Having the right information at your fingertips is the key to making sound business decisions. But your ability to interpret that information – and the speed at which you can access it – are equally essential. That’s where Amazon QuickSight comes in.

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QuickSight claims to be “a fast, cloud-powered business intelligence service that makes it easy to deliver insights to everyone in your organization.” The platform does this with stunning visuals and interactive dashboards that present real-time, machine learning (ML) insights to your company's decision makers.

Sounds awesome, right?

The problem is, QuickSight has a lot of cutting-edge competitors in the BI space – like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI – so it's important to fully understand what QuickSight has to offer in comparison. To help you decide whether QuickSight is right for your company, we’ve put the following information at your fingertips:

  1. What is Amazon QuickSight?
  2. QuickSight’s Visual Presentations
  3. Advantages
  4. Disadvantages
  5. Cost and Pricing
  6. Alternatives

What Is Amazon QuickSight?

Amazon QuickSight is a business intelligence tool under the umbrella of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform. Since its release, QuickSight is best known for stunning visualizations, interactive dashboards, and accurate machine learning insights.

Speed is another selling point. Amazon powers the QuickSight platform with its “Super-Fast, Parallel, In-Memory Calculation Engine” known as “SPICE.” According to Amazon:

SPICE is … designed specifically for fast, ad hoc data visualization. SPICE stores your data in a system architected for high availability, where it is saved until you choose to delete it. You can improve the performance of database data sets by importing the data into SPICE instead of using a direct query to the database.

The QuickSight SPICE engine interacts with data from multiple AWS sources – in addition to SQL databases, SaaS solutions (like Salesforce), and a great deal more. Here’s what a Capterra reviewer said about the platform and its SPICE data engine:

[QuickSight] natively connects to RDS (MySQL) and lets us query the database to generate graphs. Their SPICE option creates a powerful index of the tables of which some of them are very large. That way we can query the SPICE index for additional speed without giving an extra load to our database for the BI dashboard.

Once your BI team sets up the dashboards and visuals in QuickSight, company decision makers can finetune the dashboards to display the machine learning analysis and real-time data they’re looking for. Moreover, they can access their dashboards from any computer, web browser or internet-connected iPhone or iPad device.

QuickSight’s Visual Presentations

QuickSight is all about the visuals. Although more expensive BI solutions – like Tableau – have additional visualization options in terms of quantity, the basic visual presentations QuickSight offers are more “stunning” and “beautiful.” That offers a tremendous advantage when meeting with clients and customers.

A typical visual presentation on the QuickSight platform is comprised of the following components:

Analyses: QuickSight calls the workspace – where you create and interact with visuals – an “analysis.” In this analysis, you can arrange and calibrate a number of graphical data presentations, like interactive graphs and charts relating to performance metrics, sales analyses or cost analyses. You can also include a “story” (see the definition of "stories" in the final bullet below).

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Visuals: A visual is a graphical presentation of data. It could be a chart, table, graph or diagram. Newly-created visuals start in the “AutoGraph” mode. AutoGraph uses an algorithm to automatically choose visual presentations for the data you select. You can then select your own visualizations from selections like heat maps, tree maps, combination charts, pivot tables, and more. You can also change the colors, apply filters and reorganize their positions.

Insights: Insights offer valuable interpretations of the data in your “analyses.” QuickSight’s Enterprise Edition will automatically suggest appropriate machine learning insights – and data presentations – after analyzing your data.

Sheets: Sheets are groups of visuals that appear on a single page. While setting up an analysis, you’ll put the selected visuals into the sheet – like the front page of a newspaper. Your analysis can include more than one sheet – each with its respective visualizations working together or separately.

Stories: A story allows you to capture multiple visuals or “scenes” that you present on the sheet, like a slideshow. Users can scroll through the scenes in the story to see different aspects of the analysis. The scenes aren’t static – they update in real-time like all the other graphs, charts and datasets on the dashboard. 

Together, the above features allow your BI team to create beautiful, interactive data presentations to assist in diverse business areas such as:

  • Managers can use them to inform their leadership decisions.
  • Sales personnel can also use them during client presentations.
  • Marketing teams can use them to track the results of advertising campaigns.
  • Accountants can use them to monitor key financial metrics. 

Advantages of Amazon Quicksight

After evaluating the QuickSight platform and finding out what real users think, we identified the following advantages of Amazon QuickSight:

Quick Setup and Easy to Use

Your BI team can activate the SPICE engine, integrate data and start using the QuickSight platform quickly and easily – in fact, much faster than other BI platforms.

According to this user:

It takes less than one hour to set up.

Another user says:

Easy and intuitive user interface… Less learning curve.

Highly Compatible with Different Data Sources

Integrating QuickSight with different data sources is easy. The platform integrates with data sources like Amazon Redshift, Amazon Athena, Amazon S3, Amazon Aurora, Apache Spark, Presto, SQL servers, local Excel files, and more. It also supports information from services like Salesforce and Tableau.

As this user states:

You are able to choose your data source, it can be integrated with the popular BI tools and much more.

This user said:

I loved that it has support for other services such as Salesforce, Tableau etc to import data.

Access Dashboards on Any Web Browser or iOS Device

Most users will access QuickSight dashboards and insights through a web browser. According to QuickSight, “Amazon QuickSight supports the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer version 10 and above and Edge.” iPhone and iPad users can also access and interact with dashboard via their internet-connected iOS devices.

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Stunning Visualizations

Compared to other solutions like Tableau, most users agree that the quality and presentation of QuickSight's visualizations are superior. In addition, Quicksight’s “AutoGraph” feature applies a set of algorithms to learn about your data. Then it recommends suitable graphics to make sure you're selecting the best visuals and analytics for the situation.

Get Insights Without Needing to Code

The interactive nature of QuickSight dashboards allows users without coding knowledge to explore data and extract different insights. This empowers everyone to access the vital stats they need.

Cost-Friendly Payment Options

Since mid-2018, Amazon QuickSight features “pay-per-session” pricing. The payment structure – which starts at just 30 cents per session to a max of $5 per month per user – is a cost-saving solution when users don't need frequent access to their dashboards. Imagine an employee who only needs to access a dashboard once a week: The pay-per-session” fee is under $2 per month!

Here’s what users say about QuickSight pricing:

We chose them mainly because of the pay per session feature that they have. This allows us to only have to pay for what we actually use. With no upfront costs and no annual fee these guys are hard to beat.
The cost is very low compare to other solutions.
The cost can't be beat. While the package lacks many of the bells and whistles that's in Tableau or Looker, it has all the basics and gets the job done for 90% of our users.

Impressive Scalability

QuickSight can handle multiple business domains, while independently measuring business metrics. Tens of thousands of users can work on the platform simultaneously with access to all sources of data at the same time. In addition, QuickSight’s cutting-edge data engine technology frees up users to explore gigantic datasets.

Excellent iOS App for Mobile Access

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The iPhone app for Amazon QuickSight delivers on-the-go access to data – so decision makers can view stories, insights, analyses, and dashboards wherever they are.

Disadvantages of Amazon Quicksight

Amazon QuickSight is not without its disadvantages. After using this platform and finding out what real users think, we identified the following setbacks:

No Android App (Yet)

QuickSight hasn’t released an Android app. There are plans to roll out an Android solution in the future, but for now, users are limited to iOS devices and web browser access only.

Limited Options for Charts and Graphs

Users complain that the options for charts and graphs – although visually stunning – are limited compared to other flagship BI solutions. This is the most frequently-cited disadvantage of QuickSight. As this G2Crowd reviewer states:

Compared to Tableau or other focused solutions, Amazon QuickSight still lacks a lot of customization features. Limited data visualization types (only a few simple and popular charts)…

Another user writes:

Data visualizations (called visual types on QuickSight) are limited but offered what we needed. Currently there are no maps, plain tables and other types of visuals where Power BI has a superb collection.

One more user says:

It lacks some useful visualization capabilities found in competing tools.

This user provides more detail:

There is a severe lack of ability to make custom fields, group bys, and other features that other BI solutions excel at. For example I wish I could have the functionality to really customize some level of detail expressions as well as more control over the colors and styles of the visualizations. Currently it is not flexible enough to meet most of my customers needs. For example my customers will not only want high level looks but also want to drill down and pull out tables of data which seems like it is implemented but is not robust enough.

In response to these criticisms, it’s important to note that Amazon is still developing QuickSight – and the platform will continue to evolve with new features over time.

Still New to the BI Scene

QuickSight is new to the BI scene and requires further development to reach parity with popular BI solutions like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI. That's a fact. Nevertheless, the pay-per-session pricing makes QuickSight one of the most cost-effective BI solutions available.

As this data analytics engineer states:

QuickSight is still under development phase and no-way you can compare it with Tableau or Qlik. But price wise the cheapest among the 3 is QuickSight and QuickSight is really beneficial.

How Much Does Amazon QuickSight Cost?

As mentioned above, QuickSight is a cost-effective solution – particularly because of its pay-per-use pricing structure. The pricing structure divides users into two categories (readers and authors) and charges as follows:

Standard Edition Pricing

Here are the costs for the Standard Edition, which doesn’t include machine learning (ML) insights:

Authors (Standard Edition): The charge is $9 per author per month for an annual subscription and $12 per user per month for a month-to-month subscription. This comes with 10 GB of SPICE per author with the opportunity to purchase more SPICE capacity at $0.25 per GB.

Enterprise Edition Pricing

Here are the costs for the Enterprise Edition, which includes machine learning insights:

Readers (Enterprise Edition): The charge is $0.30 per 30 minutes of use per user for reading privileges only, with a max charge of $5 per month per user.

Authors (Enterprise Edition): The charge is $18 per author per month for an annual subscription, or $24 per user per month for a month-to-month subscription. This includes 10 GB of spice capacity and authors can purchase additional SPICE capacity for $0.38 per GB.

These are more affordable than competing solutions, but costs can really add up. Fortunately, Amazon offers the following “Reader Pricing Scenarios” for the Enterprise Edition to help you estimate potential costs:

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Alternatives to Amazon Quicksight

As mentioned throughout this piece, there are numerous and worthy competitors to Amazon QuickSight – most notably Tableau Server and Microsoft Power BI. Let’s take a brief look at these BI platforms:

Tableau Server

As a business intelligence solution, Tableau Server has been around a lot longer than Amazon QuickSight and it’s more widely used by enterprise-level organizations around the world.

Tableau is generally more expensive than Amazon QuickSight with the following price structure:

  • Individuals: Pricing for individual licenses is $70 per month.
  • Teams: Pricing for teams is divided according to user roles (like QuickSight). The price for “creators,” who design analyses and set up visuals, is $70 per month per user. The price for “explorers,” who have some ability to interact with and manipulate visuals, is $35 per month per user. The price for “readers,” who can view and interact with the dashboards, is $12 per month per user.

Similar to QuickSight, Tableau presents data and machine learning insights in a variety of interactive formats, colors, shapes, graphs, charts and more. However, Tableau has more visualization and dashboard options to choose from, even if they’re a little less “stunning.” Tableau is a pricier solution with a stiff learning curve, but it has a longstanding reputation for excellence and more features than QuickSight.

Microsoft Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft’s answer to the business intelligence industry. As a top BI solution, Power BI has a wide variety of visualization and customization options for dashboard presentations. Another useful benefit is the ease of data integration with Microsoft platforms like Excel.

Microsoft Power BI offers the following pricing structure:

  • Power BI Pro: The basic version of Power BI without big data, machine learning analytics and insights is $9 per month per user.
  • Add Power BI Premium: The enterprise-level package for Microsoft Power BI which includes big data analytics, cloud, and on-premises reporting, dedicated cloud compute and storage resources – with unlimited users – is $4,995 per month for each dedicated cloud compute and storage resource.

Like Tableau, Power BI has more features and advanced capabilities than QuickSight. On the other hand, Power BI is more cumbersome to use and it requires more training and expertise. QuickSight is simpler and less expensive, which means it could be a better fit for smaller organizations. 

Is Amazon QuickSight Right for Your Company?

Amazon QuickSight customers praise the platform's speed, ease-of-use and sound data analytics. They laud the visual appearance of its interactive dashboards. And they appreciate saving money with its pay-per-session pricing. Moreover, you'll be in good company if you decide to be a QuickSight customer. Their client list includes prestigious names like:

  • The National Football League (NFL)
  • Siemens
  • Rio Tinto
  • Volvo
  • AutoTrader
  • Best Western
  • MLB Advanced Media

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Ultimately, QuickSight is a quality, BI solution without complexity. Choosing this cost-friendly business intelligence platform from Amazon means that you will be in good hands.

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