Curious about AWS QuickSight? In this blog, one of our Senior Sales Engineers breaks down what it is, how it’s used, and where he thinks it shines and has room to grow.

At Analytics8 we take a vendor agnostic approach to our BI and data analytics tool recommendations. Because of this, we stay deeply entrenched in the BI technology landscape so we can help our customers navigate their options, “cut through the noise”, and make smart investments to achieve their data analytics goals quickly.

A tool that recently caught our attention is the QuickSight product on AWS. QuickSight supports many basic visualizations and data integrations we’ve come to expect from a BI tool. However, being native to the cloud offers a few advanced tool sets that are difficult to implement in some other tools. But first, let’s start with the basics.

QuickSight Basics

QuickSight lives in the cloud. There is no server infrastructure to maintain which means you do not have to scale your environment based on number of users. It also means that you no longer have to fear weekend and late night calls that the BI server went down.

When it comes to data consumption, QuickSight has a large appetite and is not a picky eater. The full list of data sources is here, but I don’t see anything I’ve worked with that couldn’t be pulled into QuickSight. The tool has an obvious a bias towards cloud services, but local data sources on your network are accessible via other AWS tricks.

The visualization portion is what we’ve come to expect out of a basic BI tool. Drag and drop visuals with simple configuration of expressions means that someone with minimal technical expertise can build a visually pleasing dashboard that tells a story.  Using the behind the scenes engine, visuals can also be pulled out of QuickSight and embedded in other web pages to completely customize a website with interactive visuals.

QuickSight Advantage: Affordability

Where we think the tool really shines is cost and flexible contract terms.  Considering a rollout to 50 people with a handful of developer licenses, a monthly bill could range from $150 to $300 a month, depending on usage.  You can whittle this cost down 25% if you commit to an annual contract vs. going month-to-month.

QuickSight Drawback: Advanced ETL Capabilities and Visualizations

Right now, the biggest pitfall is the tool’s relative immaturity. For example, if you’re looking for advanced ETL capabilities or visualizations, you may be disappointed. Also, as stated earlier, QuickSight naturally works better when consuming data already in the cloud. If you decide to move your data to the cloud, the associated cost and effort should be considered as part of your QuickSight implementation.

With that said, you don’t need highly technical (and expensive) tools to visualize data to the less technical business users. But if advanced ETL capabilities or visualizations are needed, the more advanced tools could become more affordable with the money saved using QuickSight. This allows you to empower your users with skill-appropriate tools instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach with a more expensive feature-rich tool.

Plan Your Cloud Strategy 

If you don’t have a cloud strategy, it’s time. While we stress taking a long-term approach to tool selection, QuickSight could be a great option to ease into the cloud in an affordable way. Many issues that kept organizations from harnessing the cloud are no longer issues, and so many companies are using cloud to enhance their analytic capabilities. If you already have a plan for the cloud, QuickSight is another fast, safe, affordable tool you have at your disposal.

If you have questions and want to talk more about cloud tools, we’re here to help.

Trey Bayne Trey is a Senior Sales Engineer at Analytics8. He specializes in application development in a variety of business applications, including QlikView, Qlik Sense, AWS and SharePoint. He's very interested in projects that he can carry from solution research to a business-changing product.
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