Get to Know Tableau Server

Unit 1: Get to Know Tableau Server

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the benefits of deploying Tableau Server in your organization.
  • Identify the types of installations available for Tableau Server.
  • Explain how data is accessed in Tableau Server.
  • Describe the user roles associated with Tableau Server.

What Is Tableau Server?

Tableau Server is an enterprise-scale hosting platform where you can keep all your Tableau workbooks, data sources, and more. Its main purpose is to help your organization manage and share data and insights. Tableau Server is typically managed by your IT department (although smaller organizations might manage without an IT department), and it can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. 

Tableau Server integrates with your existing security protocols to keep your data safe. In addition, organizations—specifically, Tableau Server admins—can set permissions on different types of content (projects, workbooks, views, and more), making it easy to determine who in your organization has access to what. 

Lastly, you can create visualizations right in the browser. To learn more about web authoring in Tableau, check out the Get Started with Web Authoring in Tableau Cloud trail.

Take a look at this short video to learn more about how Tableau Server provides you with a complete analytics platform at any scale.

How Is It Different from Other Tableau Products?

Let’s take a look at Tableau Server alongside other Tableau offerings. 

Where Data Analysis Happens
Sharing Options
Maintenance and Management

Tableau Server

Analysis happens on the web (or in Tableau Desktop, which requires publishing to Tableau Server).

You can share and collaborate in the browser with users who have permission to access your content. 

Your organization is responsible for installing and maintaining the hardware and processes that run Tableau Server and for securing the organization’s data. 

Tableau Cloud

Analysis happens on the web (or in Tableau Desktop, which requires publishing to Tableau Cloud). 

You can share and collaborate in the browser with users who have permission to access your content. 

Tableau manages the hardware and systems that install and maintain the platform. 

Tableau Desktop

All your data analysis is done on a locally installed application. 

You can share saved workbooks and data sources with others who have Tableau Desktop. Alternatively, you can publish content to Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud (accessible with the right permissions).

Your organization is responsible for maintaining and upgrading Tableau Desktop. 


There are other Tableau products, but we chose these three similar offerings to provide the comparison analysis.

The Tableau products you use will depend on your analytics needs. Here are just a few of the reasons to add Tableau Server to your toolset:

  • You get a privately managed server (on-premises or in the cloud) that’s accessible via a browser with the right credentials.
  • You can create visualizations right in the browser.
  • You can share and collaborate on content with other authorized users.
  • Admins can set permissions to restrict who can view content and how content is viewed.
  • Your company decides how to regulate the content in accordance with its own governance policies.

Tableau Server Installation: On-Premises or in the Cloud?

To install Tableau Server on-premises, you need hardware that meets the hardware requirements. You can install a single instance or deploy Tableau Server in a distributed cluster


You’ll be alerted if your hardware meets the minimum requirements, but not the recommended requirements. In that case, you can try a trial installation first.

Another option is to deploy Tableau Server to the public cloud. Here are the advantages of installing it to a public cloud.

  • Your organization doesn’t need to maintain its own infrastructure or server hardware.
  • You can maintain full control of the software in your cloud environment.
  • Some cloud providers offer one-click installations for faster Tableau Server deployment.
  • The cost of ownership is usually less than an on-premises deployment.
  • The cloud may provide better uptime, reliability, and fault tolerance.
  • The cloud provider is responsible for the infrastructure to run Tableau Server.

If you decide to try an on-premises installation first, you can always migrate it later to the cloud. Supported public cloud environments include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Alibaba Cloud. If you prefer that Tableau manages the deployment for you, you can choose the cloud-based SaaS offering, Tableau Cloud.

Data Access in Tableau Server

With Tableau Server, it’s important for you and the users in your organization to think about how to share the data that’s used by the workbooks you publish. 

Here are types of data sources you can publish to Tableau Server.

  1. An extract of the data source, which is like a snapshot of the data source at a point in time.
  2. A packaged workbook that contains extracts (or “snapshots”) of the data.
  3. A live connection, which is a data source that contains a direct connection to underlying real-time data.

When publishing workbooks to Tableau Server, authors can also decide whether to publish the data source separately, or leave it embedded in the workbook.

User Roles

Tableau Server users can have one of several site roles. A user’s site role determines the maximum capabilities that they have to content that’s published to a site. A site, in this context, is a collection of users, groups, and content (for example, workbooks and data sources) that’s walled off from any other groups and content on the same instance of Tableau Server. 

Every instance of Tableau Server starts with a single site. However, your organization may decide to create additional sites to isolate particular types of content.

A user may belong to more than one site. That same user may even have a different site role for each of those sites. The site roles that can be assigned to a user depend on that user’s server license: Creator, Explorer, and Viewer. For each site a user belongs to, they have exactly one site role, restricted by their license. 

Let’s review the site roles, the minimum server license that each role needs, and what each license allows the user to do.

Site Role
What You Can Do

Server Administrator

Site Administrator Creator



Create and publish with no restrictions

Site Administrator Explorer

Explorer (can publish)



Create and manage content using published data sources



View and interact with content


Creators can also do anything an Explorer and Viewer can do, and Explorers can also do anything a Viewer can do.

Now that you have a better understanding of what Tableau Server is and how it’s used, let’s move on to the next unit, where you learn about navigating the user interface.


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