/ BI reporting: Breaking down your options for reporting tools

BI reporting: Breaking down your options for reporting tools

As companies seek to ensure that they offer an amazing user experience, having the right tools to analyze their data is essential.

Whether it’s email marketing campaigns, financial analysis, or KPI tracking, BI reporting tools provide companies an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of their efforts and understand what exactly makes customers and teams tick.

Business intelligence offers businesses the ability to make better, more informed decisions. BI reporting tools offer businesses the ability to analyze every piece of data from their programs and identify what works, what doesn’t work, and how to improve for future efforts.

Virtually any BI reporting tool will provide business users with a wide range of data, which can be used to develop actionable items.

As more companies become intrigued with BI reporting tools, there are a few options available for users.

There are two main types of reporting tools that are typically offered by BI providers: on-premises and cloud-based. Let’s break down both options, consider the pros and cons of each, and identify which option might be right for your business.



What are BI reporting tools?

Before we get into the software versus cloud debate, let’s first consider what BI reporting tools are.

BI reporting tools provide businesses with a means to analyze data from their programs so that they can gain insight and take actionable items based on these insights.

A wide range of data is typically offered by all BI providers, which typically includes marketing-related data, sales data, customer service data, finance-related data, and IT-related data.

A BI reporting tool will provide companies with the ability to understand how current operations are being carried out at any given time so that they can work on increasing performance or developing new strategies based on insights.

While the data is the same, how you collect and analyze this data may vary depending on your BI provider. Some tools will pull in data from a variety of sources, while others may only pull data from specific platforms.
The following considerations should be made when selecting an on-premises software or cloud-based solution.

On-premises tools

On-premises solutions store all of your data locally, which allows for control over the information you can manage inside your own company.

Keeping your information on-premises gives you the ability to build up your systems without worrying about additional costs, allowing for more customization.

The main downside is that you’ll need to invest in your own hardware and buy the software, but once complete, all of the data will be stored on your machine. This can be an ideal solution for smaller business companies that don’t have a lot of employees or companies that can get by with one person managing their BI reporting.

Pros of using on-premises reporting tools:

Customizable reporting tool
By using an on-premise reporting tool, you are usually afforded the option to further customize it for your business’s unique needs. While this can be beneficial, it also requires the work of your internal IT teams, and this can be quite a heavy lift.

Storage of your own data
Another benefit associated with software-based reporting tools is that they often allow you to store all of your data on-site. This means that no matter how much information you want to manage or how many users need to access it, you’ll be able to work with everything locally.

Cons of using on-premises reporting tools:

Need to invest in your own hardware
In order to get a software-based reporting tool, you will need to invest in your own hardware. This typically means getting a server and putting together a dedicated space for your reporting tool.

May need to have technical skills
To install and manage these tools, you’ll also need someone with technical skills on staff or access to outside help. The installation process can be difficult, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, the whole process will become more complicated.

In many cases, a dedicated IT team can be brought in, but this will also increase your costs upfront.

Less convenient than cloud BI options
One of the biggest downfalls of software-based reporting tools is that they are not typically as convenient as other options, especially cloud-based solutions. You’ll need to install updates and patches, which can take time to set up correctly.

Also, accessing your data for analysis will require users to be on-site with additional hardware in order to connect directly to the server. This means that if you want to have access, you’ll need either a terminal or VPN (virtual private network) connection with all of the appropriate software to run it.



Cloud-based tools

Cloud-based tools offer businesses a BI reporting solution that is hosted on third-party servers and requires little to no upfront investment (SaaS).

This type of tool can be very cost-effective for smaller businesses because there’s no need to invest in hardware or software, making it an extremely affordable option.

Cloud-based tools also offer more freedom and flexibility when it comes to sharing data and data governance. Since the infrastructure is fully managed by the vendor in the cloud, it now becomes that much easier for small businesses to start sharing their data with employees of all levels.

However, for most smaller business companies, the lack of ownership and control may be a worthwhile tradeoff in favor of saving money or getting started faster with cloud-based solutions.

Pros of using cloud-based (SaaS) tools

Cost & time savings
The biggest upside is that businesses won’t have to pay a large up-front investment, making cloud-based tools an affordable option for many smaller companies. In addition, cloud-based options offer businesses the ability to have their reports completed faster since hosting takes place on third-party servers outside of the company’s network.

No hardware investment
If you’re looking for a BI reporting tool that requires little to no upfront investment, cloud-based options are the way to go. This type of tool is perfect if you want quick access and don’t have enough employees or cash flow to invest in hardware and software.

Since the data is hosted on third-party servers and the data is up to date, cloud-based tools offer companies the ability to access their reports anytime and anywhere. For companies that rely on sales or employees who work remotely, mobile access could be a lifesaver when it comes to staying in touch with important information.

Key considerations of cloud-based BI

Security risks
While the data is hosted on a secure server, cloud-based tools are still susceptible to outside threats since they are connected to the Internet.

Business owners that are concerned about security should relay this concern to the vendor they are working with for business intelligence. Security protocols such as SOC2 may be implemented to prevent such threats.

Data governance
An important consideration with cloud-based tools is that data governance now becomes a critical part of your business intelligence tool.

Data in the right hands can be an incredible tool. If it’s left in the wrong hands due to poor security and standard practices, it can compromise your business. Companies will need to adopt a data governance strategy that is both effective and enabling for their end-users.



Tips for choosing between cloud-based and on-premises software

If you’re still trying to decide which one is the best fit for your business, consider what you need in a reporting tool.

You may benefit from a cloud-based reporting tool if you:

  • want the option to quickly and easily share reports with employees and other stakeholders,
  • prefer having the option to access your reports on the go from anywhere with an Internet connection,
  • have a limited budget or don’t want to invest in upfront hardware costs.

Whatever reporting tool you ultimately choose, make sure it fits your company’s needs and will provide the best solution possible for driving the business forward.



Business reporting tools are critical for maintaining a close pulse on the health of your company’s finances. While larger companies usually require an extensive list of features, smaller businesses typically can get by with something more basic.

Learning which option is the best fit for your company is simple as long as you know what type of reporting tools are available and you define your needs.

When it comes time to make a final decision, keep in mind that there are cloud-based and software-based solutions for companies of all sizes. Do your research, compare features and functionality, and ultimately choose the reporting solution that gives you peace of mind.

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