Tableau

Virtual Connections in Tableau

Imagine an organization with various workgroups performing data analysis and independently managing permissions and visibility for their own data connections. All of this can potentially lead to duplications, inconsistencies, and security issues. This is where Virtual Connections (VC) in Tableau come to our aid in data management and access. With VCs, you can centralize connections, set security rules (RLS), and apply global filters, enhancing data efficiency and governance.

What are Virtual Connections?

A Virtual Connection is a tool that provides a central, shareable access point to data on Tableau Server or Cloud, supporting row-level security for the connection. It is automatically available with the Data Management Add-on. For more information about this Add-on, consult our dedicated article.

But let’s take a step back: what is row-level security (RLS) in Tableau? It refers to restricting the rows of data that a specific user can see in a particular workbook or data source when viewing information. More details are available in the dedicated article linked here.

With Virtual Connections, you can centralize RLS, avoiding the need to apply it individually to each report, thereby reducing the risk of errors.

How to Create a Virtual Connection?​

From the Home/Explore section of Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud, select New -> Virtual Connection.
Next, select Connect -> choose the connector and enter the credentials.

Create Virtual Connection

At this point, you need to drag the table to be used to create the VC into the dedicated section. Similar to data sources, you can also add multiple connections and set the connection to Live or Extract.

Once the table is dragged, you will find yourself in the “Tables” section, as shown in the image below. Here, you can find information about the table, its database, the type of connection (live/extract), the visibility of the VC for users, and the presence of applied criteria or filters.

Section "Tables"

How to Apply a Criteria (Filter) with a Virtual Connection

Let’s imagine our table contains information on the username, geographic area of responsibility, and sales data. We want to apply a filter that shows each user only the sales data related to their associated geographic area. Some users, however, should be able to view all the data.

To do this, click on the second section, “Data Criteria” as shown in the image below. Here we will define:

  • Criteria Table: The table to be filtered.
  • Criteria Column: The column in the criteria table’s data used to filter the data.
  • Criteria Condition: A boolean condition where if the criteria condition is TRUE, the row is displayed.
Section "Data Criteria"

The steps in practice are as follows:

  1. Add the Criteria Table: double-click on the name of the table you want to use as the criteria table. A shield icon will appear next to the table name.
  2. Add Columns to the Map: click on “+ Add Column to Map” to add one or more columns that will be used to filter the data.
  3. Establish a Criteria: in the example below, we set the filter to be valid for all users present in the criteria table. As a result, each user will see only the data related to their associated geographic area. However, users in the “00.Gruppo” group on Tableau Server will be able to view all data.
  4. Preview the Result: select the flag “With Criteria Applied” and choose a user to preview the filtered data.
  5. Save and Publish the Virtual Connection: finally, save and publish the virtual connection on Tableau Server/Cloud, deciding through “Permissions” who can use, modify, or manage it.

How to Connect to a Virtual Connection?

Users with access to the Virtual Connection (VC) can create new visualizations and dashboards, benefiting from the pre-configured security settings and filters. But how do you connect to a VC?

You can connect to a VC via Tableau Desktop by clicking on the connection icon or via Tableau Server/Cloud by creating a new workbook from the Explore menu. To easily find the VC, you can use the “Type” filter as shown in the image below and select Virtual Connections.

Connect to a Virtual Connection

Conclusions

Virtual Connections are a powerful tool for improving data management and security in Tableau, while also facilitating data access and usage for end users.

To summarize, using VCs simplifies data connection management by ensuring security rules are consistently applied throughout the organization. Additionally, operational efficiency is increased as the time required to set up connections and filters for new analyses is significantly reduced. This allows users to focus more on the analyses themselves.

For more information on VCs, you can consult the dedicated sections in the Tableau help.

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Visualitics Team
This article was written and edited by one of our consultants.

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