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10 Free or Open Source Dashboard Tools to Get You Started with Business Intelligence

We Take a Snapshot View of 10 Open Source or Free Business Dashboard Tools

10 Free or Open Source Dashboard Tools to Get You Started with Business IntelligenceYour business intelligence dashboard is a very useful way to get an overview of your company's performance. It allows you to customize what types of data are displayed for easy analysis of different facets of your operations. However, there are many different business intelligence tools to choose from, many of which are very costly and which may not fit the budget of a small to mid-sized business. Fortunately, there are many free and open source business intelligence tools available.

 

What is Open Source Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence software allows for the collection, organization, and analysis of valuable business data from within your system. This data can be leveraged to help improve business productivity, communication, marketing, sales, and more. There are many different types of business intelligence software tools you can implement. While some tools do cost money and may even require subscriptions, there are high-quality options that can be used for free. The following are ten of the best open source and free business intelligence tools out there:

 

1. Mozaïk

Mozaïk is a dashboard tool designed using JavaScript Node, React, and D3. It's the customizable and extendable modules that make it a powerful and flexible option. There are many widgets available to add to the dashboard, and if you can't find what you need, you can build it yourself. Mozaïk is even used by the Cloud Data Services team at IBM, which speaks volumes about its reputation as a quality dashboard tool.

Key Features

  • A scalable layout that supports multiple devices
  • Six different themes to choose from and the ability to develop your own themes
  • Extendable by modules
  • A grid system to define your dashboard layout
  • A backend that handles API calls and that pushes data to widgets via websockets
  • The ability to create and use multiple dashboards

Pros and Cons

In addition to a user-friendly interface, Mozaïk makes it easy to add new widgets, and many are available that allow your dashboard to access everything from Google Analytics to Twitter. The only real drawback is that if the widgets you need aren't available, building them yourself can be a bit challenging.

Ideal For

The flexibility of Mozaïk makes it an excellent choice for most businesses. Although building your own widgets can require some coding know-how, there are plenty of pre-built widgets available that you can add to your dashboard.

 

2. Grafana

Grafana is a visualization tool that can be used together with Graphite, InfluxDB, Elasticsearch, and many other types of databases. The tool lets you create, explore, and share dashboards that make it easier to understand your business metrics no matter where they are stored.

Key Features

  • Multiple visualization options, including heatmaps, histograms, and geomaps
  • Collaboration capabilities that allow you to share data and dashboards across teams
  • An official library with hundreds of dashboards and plugins to use

Pros and Cons

Grafana is easy to set up and configure. Its main purpose is to analyze and visualize metrics, which it does an excellent job of since it supports more than 30 open source and commercial data sources. The tool also comes with a built-in user control and authentication mechanism that gives you control over user-access, a helpful feature to have alongside the sharing capabilities.

However, Grafana does have some limitations. For example, it's only a visualization solution, which means that there's no time series storage support or data collection support.

Ideal For

Although an open-source tool, Grafana has all the features you need for it to function as a visualization tool. There is no commercial version, which means you won’t pay for additional features that were withheld for the open-source version. Additionally, if your business uses a completely cloud-based infrastructure, then Grafana is an excellent option.

 

3. Stashboard

Stashboard is a basic but useful tool that allows you to create a dashboard that provides status information about APIs and cloud services. Essentially, it provides real-time information on whether a particular service is up or down. Although originally designed for phone service applications, it can now be applied to any type of service and can be run as an independent application, which means that it can display your project's status even if your main site goes down.

Key Features

  • The ability to track multiple APIs or SaaS services
  • The ability to customize your status messages and icons
  • View status history for every service

Pros and Cons

Stashboard is limited in its application since it's only real purpose is to identify the status of different applications and cloud services; however, it can be very useful for this very reason. It also allows you to have an overview of the overall performance of the APIs and cloud systems you are using to make more informed decisions regarding both. Additionally, it runs on Google App Engine, which means it will be independent of your infrastructure, and it's extremely easy to set up.

Ideal For

Stashboard is good for smaller and mid-sized businesses that use APIs and cloud services. Larger businesses will likely want a status tool that provides more features, such as the ability to send out notifications, mobile support, and better troubleshooting capabilities.

 

4. Freeboard

Freeboard is a business intelligence tool that was designed specifically for the Internet of Things (IoT). Freeboard has over 90,000 users throughout the world, including businesses such as Verizon and Ford.

Key Features

  • The dashboard can be integrated with any web-based API.
  • Adding widgets is as easy as dragging and dropping.
  • You can choose from a growing list of included widgets as well as add your own.
  • You can duplicate Freeboards to use as a starting point or for a new one as long as you have permission.
  • Freeboards come with a unique URL that you can easily share through email, social media, and SMS.
  • You can customize the look of your Freeboard by changing the colors of your backgrounds and widgets, matching your branding, adding logos, and more.

Pros and Cons

Freeboard makes it easy to create data sources and to add widgets, both of which will automatically connect the two together. It can also run entirely as a single page static web app in your browser, which means a server isn't necessary.

You can use Freeboard to track the data and performance of an unlimited number of devices. However, the one major drawback is that the free version does not come with any private dashboards. If you need to upload sensitive information, you’ll need the premium edition, which includes access to private dashboards. 

Ideal For

If your business makes use of any devices or sensors that need to be tracked, Freeboard is a business intelligence software that you should strongly consider implementing.

 

5. BIRT

BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) is one of the most popular business intelligence software tools. Not only has it been downloaded over 12 million times throughout 157 countries, it is used by major corporations, including IBM and Cisco. In fact, BIRT is even sponsored by IBM. At its core, BIRT provides reporting and business intelligence capabilities for both rich client and web applications, particularly those that are Java-based.

Key Features

  • BIRT Report Designer can be used to create report layouts, produce XML-based report designs, and connect to data sources.
  • BIRT Runtime uses the Report Designer to produce reports into a variety of formats, including Excel, HTML, and PDF. BIRT Runtime can be embedded into other Java applications.
  • BIRT Chart Engine allows you to implement charting into your Java application.
  • BIRT Chart Designer is an OSGi-based report designer that can be used to design reports.
  • BIRT Viewer is a plug-in that allows you to preview reports while working within Eclipse.

Pros and Cons

BIRT is extremely useful for creating reports, from basic text documents to standard pie and bar graphs. The tool comes with a surprising number of features considering the fact that its open source. The software can be embedded into many other applications and programs, specifically those that use Java, which means that it could potentially integrate with other business software your company is using. It's also very easy to use and allows you to accomplish a lot without having to use custom code. Finally, it's constantly being updated and there are plenty of resources for support if needed.

There are some drawbacks, however. For example, while the tool is useful for generating reports, that's all it's really useful for, making it somewhat limited as a business intelligence tool. Additionally, although designed to be easy to use without knowing how to code, the depth of its functionality can make it a little overwhelming for first-time users.

Ideal For

If you need flexibility and customization options when generating reports, BIRT will fulfill your needs. However, if you're looking for business information software that will help analyze your data, you should look elsewhere.

 

6. Jaspersoft Community

Jaspersoft Community is a suite of business intelligence tools that was launched by Tibco back in 2014 and that continues to be one of the most comprehensive business intelligence software programs available for free. Jaspersoft is used by more than 250,000 registered members and has been downloaded over 14.5 million times. It consists of numerous tools that can help you generate interactive reports as well as provide valuable analytics.

Key Features

  • Report designer
  • Reporting engine
  • Interactive report viewing
  • Server repository
  • Report scheduling
  • Mobile app
  • User access and security
  • Data integration
  • OLAP server

Pros and Cons

Although Jaspersoft Community does offer a wealth of features that allow for comprehensive reports and analytics capabilities, it is missing some of the features offered in the more advanced software packages (which are not free). For example, the community version doesn't have the ability to save interactive viewing changes and lacks the Visualize.js (javascript) framework that's used to embed data visualizations and reports inside web applications.

The biggest drawback is that the community version does not include business intelligence dashboards, which means it's more difficult to get an overview of all of your most important data.

Ideal For

Jaspersoft is both economically and architecturally scalable, which means it can meet your business intelligence no matter how big or small your business is -- and can continue to meet those needs even as your business grows.

 

7. Knime

Knime is an open source analytics program that was first developed for pharmaceutical research but that expanded to many other industries, including banking, publishing, and manufacturing industries. The program makes it easy to collect data, understand your data, and design data science workflows.

Key Features

  • Retrieve data from your files or databases
  • Use filtering, normalization, aggregation, sampling, binning, partitioning, and more to pre-process your input data
  • Use numerous interactive views to evaluate your data and results
  • Better understand your data through the use of data mining algorithms that include clustering, neural networks, decision tree, rule induction, association rules, and more
  • Over 1,000 modules

Pros and Cons

Although Knime isn't that easy to use for beginners, it's generally easy to use for data scientists and analysts. It also supports numerous operating systems, including Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux. No coding is necessary since the program allows you to create a visual workflow using a drag-and-drop interface.

Knime provides clear explanations for its functionalities, which contributes to its user-friendly design. It's also easy to integrate Knime into various processes. It's one main weakness is that its data visualization capabilities are considered to be somewhat poor.

Ideal For

Knime is great for businesses of all sizes due to its user-friendly interface and scalability.

 

8. Metabase

Metabase is a business intelligence tool that allows you to analyze your company's data in a variety of ways using its Ask Question feature. Unlike other business intelligence analytics tools, Metabase was designed specifically for ease of use.

Key Features

  • Supports numerous standard data sources
  • Pulses feature that allows data to be sent on schedule through email or slack
  • The ability to write SQL scripts in the Open Editor feature
  • Access a historical view of any changes or activity made within your organization on the splash screen

Pros and Cons

It's extremely user-friendly and data is easy to read due to the clean tables and charts used for visualization. You can also Ask Questions and then save your answers in Dashboards to get a quick overview of how your business is performing. Even the language used is less technical and more user-friendly. Essentially, Metabase helps simplify data analysis without sacrificing the ability to go deep.

The only real issue is that there aren't many visualization options and you can't lock down datasets.

Ideal For

Metabase is great for smaller companies due to how user-friendly it is. However, even though it's simple to use, it still allows you to evaluate the performance of your company in numerous ways using the data it has access to.

 

9. Pentaho Community Edition

The Pentaho Community Edition allows you to visualize your data by creating logical reports. These reports are generated by combining analytics with data integration. While it doesn't provide all of the many features that the enterprise version offers, the Pentaho Community Edition still offers a lot of business intelligence features. 

Key Features

  • Aggregation designer
  • Business analytics platform
  • Data integration
  • Meta editor
  • Report designer
  • Schema Workbench

Pros and Cons

The Pentaho Community Edition provides a wide range of customizability. However, it does require some coding knowledge to get the most of it, especially if you want to create personalized dashboards using the Community Edition.

Unfortunately, the premium versions of Pentaho are much more comprehensive for both features and support. For example, the premium versions include performance monitoring, troubleshooting and diagnostics, audit reporting, backup and recovery, and more, all of which are not available with the Community Edition.

Ideal For

As long as someone with some coding capabilities is on your team, then the Pentaho Community Edition is an impressive business intelligence tool for smaller to mid-sized businesses. However, larger companies will want to jump for one of the three other premium versions in order to obtain stronger support, more features, and more ease-of-use (including team collaboration features).

 

10. Report Server Community Edition

Report Server Community Edition is a reporting tool that actually compares extremely well to its subscription-based enterprise edition. What makes it particularly unique compared to other reporting tools is its emphasis on collaboration. It provides support for unlimited users and boasts a TeamSpaces feature that supports communication and collaboration on reports between users.

Key Features

  • Unlimited users
  • Permission management
  • The ability for teams to collaborate on reports
  • The ability to integrate with BIRT, SAP Crystal, and JasperReports
  • Interactive dashboards
  • Basic and conditional report scheduling

Pros and Cons

The jump between the Community Edition and the Enterprise Edition isn't that big, which means you won't be missing out on must-have features by going with the open-source version. What you will miss out on includes the option of paid commercial support, the ability to theme your reports to match your corporate brand, dynamic schedule targets, dynamic list templates, and a pivot mode, to name a few.

However, the inclusion of the collaboration feature TeamSpaces in the Community Edition is a huge advantage over other open source business intelligence tools out there. Additionally, ReportServer makes it easy to integrate numerous Business Intelligence tools into a single user interface.

The only real drawback to the ReportServer Community Edition (besides missing a few features the Enterprise Edition includes), is that a coding background is needed to get the most out of the program.

Ideal For

ReportServer Community Edition is extremely helpful for any business that needs collaboration capabilities on their reports and that's also using BIRT or JasperReports for their business intelligence. The Community Edition is perfect for smaller to mid-sized businesses with some coding capabilities. Although larger companies may want to jump for the Enterprise Edition for the added support, the Community Edition may suit them as well.

 

It Only Takes One

Just remember, even though we have given 10 examples, you likely only need one to start gaining the business intelligence advantage you're after.

These are ten different business intelligence dashboard tools available for free or that are open source. They each have different focuses as well as different strengths and weaknesses you will want to consider; however, they are all worth checking out. Even using just one of these tools will likely give your business a huge advantage in terms of leveraging your business intelligence.

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