What is the best low cost reporting dashboard available for your small online businesses?

Any small online business owner does need to think regarding business intelligence (BI). Business intelligence provides a key way that you can communicate vital pieces of information to customers, shareholders, colleagues and investors. Using the correct visualization tools, you can ensure that data for your company is both easy to understand and hard hitting. There are various BI reporting dashboards available on the market, and as a business owner, it can be difficult to choose the right one. Particularly when each developer makes similar promises about the quality of their products. Obviously, small business owners need to think about costs. That’s why we’re going to compare some of the best low-cost reporting dashboards that are available to you.

Google Data Studio

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Google Data Studio is the newest BI software that you can consider using for your company. One of the big benefits of this option is that you only need a Gmail address to access it. It has been packaged with Google’s long list of analytic solutions and has quickly become very popular with small business owners for one key reason. It is completely free to use and thus brings no extra cost for your company. However, this isn’t the only reason why Google Data Studio is favoured. As with many of Google’s offerings, the software is designed for simplicity. It is intended to be usable and accessible for anyone, including business owners who have no knowledge or experience with BI solutions such as this.

One disadvantage of the software available here is that it is a completely online solution. Unlike some of the other BI possibilities that we are going to look at, you do not have the option of using a desktop version of the software. Still, the simplistic design is sure to win some business owners over, and the ease with which you can share dashboards is certainly a bonus.

Getting started with Google Data Studio is remarkably simple, and you can start creating reports with three basic steps. You’ll choose a visual, drag it into the report area and then start setting up the chosen metrics that you will be used for visualization. That said, there are other areas that are more complicated. For instance, you may struggle the first time you try and format charts for your reports. There is certainly a learning curve.

Main Features

Free to use
Easy user interface
Three step system for creating reports
Completely online setup

Very little support
Not as comprehensive as other systems

Klipfolio

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Klipfolio is another cloud-based application that you can use to share business dashboards or build them in real time. Unlike Google Data Studio, you do need to pay for this service, and it costs $29 per month. However, if you visit their website, you can gain a free trial. This is useful for getting to grips with the software and discovering whether it is the right choice for you. As well as coming equipped with built data visualizations, it is also possible to build your own, and the app can connect to various other applications including Google Analytics.

Unlike Google Data Studio, this app does provide an excellent level of support. There is a chat feature built into the software which means that you can get in touch and gain the help that you need. The app is also straightforward to use with a friendly interface that is designed for those who may not be experts at data analysis. Those who have knowledge of Excel will recognise many of the data formulas. However, some are more unique to the app itself, and there may be a certain learning curve. Though this is when you can turn to the support team, or even the community using the app for advice.

Ultimately then, Klipfolio is one of the best BI apps if you are looking for an excellent level of value for money. While some functions are limited, developers are constantly working to improve the system and add the features that users request.

Main Features:

Fantastic level of customer support
Free trial to get to grips with software
Accessible built data visualizations
Ability to create your own

Takes time to learn how to use some of the unique features
Certain functions are limited

Tableau

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Tableau is largely considered to be one of the leading BI tools on the market today. It is designed to be completely accessible and allow business owners to create and distribute data dashboards without any difficulty. One of the features that separate this program from the rest is Data Blending. Users can also collaborate in real time, and the software provides various ways to publish information which allows for a certain level of flexibility.

Unfortunately, the maturity of this software is reflected in its price, as the Tableau desktop option is available at $999 per year. If you have your own server, you can also purchase the Tableau server which costs $10,000 for every 10 users, and while Tableau does provide excellent levels of customer support, this will add another 25 percent onto your price.

The good news is that Tableau is incredibly user-friendly and widely perceived as one of the easiest BI solutions to use on the market. Everything from importing data to sharing reports is simple, but if you have difficulties, there are various tutorials as well as blogs that can help. Even a business owner with no knowledge of BI will find structured data including charts and graphs easy to set up in dashboard reports.

Main Features:

Easy to operate
Sharing is simple
Plenty of help available online
Unqieu features like data blending and real time collaboration

Expensive To Use
Customer support adds to the cost

Zoho Reports

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Zoho has an easy setup and a simple to use click and drop interface. It is ideally suited for smaller companies or those who are just starting to think about using analytics. It has many of the features that you can find from the competition and includes software as a service productivity suite. One of the biggest benefits of this system is that it has actually been designed with SMB users in mind. It’s fantastic if you don’t have a lot of time to use the software or a lot of money to spend on tools like this.

It is possible to use Zoho for free, but be aware that pricing is determined by your level of usage. For instance, for zero costs, two users can access 100,000 rows of data, and there are some limitations on the number of databases as well as scheduled imports available each month. Upgrading to the freemium unlocks more of these features. For the best value for money, you might want to consider using Zoho One that includes all Zoho applications for just $30 per month. You can load data into Zoho reports with just a couple of clips, but if you are adding large amounts of data, you may want to use the Zoho upload application to compress it.

The system also provides a higher level of security through a two-factor authentication feature if you are nervous about hacks.

One of the best and brightest features of Zoho reports is the level of automation. Using it, you will discover that the software is capable of knowing what type of reports you are most likely to need based on the data that you have inputted. This will be a welcome relief for business owners that often struggle to make the right choices here.

Unfortunately, if you do not have business analytic experience, you may find it difficult to accomplish and create more complex data reports with this software. At the very least, it will take some time to get to grips with the various applications and training will be essential.

Main Features:

Ideal for beginners
Designed with small business owners in mind
Automation does the work for you

Without training you will hit a roadblock with what you can do

Microsoft Power BI

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Microsoft Power BI provides two price options. Either you can take a free version that is limited and ideal for an individual user. Or, if you are running a small company where various people need to use the software, you might want to access the professional version. This will give you 10GB of storage, compared to the 1GB on the free version and provides other benefits such as more rapid data refresh cycles.

The Microsoft Power BI tool is popular because as well as being powerful, it is not too complicated for beginners. But do be aware that the cloud version of this software does not have all the features that you might be used to if you have ever used the Windows version. As such, it is beneficial to make sure that you are setting up the desktop and the web service for this tool. This is particularly important because the desktop tool is necessary for data preparation, while the web UI is used to publish the reports that you create.

It’s a massively intuitive tool, and it will feel somewhat familiar to those used to other Microsoft products. This is beneficial for fresh business owners as it keeps the learning curve low. To give you an idea of just how easy this system is to use, you can download files from a dropbox and then choose the appropriate service under the data source button. When you preview the data, you can also clean it up before the analysis through an editing function. Once the data has been uploaded, it is a simple matter of dropping or dragging or even ticking the appropriate boxes.

Main Features:

Free to use version available
Massive levels of power at a low cost
Options for both single business owners and small companies
Software is highly intuitive

Not all features available on online interface
Free version substantially limited

We hope this helps you choose the correct low-cost reporting dashboard for your small online business needs.

Posted by Damien Bouvier

Data Consultant as a Service Enabling Business Intelligence.