Choosing the right Tableau deployment strategy

Kelly Schumann

Kelly Schumann

Co-authored by Kelly Schumann and Chris Tufts, BI consultants at Slalom Chicago.

So you’ve purchased Tableau Server to support your growing organization, and now you’re ready to get started… not so fast! Have you considered a content management and deployment plan? Decided how you’ll grant and manage access? How you’ll choose to connect Tableau to your data? If not, we’ll help you navigate your way through these decisions as you prepare to deploy Tableau Server, and provide context around your options and recommendations.

Separate environments or separate projects/sites

Getting started with Tableau is exciting. You might be thinking, “I can’t wait until the supply chain manager sees my fancy new inventory dashboard filled with visualizations on all our important KPIs!”  But before moving forward, don’t forget about development streams and version control within your environment; when untested and incorrect dashboards make it into production, it hurts your business’s credibility.

It’s always a good idea to keep content from going into production before it’s ready with test environments. Many large-scale BI deployments have multiple environments for testing and production. Names vary, but often include Dev/Sandbox, Test/SIT, PreProd/UAT, and Production.

You can imitate this structure in Tableau by using either separate servers/environments or separate projects/sites on the same server secured to only allow developers and testers into certain folders. Both are good options, but here are some things you’ll want to consider:

1. How many business users will you have?

This is always a difficult question, but if the number of business users is stressing the server, maybe it is not wise to have developers and testers on the same piece of hardware troubleshooting.

2. What’s your budget?

More servers = more money. If you’re starting small, you can probably get away with having one server with multiple projects to manage your content. Then when you grow, you can add other servers for different environments as needed.

Chris Tufts

Chris Tufts

3. Is this for enterprise or departmental use?

Depending on the content delivered, it might make sense to keep it small and on one server.

4. How many developers or analysts will you have?

As your team grows, having separate servers/environments may be needed to maintain proper control over content.

5. Audit considerations?

Perhaps your IT department won’t accept having just one server for Dev, Test, and Production.

Authenticating users

The next thing you’ll want to consider is how the right people will have access to the right content.  In Tableau, there are two ways to manage access with Tableau Server:

  • Windows Authentication relies on an organization’s Active Directory. Users will log in with their AD credentials, and Tableau can even be enabled for automatic log in.
  • Local Authentication means each user is given a set of credentials specific to Tableau, and the report manager manually maintains users, groups, and their permissions.

Single Sign-on (SSO) can be assigned to either authentication method using Active Directory, SAML, or Trusted Ticket Authentication. This allows Tableau to incorporate the security standards that your organization has decided on to provide a seamless experience for your end users.

The choice between Windows and Local Authentication must be made at the time you install Tableau Server, so you’ll want to think this through early on. If you wish to switch afterward, you’ll need to uninstall and re-run the setup process.

Again, there are several things to consider when deciding between these options:

1. Will your number of business users be too much for a report manager to keep up with manually?

2. Does your report manager want full control over assigning groups, or do they prefer to leverage groups in Active Directory?

3. Are you incorporating both internal and external users?

If so, Local Authentication is preferred to added non-employees/contractors to the company directory.

Data connection and deployment options for workbooks

You’ll also need to consider how you’d like the dashboard or workbook to interact with the database.  Many BI tools simply execute a series of queries every time a user opens a report/dashboard. In Tableau, you can select one of three options to connect your content to your database:

1. Import All Data – Static: This is for reports that are never updated. There is no connection to the database.

2. Import All Data – Scheduled Refreshes: This is for reports that you would like updated on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, daily—even hourly).

3. Live Database Connection: This executes a query for each refresh or opening of a workbook.

Live Database Connection can be slower because a trip to the database must be made for fresh data, but the data will be more up to date. Scheduled refreshes and static workbooks with all data imported will utilize the Tableau Server more heavily and will not rely on the Database Server at all. This can also be useful when you are trying to minimize queries on the database and free up resources for other database operations—a consideration you can and should make with each workbook you deploy.

Data to the people!

Congratulations: now you’ve planned your environments, decided on an authentication method, and chosen the right data connection option for you and your users.  Always remember that as your organization evolves, so will your deployment strategy need to adapt to changing needs, more users, more data, etc.  But you have what you need to get your content up and running, so tell your supply chain manager that her inventory dashboard is on the way!

Want help with your Table Server deployment and content management? Reach out to our Tableau team.

One Response to Choosing the right Tableau deployment strategy

  1. Pingback: How to improve the performance of your Tableau dashboards | The Slalom Blog

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