5 things you should know, for the accidental server admin

A few years ago when Tableau Server was in its infancy and Tableau itself was on its way to become the de facto analytics tool of many companies, few were those who managed a server deployment. Often these were individuals who had previous experience of managing BI applications in IT environments.

Fast forward to 2017 and it’s not unheard of a Tableau champion in one organisation seeing himself all the sudden going from a Tableau Desktop developer, to becoming the administrator. This can be exciting as you will be learning a lot about Tableau and your organisation habits in terms of who accesses the dashboards created, and how long they spend on it. On the other hand it can be a bit scary and daunting.

With that in mind I thought it would be good to share some of my own experience and 5 tips for what I’m calling “The Accidental Tableau Server Admin

Don’t be scared

Really! Granted the amount of blogs/vlogs/how-to’s for Tableau Desktop far outstrip the Tableau Server content, however server admins look out for each other and they know how hard it can be to navigate the IT minefield. Reach out to your fellow server admin friends. Did you know there’s a dedicated Server Admin area in the forums? Here, or that every month there’s a Virtual Tableau User group just for Server admins? Watch the latest one here.

In addition this page has most of the initial content you’ll need. Not to mention the Tableau Server bible, aka Tableau Administrator Guide.

Who should you contact in the Tableau community? By no means exhaustive here’s a starting list:

Glen Robinson

Paul Banoub

Mike Roberts

Jonathan MacDonald

Mark Jackson

Gregory Lewandowski

If you want to ask some of them a question #UnITedInData is taking place this Wednesday on Twitter where you can ask anything to do with deploying analytics at scale.

Befriend your IT team

Now that we got the external stuff sorted, and we know the community is there for you, but how about your IT team? I often hear folks saying less than positive things about their IT counterparts, but put yourself in their shoes for a second. They get requests from everyone all the time, from people wanting a new mouse to setting up new virtual machines in a clustered environment. Also, typically everything is urgent and they are being pulled from pillar to post constantly.

Take time to speak to and understand their modus operandi, give your IT all the information. Explain your objectives, be humble and ask for help if they mention waf’s, active directories, or kerberos and you have no idea what any of that means. No one knows everything and I find that asking and being humble when we don’t know often helps the conversation.

Love PostgreSQL

Tableau Server PostgreSQL is the best Tableau data source ever!! There I said it. -“How about Superstore?!” I hear you shout. Superstore is cool, but once you get your hands on Tableau PostgreSQL telling you, who is using those dashboards you created, how long they are spending on it. How your peers interact with Tableau server. You can see who are your power users and those who need some help to become fully engaged in your self service analytics service. You’ll love it, I guarantee.

I’ve put together an interactive PostgreSQL data dictionary you can publish to your own server and use it every time you are not sure which table contains the information you need.

Tableau Server PostgreSQL Dictionary

Understand Tableau Server structure

Without a doubt this is where you’ll spend the most time. To a certain extent at the rate Tableau pushes new releases nowadays, your learning curve will never be quite complete. But you should start on these key points. They will give a solid understanding of Tableau’s architecture and you will be able to make informed decisions, such as what level of permissions each group should be given.

  1. Sites

  2. Projects

  3. Groups

  4. Permissions – You’ll learn from your conversations to IT that security is paramount. Here’s a primer on Tableau permissions.

  5. Scheduling – this applies to extracts and alerts, Tableau scheduling system is very versatile and you can customise it to your hearts content.

tabadmin and tabcmd are there for you

Tabadmin is a set of commands to help you configure and administer your Tableau Server, things like licensing your Tableau Server, running of backups or customise your Tableau Server with logos (here) will be done using tabadmin. This list will give you all the commands available and while you may not use all of them, it’s good to know the main ones needed in your organisation.

Tabcmd on the other hand are a set of commands to help you automate common tasks like creating sites, import users from a .csv or delete projects. When your deployment scales up, creating a large number of projects by hand becomes tedious and error prone. Tabcmd is there to help you. See here for all the tabcmd commands available.

Of course the world of Tableau Server goes way beyond these 5 things, but hopefully this post provides you with a starting point and I look forward to seeing you at the next Virtual TUG for server admins.

Thank you for reading


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