Google Data Studio Vs Tableau – Which is the Best BI Reporting Tool?

data connectors in google data studio

In a digitally driven world, your website or eCommerce store is almost certainly where most existing and prospective clients interact with your brand. For all its global reach, the downside to online business is the lack of direct interaction with the lifeblood of your business – your customers & clients. 

Conversely, the web offers seemingly infinite opportunities to track and glean deep insights into user behavior. The question is – how to best turn that data into actionable information?

While Google Analytics is a treasure trove of information, the sheer volume of data can make it difficult for the layperson to extract, segment and present data in a meaningful way. 

This is where BI reporting tools such as Google Data Studio, Tableau and others step in. When used correctly, they help to translate a sea of data into clear, accessible insights to fill the information gap.

Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. 

In business, that translates into the power to analyse trends and identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that drive critical decision making.

In this post, we’ll look at two BI Reporting leaders: Google Data Studio and Tableau. While we might not solve the Great Google Data Studio Vs Tableau Debate for all time, we’ll hopefully provide some insights to help you identify the right fit:

1. Implementation

Google Data Studio is a completely cloud-based service. Your Google suite data will be fully integrated, making setup a breeze. Connecting non-Google data sources is almost as simple. Data Studio provides native connectors to almost 200 apps.

Tableau began its life as a desktop application that required local server hosting. The benefit of this strategy was the perception of greater data security, which is why Tableau has traditionally been preferred by larger organizations who are hesitant to have data stored on the cloud. It has since evolved to offer both on-site and cloud-based installation. Connecting data sources should offer few if any challenges to users.

The Verdict: Both tools are simple to install, and onboarding is smooth and intuitive. Data Studio’s ability to seamlessly integrate data from Google Suite apps probably gives it a slight edge in terms of simplicity. However, if data security is a priority, then Tableau has an advantage.

2. Cost

GDS is completely free to run. In rare cases, some niche data sources may require a subscription to a third-party application such as Supermetrics to integrate.

Tableau offers a flexible pricing system. Every license requires at least one “Creator” subscription allowing access to the full range of data generation and analysis capabilities. The Creator subscription will set you back USD 70 per user, per month, billed annually for full end-to-end access. For those requiring only limited data transformation capabilities or view only access, Tableau offers a range of options priced from USD 12 to USD 42 per user, per month. Prices vary depending on whether the application is hosted locally, on public cloud or on Tableau’s servers. A number of add-ons are also available that help organizations tailor the solution to the individual user’s specific role.

The Verdict: Google Data Studio is the clear winner here. While Tableau’s pricing is quite reasonable and offers excellent flexibility, it’s hard to beat a solution that is free to use for all but a small subset of users with highly specific data requirements.

3. Data Interactivity

data interactivity

The difference between the two tools is most apparent here. If you’ve spent any time in Google Analytics, you’ll be familiar with the breadth and depth of information available. Data Studio provides access to all this data, as well as other Google-related and external sources. Data Studio allows a level of data manipulation and presentation that normally suffices for the great majority of users.

When it comes to serious number crunching, however, Tableau takes it to the next level. The application provides an unmatchable ability to drill deeply into your data sources and extract complex, sophisticated insights. In the same vein, Tableau offers exceptional database connectivity. Virtually all databases and file types can be integrated into the system with little fuss. Additionally, Tableau offers native integration of many widely used cloud-based data sources such as Salesforce and other CRMs. 

While Data Studio’s database integration capabilities are steadily improving, it is a long way from achieving this level of sophistication.

The Verdict: Pound for pound, Tableau dominates this critical aspect of the competition. Having said that, how this relates to the individual user depends on their requirements. Tableau offers unparalleled power and insights for businesses requiring the deepest level of analytical muscle. This makes it perfect for enterprise level companies or those for whom data analytics is a core aspect of their operations. The majority of businesses, by contrast, will find that the more modest, but nevertheless extremely robust capabilities of Data Studio are easily able to meet their needs.

4. Ease of Use

It should come as no surprise that this category is inversely related to the previous. With greater capabilities comes greater complexity. This is certainly the case here. 

Google prides itself on a clean, intuitive user experience that is simple to learn without much or any expertise. Data Studio is no exception to this rule. With a bit of playing around, even novices should find navigating the tool a relatively simple proposition. It goes without saying that some of the more complex functions may require a bit of research and trial and error. However, for the most part you can expect to pick it up quickly and easily.

Tableau, as you’ve probably guessed, does require a significant degree of experience and technical know-how to set up and implement. Complex analytical extractions and manipulations may prove beyond the capabilities of those without expert analysis capabilities.

The Verdict: Clear win here for GDS. If you need the extra grunt that Tableau delivers, you’ll most likely need personnel with the appropriate skills and expertise to get full value from the system. For the rest of us, Google Data Studio has pretty much everything we need.

5. Data Visualization

Generating useful data is only half the battle. The best BI tools will help you cut through the numbers and present filtered and interpreted data in a dynamic and easy to consume format.

Google Data Studio provides default templates that are straightforward and easily customizable. However, the power of the platform is the ability to quickly and simply integrate third party templates to show and share your insights. Just as Google Chrome provides access to a seemingly limitless array of extensions, an entire niche industry has developed around plug-and-play, custom designed Data Studio templates. Whatever your device, data source or aesthetic preferences, it is a cinch to find the best Google Data Studio templates to suit your specific needs.

While Tableau may not offer the same open-source marketplace for templates, the software delivers a decent selection of attractive built-in templates, formats and customisable tables and graphs to suit various requirements. Users with advanced skills may also be able to create unique views to present complex information in an accessible way.

The Verdict: Both solutions have aesthetically pleasing, easy to use data visualization capabilities. If you know what you want and have sufficient familiarity, you should have few issues getting what you need from Tableau. Data Studio’s open-source community gives users access to a huge marketplace of templates, allowing users to choose the functionality, look and feel they need from an astonishing array of templates.

6. Data Sharing

Generating data is one thing. The ability to share and effectively communicate the insights that you’ve gleaned from your data with stakeholders is crucial.

Data Studio, being a cloud-based application, offers outstanding accessibility. Anyone with access to the data will be able to view real-time metrics and historical data at the click of a mouse. The access control and sharing system is consistent with other Google apps. So, if you’ve used Docs, Sheets or Slides, you already know how to grant access or share. For those of us that love the convenience and flexibility of being able to share a live link, this aspect of GDS is definitely a boon.

Tableau’s sharing capabilities are also extremely simple to grasp. All reports are downloadable for manual sharing or via automated emails. While perhaps not quite as simple as the more familiar Google suite system, few if any people will have difficulty in ensuring that the right people get the data they need, when they need it. 

The Verdict: A bit of a wash on this one. You should have little trouble sharing your insights with either application. Data Studio’s live link sharing capability offers another level of simplicity and convenience.

7. Community & Support

When things go wrong, or you simply need a helping hand, it’s always useful to have an online community of like-minded users and experts to tap into for advice and guidance.

Both Data Studio and Tableau boast robust online communities of this type to offer support when you’re in a pinch. The nature of Tableau’s system means that the size of the online community is significantly smaller. However, it includes many passionate users and subject matter experts that are usually only too happy to share. Data Studio’s universal reach predictably translates into a very sizable community with answers for virtually any query.

Both tools provide their own in-house support via online help topics and resources. Tableau’s in-house customer support team offers an added advantage.

Conclusion: Google Data Studio vs Tableau – Which is the Best BI Reporting Tool for You?

By now, you’ve no doubt seen a pattern forming. Both GDS and Tableau are exceptional tools that put the power of complex data analytics and visualization into the hands of their users. The main distinction comes in the level of complexity available and the skills and expertise required to access them.

For the overwhelming majority of users, Data Studio provides more than enough flexibility and power to create beautiful live dashboards and reports that communicate relevant, meaningful insights to stakeholders. Best of all, it’s free and integrates seamlessly with Google marketing tools and other applications you’re probably already using.

If you’re a larger organization that thrives on complex, advanced analytics and have the talent in-house with the requisite skill set, you will find Tableau well worth the cost. Businesses with more conservative data security policies will also find Tableau’s local hosting option assists them to meet these requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Tableau?

Tableau is an advanced visual analytics platform that allows organizations to collate and analyze complex data sets to provide powerful business intelligence.


What is Google Data Studio?

Google Data Studio is a data visualization platform that allows users to process data from Google marketing tools and other sources into easy-to-use dashboards and reports.


Is Google Data Studio Free?

Yes, Google Data Studio is free to use. In rare cases, certain advanced data sources may require a paid third-party tool to facilitate integration.


How Much does Tableau Cost?

Tableau operates on a subscription model with prices ranging from USD 12 – 70 per user, per month, depending on the level of access and whether the data is locally or remotely hosted.


Are Google Data Studio & Tableau the Same?

While there is a great deal of overlap, there are also some important differences between the two tools. GDS is a free, cloud-based application that offers impressive data visualization and reporting capabilities via easy-to-use, customisable dashboards. Tableau is a paid software system with both local and cloud hosting options for advanced data analytics and transformation.


Is Google Data Studio Secure?

All data in GDS is protected by Google’s cloud-based data security protocols. Firms with stricter data security policies that prohibit cloud-based data storage may find Tableau’s locally hosted solution more suitable.


Is Google Data Studio Easy to Use?

Google Data Studio requires little to no specialized skills. Those familiar with Google’s other marketing tools will find it a quick and simple learning curve. To help you on your way, there are plenty of great beginners’ guides to Google Data Studio available online.


Is Tableau Easy to Use?

Tableau requires advanced data analytics skills to take full advantage of its capabilities. Each subscription requires at least one “Creator” level subscription with sufficient expertise to implement the tool.


Can I Create Custom Dashboards in Google Data Studio?

Yes. GDS offers excellent flexibility within the tool itself. Additionally, users have access to an extensive marketplace of custom Google Data Studio Dashboards from which to choose.


Is Google Data Studio Better than Tableau?

That depends on who you are. Most businesses with standard BI needs will find that GDS is more than sufficient. Larger businesses, those with more complex data requirements, or those with policies that prevent their data being stored on the Cloud may find Tableau better suited to their needs.


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