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Which is better: data query in Power BI via import or DirectQuery?

Power BI offers various options for integrating data into reports and dashboards. Two of the most important methods are importing data and the DirectQuery method. Both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages and are suitable in different ways depending on the use case. In this article, we will explain the two methods in detail, highlight their differences and provide practical application examples.

Importing data into Power BI

Importing data into Power BI

When importing data, the data is loaded into the Power BI model and saved there. This method has several Advantages:

  • PerformanceSince the data is stored locally in the Power BI model, the queries and visualisations are generally faster because no constant queries have to be made to the data source.
  • FunctionalityWith imported data, all DAX functions (Data Analysis Expressions) are available, which enables extensive data manipulation and calculations.
  • Offline-Availability: The data is available even if the connection to the original data source is interrupted.

Disadvantages:

  • Data updateThe data must be updated regularly to ensure that it is up to date. This can be time-consuming depending on the amount of data and update frequency.
  • Memory limitationsImporting large amounts of data can lead to storage problems, especially in the free or Pro version of Power BI, which have limitations in terms of data storage.

Example of the use of Import:

A company that creates daily sales reports and analyses this data intensively could use the import method. By importing the data, the company can perform complex calculations and ensure fast response times for its reports.

DirectQuery in Power BI

DirectQuery enables Power BI to access the data source directly without loading the data into the Power BI model. Each query is sent to the data source in real time. This also has some Advantages:

  • ActualitySince the data is retrieved in real time, the reports are always up to date.
  • Data volumeDirectQuery is suitable for very large amounts of data that would exceed the memory limitations of Power BI.
  • SecurityAs the data is not stored in Power BI, data security and management remains entirely in the data source.

Disadvantages:

  • PerformanceEach query is sent to the data source, which can slow down response times, especially if the data source or network connection is slow.
  • Limited functionalitySome DAX functions and features are not available in DirectQuery mode, which can limit the flexibility of data manipulation.
  • Dependence on the data sourceThe performance of the reports depends heavily on the performance and availability of the underlying data source.

Example of the use of DirectQuery:

A financial institution that wants to display real-time data from various transaction systems in its reports could use DirectQuery. By having direct access to the data sources, the institution can ensure that the information displayed is always up-to-date.

Differences and application scenarios

Differences and application scenarios

Importing and DirectQuery differ in several aspects that should be considered when selecting the appropriate method:

Recommendation

  • Use the import methodif:
    • The data does not need to be updated frequently.
    • Extensive data manipulation and complex calculations are required.
    • High performance and fast response times are required for the reports.
  • Use DirectQueryif:
    • real-time data are required.
    • Very large amounts of data have to be processed that exceed the storage limits of Power BI.
    • Data security and management should remain in the source.

Conclusion

Both methods have their justification and can be used sensibly depending on the specific requirements and framework conditions. It is important to understand the respective advantages and limitations and to select the best method for the respective use case. Power BI offers the flexibility to combine both approaches and thus utilise the best of both worlds.

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