Major BI vendors like IBM Cognos, SAP and Oracle offer entry-level products geared to companies with limited budgets and basic BI needs.
Microsoft's BI platform -- which is based on SQL Server, SharePoint and Office -- is another popular low-cost option for small and medium-sized companies.
Larger organizations are turning to open-source BI platforms including the BEE project , Jaspersoft , Pentaho , and SpagoBI . However, business decision-makers should be aware that "open source does not always equal free software [and] you will get what you pay for," Evelson says. Some open-source BI products should be labeled "some assembly required," because the various components aren't fully integrated, he says.
Further, some open source suites lack features and functions needed by large-scale operations, including GUI-based administration, robust and integrated security , scalability tools like load balancing and connectivity to popular data sources, Evelson adds.
Finally, consider outsourcing . A number of established BI vendors now have SaaS offerings , including Tibco (Silver Spotfire), IBM (Pivotlink), and SAP BusinessObjects (Crystalreports.com). In addition to cutting capital and IT staff costs, cloud -based offerings enable a business to easily extend the reach of its BI system to remote end users, as well as business partners, via the Web.
[Next: Self-service BI is catching on .]
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