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Background: What is Tableau?

Tableau was founded in 2003 as a result of a computer science project at Stanford that aimed to improve the flow of analysis and make data more accessible to people through visualisation. Co-founders Chris Stolte, Pat Hanrahan, and Christian Chabot developed and patented its foundational technology, VizQL – which visually expresses data by translating drag-and-drop actions into data queries through an intuitive interface.

Ever since, Tableau has continuously invested in research and development at an unrivalled pace, developing solutions to help anyone working with data to get to answers faster and uncover unanticipated insights. This includes making machine learning, statistics, natural language, and smart data prep more useful to augment human creativity in the analysis. And they not only offer a complete, integrated analytics platform but also proven enablement resources to help customers deploy and scale a data-driven culture that drives resilience and value through powerful outcomes.

Tableau was acquired by Salesforce in 2019 and today, organisations everywhere – from non-profits to global enterprises, and across all industries and departments are empowering their people with Tableau to drive change with data.

So, what is Tableau?

It’s is one of the leading and fastest-growing data visualisation tools used in the business intelligence industry today. It was created for the purposes of helping people see, understand, and make decisions with data. In other words, it simply converts raw data into a very easily understandable format.



How Does It Work?

Tableau connects and extracts the data stored in various places. It can pull data from any platform imaginable. A simple database such as an excel, pdf, to a complex database like Oracle, a database in the cloud such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure SQL database, Google Cloud SQL and various other data sources can be extracted by Tableau.

When it is launched, ready data connectors are available which allows you to connect to any database. Depending on the version you have purchased, the number of data connectors supported by Tableau will vary.

The pulled data can be either connected live, or extracted to the data engine, Tableau Desktop. This is where data analysts and data engineers work with the data that was pulled up and develop visualisations. The created dashboards are shared with the users as a static file. The users who receive the dashboards view the file using Tableau Reader.

The data from the Tableau Desktop can be published to the Tableau Server. This is an enterprise platform where collaboration, distribution, governance, security model, automation features are supported. With the Tableau Server, the end-users have a better experience in accessing the files from all locations be it a desktop, mobile or email.

For a clearer understanding, data analytics in Tableau can be classified into two sections:

Developer Tools: The Tableau tools that are used for development such as the creation of dashboards, charts, report generation, visualisation fall into this category. The Tableau products, under this category, are the Tableau Desktop and the Tableau Public.

Sharing Tools: As the name suggests, the purpose of the tool is sharing the visualisations, reports, dashboards that were created using the developer tools. Products that fall into this category are Tableau Online, Server, and Reader.

Let’s explore the different products Tableau offers below.



Available Products


Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop has a rich feature set and allows you to code and customise reports. Right from creating the charts, reports, to blending them all together to form a dashboard, all the necessary work is created in Tableau Desktop.

For live data analysis, Tableau Desktop provides connectivity to Data Warehouse, as well as other various types of files. The workbooks and the dashboards created here can be either shared locally or publicly.

Based on the connectivity to the data sources and publishing option, Tableau Desktop has two variations.

Tableau Desktop Personal: The development features are similar to Tableau Desktop. The personal version keeps the workbook private, and the access is limited. The workbooks cannot be published online. Therefore, it should be distributed either offline or in Tableau Public.

Tableau Desktop Professional: It is pretty much similar to Tableau Desktop. The difference is that the work created in the Tableau Desktop can be published online or in Tableau Server. Also, in the professional version, there is full access to all sorts of the data types.


Tableau Public

Tableau Public was designed basically for anyone who wanted to share and tell stories or data with interactive graphics on the web, it runs overnight, with it you can create and publish data without the help of any programmers of IT.

This version was specially built for cost-effective users. By the word “Public,” it means that the workbooks created cannot be saved locally, in turn, they should be saved to the Public cloud which can be viewed and accessed by anyone.

However, there is no privacy to the files saved to the cloud since anyone can download and access the same. This version is the best for the individuals who want to learn Tableau and for the ones who want to share their data with the general public.


Tableau Server

Tableau Server is an analysis-based browser which anyone can use. It’s an alternative which anyone prefers, because of its fast pace as compared to the traditional business software. 

It’s specifically used to share the workbooks, visualisations that are created in the Tableau Desktop application across the organisation. To share dashboards in the Tableau Server, you must first publish your work in the Tableau Desktop. Once the work has been uploaded to the server, it will be accessible only to the licensed users.

However, It’s not necessary that the licensed users need to have the Tableau Server installed on their machine. They just require the login credentials with which they can check reports via a web browser. The security is high in Tableau Server and it is much suited for quick and effective sharing of data in an organisation.


Tableau Online

As the name suggests, Tableau Online is an online sharing tool. Its functionalities are similar to Tableau Server, but the data is stored on servers hosted in the cloud which are maintained by the Tableau group.

There is no storage limit on the data that can be published in the Tableau Online. Tableau Online creates a direct link to over 40 data sources that are hosted in the cloud such as the MySQL, Hive, Amazon Aurora, Spark SQL and many more.

To publish, both Tableau Online and Server require the workbooks created by Tableau Desktop. It also supports web applications like Google Analytics, Salesforce, etc.


Tableau Reader

Tableau Reader is a free tool which allows you to view the workbooks and visualisations created using Tableau Desktop or Tableau Public. The data can be filtered but editing and modifications are restricted. The security level is zero in Tableau Reader as anyone who gets the workbook can view it using Tableau Reader.



Why Tableau?


1) User-friendly

This is the greatest strength of Tableau. It is built from the ground level for people who don’t have any technical skills or coding experience. So, everything can be done with this tool by anybody without any prior set of skills. Since most of the features are in a drag-and-drop format, each visualisation is so intuitive and self-depicting.


2) Relatively Low Cost

When compared with the other business intelligence tools like QlikView or Business Objects, Tableau is relatively cheaper.


3) Growing Market

Tableau is still new to the market, so it is still growing day by day. It’s almost in every industry, from healthcare to transportation. It also has a very strong client base, which includes companies like Nokia, Deloitte, Microsoft and many more.


4) Fantastic Visualisations

Thanks to the in-built features of Tableau which help you create visualisations that surely stand out of the crowd. You also have the option of switching between different visualisations to bring about a greater context, ways of drilling down data and exploring the data at a minute level.

Tableau dashboards give dynamic and very interactive results. Images, web pages will incorporate into the dashboard very easily for smart and beautiful graphics and charts. The beautiful and interactive dashboard helps in easy storytelling, which gives a deep insight into the data.


5) In-depth Insights

Tableau can help enterprises futuristically to analyse data without any specific goals in mind. You can explore visualisations and have a look at the same data from different angles. You can frame ‘what if’ queries and work with data by hypothetically visualising it in a different manner and dynamically adding components for comparison and analysis. When you are working with real-time data, then these capabilities are highlighted in a huge manner.


6) Works with Disparate Data Sources

Tableau has a powerful reason to be included by various organisations in today’s data-driven world where data can come from any point and any disparate sources. It has an edge over other business intelligence and analytics tools as it lets you work by connecting to various data sources, data warehouses, and files which exist in the cloud, big data that exists in spreadsheets, and non-relational data, among other types of data. It also effortlessly blends all different types of data to help organisations come up with compelling visualisations.


7) Handles Large Amounts of Data with Speed

Speed is the greatest asset of a Tableau. It’s capable of handling and analysing any amount of data (without any impact on dashboard performance) in seconds. This feature is most useful when making a quick business decision.


8) Easy Publishing and Sharing

After analysing the data, you can easily publish and share your data and dashboards. This can be done on web and mobile devices.


9) Direct Connection

It allows databases, data warehouses, and cubes to directly connect to the users. This makes data access very easy. For example, a user can easily pick tables from spreadsheets, then data from Hadoop, and makes a perfect mash-up and thus helping in getting results quickly.


10) Supports Other Languages

To perform complicated table calculations and evade the performance issues, you can integrate R or Python. If incorporating a Python script, data cleansing tasks can be performed by importing packages.



What Makes Tableau Different From Other Visualisation Tools?

Tableau is a powerful tool that can connect to any type of database and generates its own queries to work with huge data sets, so we can make patterns in just a few seconds, while the same would take minutes or hours with Excel. Additionally, it has an intelligent dashboard that provides a quick solution for most commonly asked questions by the users. It also provides a better user experience since it is easier to learn and use and provides better integration functionalities with most third-party solutions. Overall, Tableau is a flexible and elegant tool which should be your first choice when it comes to implementing a business intelligence tool.



Why Should I Learn Tableau?

The scope for Tableau is growing. It is used everywhere – Engineering, education, finance, film, healthcare, insurance. You name a sector, it’s covered. It’s also becoming an integral part of life just like Microsoft Excel. It’s is also so easy to learn and the basics are too intuitive. If you were able to master it, you could make awesome visualisations that will get its appreciation itself.

Read more in our previous post – 20 Reasons You Should Learn Tableau



Beginner-Level Tableau Training

Add value to your organisation by mastering one of the hottest business analytics tools out there right now, Tableau. This one-day beginner-level training is perfect for professionals and individuals who wish to learn the ins and outs of Tableau and create stunning visualisations and dashboards for presentations and business decision-making.

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