Considerations for a Tableau Server to Tableau Online Migration


Considerations for a Tableau Server to Tableau Online Migration

Note: A new post exists that has been updated to include new considerations and more recent software functionalities. Visit that blog to learn more.

So, you’re thinking long and hard about migrating from Tableau Server to Tableau Online. Both platforms serve the same purpose, which is sharing beautiful Tableau dashboards to your audience, but they achieve it through different means. The biggest difference, of course, is that you must maintain Tableau Server (though ServerCare by InterWorks changes that) while Tableau Online is hosted entirely in the cloud. There are advantages and disadvantages to each – it all just depends on your needs.

That brings us to the topic of this post. If you’re looking for a detailed comparison on which platform is “better,” then these are not the droids you are looking for. Rather, I wanted to provide a quick list of considerations for the specific scenario of migrating from Tableau Server to Tableau Online. We are often approached with this scenario at InterWorks. The list below is by no means meant to discourage migrating, but it is meant to provide a clear-eyed view into what goes into that process, so you can ensure that it’s the right move.

User Considerations

  • Tableau Online has a hard 100GB-per-account limit (not per-user, combined across all users).
    • On the Status page, make sure you’ve selected Manage all sites if applicable and look at the Stats for Space Usage admin view.
  • Tableau Online identity store must be local and does not have direct AD integration. If you require external directory integration, it would need to be handled via SAML SCIM (to Azure AD, ADFS, Okta, OneLogin, etc.), custom scripting or manual processes to maintain the user base.
  • There is only one site per Tableau Online account. User subscriptions are per-user, per-site/account.
  • If the end user has access to more than one Tableau Online site, they’ll be presented with the Select Site chooser after login.

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 the client network). 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 their data center.
  • Cloud-based data sources could see an improvement in performance as it no longer has to traverse your network’s internet gateway.
  • There is no server customization available (timeouts, cache, trusted tickets, repository access, AD/external identity store integration, downtime/outage windows).
  • Accidentally deleted content is really gone for good (no options to restore from a recent backup).
  • The existing URL for Tableau Server would need to either redirect to Tableau Online 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 Online uses the Linux platform and has the same data source limitations (no cubes, MS Access). If you’re currently running Tableau Server on Windows, this would be a reduction in functionality, but if you’re running on Linux, the capabilities are equivalent.

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.
  • The migration process is 100% manual. This entails recreating all Projects, users and permissions, as well as downloading and republishing all existing content. 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’ve been published to Tableau Online. Site Export > Import is not an option when migrating to Tableau Online, and Tableau’s Content Migration Tool requires the source server to have the Server Management Add-on license. The following list of objects would need to be re-created in Tableau Online (* or re-created by the end users):
    • Sites
    • Users
    • Groups
    • Projects
    • Data sources
    • Workbooks
    • User/group permissions
    • Favorites
    • Subscription tasks
    • Extract refresh tasks
    • Saved custom views*
    • Data alerts*
    • User bookmarks (that will need to be updated to point to Tableau Online)*

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 Online 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 and maintenance 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 Online the Right Platform?

It’s important to remember that there are plenty of scenarios in which Tableau Online is indeed the right platform for your needs. Here are just some of those cases:

  • A limited number of workbooks/data sources and low projected growth
  • Fewer than 500 users with minimal anticipated growth
  • No need for guest access
  • Primarily utilizing live connections to an analytical database (e.g. Snowflake) with limited extracts
  • No need for server customizations or white labeling
  • Your data is allowed to live outside your network and traverse the internet

Looking for More Tableau Help? Let’s Chat.

Whether it’s Tableau Server, a managed Tableau Server through ServerCare or a migration to Tableau Online, 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.

Contact Us

More About the Author

Tony Kau

Global Platforms Practice Lead
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