New Considerations for Migrating from Tableau Server to Tableau Cloud


New Considerations for Migrating from Tableau Server to Tableau Cloud

It’s been a minute since we looked at the process to migrate from your own Tableau Server onto the Tableau-hosted SaaS offering Tableau Cloud. If you’re considering the move, below is an updated list of considerations that could impact your decision process.

Updated User Considerations

  • Tableau Cloud requires multi-factor authentication, which can be achieved via two methods:
    • SSO with MFA – Enable MFA with your SSO IdP (Google, Salesforce, or SAML)
    • Tableau with MFA – Verification through an authenticator app or recovery code
  • Tableau Cloud has a default 100GB-per-account limit, but for larger environments the Advanced Management add-on provides a 1 TB limit.
    • To find out your Tableau Server storage footprint, log in as a Server admin. Then, on the Status page, make sure you’ve selected Manage all sites if applicable, and look at the Stats for Space Usage admin view.
  • SAML SCIM (User provisioning from your SAML IdP) is supported if you have Okta or OneLogin, but support for more IdPs are planned. If you need to rely on any other authentication method or IdP (including Active Directory or LDAP), then you’ll need to manually provision your users or use custom scripting to accomplish the task via the REST API.
  • There is only one site per Tableau Cloud account. User subscriptions (and therefore pricing) are per-user, per-site/account. If you have multiple sites today, that would require a content restructuring exercise to fit under one site.
  • If the end user has access to more than one Tableau Cloud site, they will be presented with the Select Site chooser after login, so there’s less control over the user login experience.
  • Tableau has historically done well with providing very high availability for end users even during maintenance windows, whereas creating this experience on your own Tableau Server upgrade would normally require a blue/green deployment (double hardware) and your network team involvement for a DNS cutover. Here’s an excerpt from Tableau Cloud’s announcement for a planned major version upgrade:

“During this upgrade the system is planned to remain available for all users. Scheduled background tasks, such as extract refreshes and email subscriptions, will not run during the maintenance window. New, scheduled tasks created during the maintenance will also fail to run. Tasks scheduled to begin within the 4 hours prior to the end of the maintenance period will be requeued and resume as normal when the maintenance completes. Please check the status of your scheduled tasks after maintenance has finished.”

Data and Content Considerations

  • On-premises data sources now need to be queried and refreshed via Tableau Bridge (a proxy service/application that needs to run on a server inside your network). Depending on your network throughput, this can be orders of magnitude slower than an existing Tableau Server connection co-located with the data sources and/or strain limited internet bandwidth from your data center.
  • In contrast, cloud-based data sources could see a potentially significant improvement in performance as it no longer must traverse your network’s internet gateway.
  • For Tableau Bridge to successfully refresh extracts and support live connections to your on-premises data, your connections must be published to the Cloud site as a data source (not embedded within a workbook). Before migrating, on-premises data sources embedded in workbooks will need to be published separately to your Cloud site, and affected workbooks be connected to those published sources.
  • If you have Tabcmd dependencies, these processes will need to be authenticated by a personal access token to comply with your MFA-secured site. For more Tabcmd + Tableau Cloud need-to-knows, check out this post.
  • Tableau Cloud does not offer server customizations including timeouts, cache, trusted tickets, direct repository access, AD/external identity store integration or flexible downtime/maintenance windows.
  • Accidentally deleted content is gone for good (no options to restore from a recent backup). However, we understand a “Recycle Bin” is in the works, and in some cases, Tableau Support is able to recover deleted content for you.
  • The existing URL for Tableau Server would need to either redirect to Tableau Cloud or provide a helpful error page to inform users of the address change. In any case, the URLs will change, so any bookmarks created by end users will need to be re-created.
  • Tableau Cloud uses the Linux platform and has the same data-source limitations (no cubes, MS Access). If you are currently running Tableau Server on Windows, this would potentially mean a reduction in functionality, but if you’re running on Linux, the capabilities are equivalent.
  • Any passwords embedded in data sources during the migration will need to be re-entered as these passwords cannot be extracted from Tableau Server to be applied during a migration effort.
  • Any external content (images, URLs, etc.) embedded into your dashboards must sit on an SSL certified (HTTPS) server for Tableau Cloud to connect.
  • If you employ Tableau Reader for the delivery of any workbooks connected to on-premises data, be aware that these workbooks must have a live connection to a published source for refresh on the Tableau Cloud site. To effectively deliver a workbook that is legible in Tableau Reader (extract required), you must download the workbook from Tableau Cloud and create an extract of the published data source on your local machine before sharing the packaged workbook with your audience.

Time and Effort Considerations

The migration effort will take time. Ask yourself if users are okay with a publishing freeze (or the need to republish) for the extent of the migration period. This period has ranged from one day to four weeks in our experience. Having little content and/or frontloading the testing and prep work can help keep you on the lower end of the spectrum.

The migration process is labor intensive. This entails recreating or republishing all items on the server. For each workbook containing an embedded on-premises data source, the migration process involves publishing the data source to Tableau Cloud (as a standalone data source, not embedded in any workbook) and then replacing the embedded connection within your workbook to the published data source. This process is repeated for any connection embedded within any workbook that uses on-premises data. Workbooks that use published data sources require opening the workbook file in a text editor to update the XML with the addresses for the data sources after they have been published to Tableau Cloud. Site Export > Import is not an option when migrating to Tableau Cloud, so bulk user mapping is off the table.

The following list of objects would need to be re-created in Tableau Cloud (* or re-created by the end users):

  • Sites
  • Users
  • Groups
  • Projects
  • Data sources
  • Workbooks
  • Embedded passwords
  • User/group permissions
  • Tags
  • Favorites
  • Subscription tasks
  • Extract refresh tasks
  • Saved custom views*
  • Data alerts*
  • User bookmarks (that will need to be updated to point to Tableau Cloud)*

Tableau does provide free access to the Content Migration Tool which can handle the items below. This is straightforward and a big help if your site/project/content structure is not changing, but any automated approach will be less effective or much more work to set up if you need to restructure:

  • Projects
  • Data sources
  • Workbooks
  • User/group permissions

The ServerCare for Tableau Alternative

If you read the above lists and are still on the fence about migrating, let me present you with an interesting alternative. Many people find migrating to Tableau Cloud attractive because it requires far less management of resources on their end. This makes a lot of sense for many businesses, but what if you could still have all the benefits of Tableau Server with none of the management, maintenance or migration hassle? That’s exactly what ServerCare by InterWorks provides. Our team can manage and even host your Tableau Server for you, freeing you up to focus on building great dashboards and sharing that hard-earned insight.

When Is Tableau Cloud the Right Platform?

It is important to remember there are plenty of scenarios in which Tableau Cloud is the right platform for your long-term needs. Here are some key indications that you should consider making the move Tableau Cloud:

  • You are just starting your Tableau journey and do not have a Tableau Server.
  • You have a small user base or have (or can adopt) Okta or OneLogin for SAML SCIM.
  • No need for guest access or per-core licensing (typically used for public- or external-facing Tableau Servers)
  • Your primary data sources are cloud-based or you have high upstream bandwidth from your datacenter.
  • You are primarily utilizing live connections to an analytical database (e.g., Snowflake).
  • No need for server-level customizations, integrations or white labeling.
  • Your data is allowed to live outside your network and traverse the internet (encrypted via TLS, of course).

Looking for More Tableau Help? Let’s Chat.

Whether it’s Tableau Server, a managed Tableau Server through ServerCare or a migration to Tableau Cloud, going it alone can be intimidating. The InterWorks team does it all, and we’d be happy to lend an extra hand or even just talk over your options with you to make sure you put your best foot forward with Tableau’s wonderful family of products. Reach out to us today with your needs, and we’ll get the ball rolling.

More About the Author

Madeline Cook

Analytics Consultant
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