a personal edition of Insight, although like Tableau you are limited to csv and spreadsheet versions.  As of 2016, it was hard to understand the exact license.  Watson Analytics is also available as a freemium model.

SAP Lumira is a complementary download for personal analysis, similar to Insight and the Analytics desktop.  

Microstrategy just relaunched their Desktop software in 2016 as no cost.  It was previously released in 2013 and then moved to a paid version for a period over several years.

For the cloud lovers, Google Data Studio is available with a free version limited to 5 dashboards.

Domo also has an introductory version at no cost with limited functionality.

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