Nov 21, 2018

AWS QuickSight: Delivering Insights at Scale, Without the Enormous Price Tag

Ashley Alston
John Franks

Ashley Alston and John Franks

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There are many business intelligence (BI) visualization tools on the market today. A typical trait of these tools, especially the more prominent ones, is significant cost at the enterprise sharing level. Since more and more companies are using Amazon data solutions, it only makes sense to consider Amazon’s BI visualization software as a service, QuickSight. Accordingly, we have attempted to outline a use case that exemplifies the benefits and considerations of using QuickSight.

Use Case

In order to better understand the pros and cons of QuickSight, we looked at the use case of a medium-sized bank. With this example, we immediately hone in on the criteria that makes QuickSight a good candidate for adoption:

  • Up to thousands of employees needing to access standard non-interactive reports.

  • Needs to remain cost efficient, even when sharing across the enterprise.

  • Have a presence with Amazon data solutions (Redshift, S3, etc.).

With the aforementioned criteria in mind, we moved on to address the range of BI personas that would utilize QuickSight. The following table outlines the key types of BI consumers at our medium-sized bank and the associated style they would likely employ.

Given the breadth of personas required within the bank, QuickSight was clearly going to be put to the test to be able to handle both self-service BI on one end of the spectrum and standard reports on the other.


Amazon QuickSight was built to address pain points of the traditional BI tools and provides IT and business teams with a fast, cloud-powered BI service at one-tenth the cost of traditional BI software. Here are the key features that make QuickSight the next generation cloud-powered BI tool:

  • Empowers data analysts to build their reports quickly by pointing them to any data source without the need for a large IT team that traditionally has to build metadata in a BI tool before data analysts can use them.

  • Accesses data from a wide range of sources that Amazon already supports including EMR, RDS, DynamoDB, Kinesis, S3, and Redshift and supports uploads from CSV, TSV, spreadsheet files, Salesforce cloud, and on-premise databases.

  • Automatically provides suggestions for best possible visualizations, including Smart Visualizations that infer data type, as well as providing suggestions for relationships between data sets.

  • Requires only a browser, allowing QuickSight to work well on mobile and tablet devices. Since desktop software is not required, user can easily view, update or build new metadata and/or reports.

  • Caches data in memory for speedy response times for reports and dashboards.

  • Allows end users to tell stories and easily share them with peers.

  • Upcoming integration capabilities planned for wide number of partner BI tools such as Tibco, Domo, and QlikView.

  • QuickSight has two pricing tiers and is a complete managed service, which eliminates the need for installing and maintaining software with a pay-per-use model.

    • The Standard Edition allows ‘Authors’ to create and publish interactive dashboards for $9 per user per month.

    • The Enterprise Edition allows ‘Authors’ to create and publish interactive dashboards for $18 per user per month and allows ‘Readers’ secure access to interactive dashboards for $0.03 session up to $5 per user per month.

    • Therefore, using our banking scenario, the cost for an author to develop a dashboard and share with 100 tellers who view the report once per month is $21 per month, which is much better than the competition who are in the $1,000-per-month range for a similar scenario.

With all of the attributes and benefits above, the requirements for our hypothetical bank were met across the board.


While QuickSight clearly has a lot of benefits and very attractive attributes, it’s important to understand where QuickSight still has room to grow. The following is a list of such items:

  • The data source range for QuickSight is still being expanded to address common frameworks, so if you have complex legacy data sources, a deeper evaluation of data reporting and accessibility may lead you away from QuickSight.

  • Data visualization types are limited to common chart styles.

  • Publishing or sharing reports requires users to have an AWS account or Federated Corporate Identity.

  • Solution reports are primarily limited to a CSV file for exporting while many other tools allow for other forms such as PowerPoint and formatted PDF.

  • QuickSight is a new product and users may find the online community is not as robust as other visualization tools.

Given these opportunity areas, QuickSight clearly has more pros than cons. It’s a top-flight solution for BI requirements.


QuickSight is an innovative and cloud-hosted BI platform that addresses shortfalls of traditional BI systems. Furthermore, its low pay-per-session pricing is a great alternative to the competition. QuickSight can get data from various sources including relational databases, files, streaming, and NoSQL databases. QuickSight also comes with an in-memory caching layer that can cache and calculate aggregates on the fly. With QuickSight, data analysts are truly empowered and can build intuitive reports in minutes without any significant set up by IT.

If your business is interested in evaluating if QuickSight is the right fit for you, then we would be happy to help you explore the pros and cons in your unique scenario. Reach out to us at to start a conversation.

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