Comparison of Tableau Server and Tableau Online

They are complementary products that provide a way to publish, share, and distribute Tableau workbooks and data sources.

They both require Tableau Desktop Professional Edition for publishing workbooks (views and dashboards) and data sources.


The table table below compares some of the important features, to help you decide which is the right product for your organization.


Tableau Feature

Tableau Online

Tableau Server

How Easy

Very.  All you need are some accounts and you’re off!

No hardware procurement, OS configurations, capacity planning and so on.

hardly an arduous task

Minimum number of licenses/ accounts



Licensing Model

$500 per user per year
No ‘Enterprise’ model for unlimited accounts

$1000 per user. One off payment.
Year 2 onwards: 10% ie $200 per user per year - for upgrades and support.

(Note that this becomes $300 a year cheaper than "Tableau Online" after just under 3 years)

[You could do a vizualisation line graph of this cut off point!]

Data storage limitations

Tableau are not imposing any storage limit on the amount of data you can publish up to Tableau Online.

Your disk space  !

Live data connections - to local data



Live data connections - to online data


ie  Supports live connections to Google BigQuery and Amazon Redshift,

these data sources are fantastic at handling huge amounts of data and you’ll want to leverage their power when analysing billions of rows and terabytes of data rather than using extracts.]

As well as to MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQL Server data hosted on internet services such as Amazon RDS or Microsoft SQL Azure.

Note that tableau say that "since your business databases are likely to be behind your company’s firewall, it doesn't make sense for Tableau Online to allow these connections, for reasons of security as well as simplicity. "


Supports live connections to your local data sources and to Google BigQuery and Amazon Redshift.

Support all connections supported by online

How to Publish workbooks without using live data connections.

Work published to Tableau Online can include data Extracts, rather than live connections, ie do extract from the desktop professional.
(A pain!)

Data extract


Server can have data uploaded like this, but it is un-necessary as local data connections can be utilised.

Scheduled Automatic Refreshing of Data from the server side?

Not permitted.

New data must be ‘pushed’ to Tableau Online, either by manually using Tableau Desktop or by using the Tableau command line utility, which can be automated in conjunction with Windows scheduler or similar tools.

Again, there are some exceptions – extracts that are based on Cloud sources such as Google Analytics or (these connections are never ‘Live’) can be scheduled in Tableau Online so they are updated automatically just as you would in Tableau Server.


Individual permissions

Your workbooks are automatically updated with the latest information from their original source

Individual permissions

Similar way to how Tableau Server works – for example, Jon can access workbooks A & B, Dave can access A and edit B, Charlie can only access B etc.

This is the same as 
tableau server?




You can’t integrate it with your Active Directory, or use any other authentication method such as Trusted Tickets via a web portal.

Active Directory is OK.  Find out what other authentication can be used?

Minimum subscription

1 year - No upgrade path to server.   i.e. After 6 months you would have to buy server and keep Tableau Online for the remaining 6 months as well.

1 year



Hardware and systems maintained by Tableau.

You install the software and maintain the systems on your own machines, .

Inside Company Firewall

No. Outside.

inside or outside

maintain multiple sites,

You can purchase multiple sites


Configure users and permissions



Custom branding.


Supports custom branding (logos, company name).

Published extracts

Supports published extracts for other data sources.

Supports published extracts.

Guest Access

No Guest access

Guest is only available with the core Core Licensing option.
This costs £70,000 approx and is designed for big businesses

Providing Viz embedded onto websites


the Guest user is used to provide this

User Authentication

    • Authenticate users through TableauID (email address and password).
    • No guest access; all users accessing views and dashboards published to Tableau Online must be authenticated.

Can be configured for local authentication, Active Directory integration, trusted authentication, or single sign-on using SAML or Kerberos.

Scheduled refresh 

    • For extracts of some cloud-based data sources, you can schedule refresh tasks on Tableau Online. For extracts of other data sources, update extracts manually using Tableau Desktop, or automate updates using a command-line utility. Select a pre-configured schedule.

You can schedule refresh tasks for published extracts. Select a pre-configured schedule or create a custom schedule.


hosted in a SAS-70 compliant datacentre, sign-in is secured by HTTPS and all communication between you and your audience’ machines and Tableau Online is encrypted using SSL.

All access to your content is controlled by the users you or your administrator have set up in the Tableau Online interface.

Tableau employees and other Tableau Online customers will not be able to see or access your data.




What about Tableau Public & Tableau Public Premium?

Tableau Public is Tableau’s free publishing option where you can upload your work for anyone to see via the web. However, as the name suggests, it is then in the public domain; anyone in the world can view your work and download your data. Tableau Public Premium (a paid for service) offers the same but without file size / row number restrictions, includes access to technical support, and the ability to control whether users can download the underlying data. The visualisation that you publish is still open for all the world to see, however.

Tableau Online is different because you have the ability to control who can see your work.