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Tableau – VizAlerts Installation Guide

Table of Contents

What is VizAlerts?

VizAlerts is an automation platform intended to seamlessly integrate with Tableau Server. The idea behind it is that anyone should be able to easily build, share, and customize nearly any any email or SMS automation based on their own Tableau Server viz data. In the future, VizAlerts will be able to perform even more actions than these.

In its current form, VizAlerts exists simply as an application that is set up by a system administrator to run at frequent and regular intervals. All of the information it needs to enable data-driven email and SMS alerting is derived from the Tableau Server PostgreSQL repository, and the published views of the Tableau Server it is set to run against.

What does it do?

VizAlerts has been designed to support many use cases:

  • Sending notifications to subscribers when a condition has been met (or not!) like extract refresh failures, meeting or missing target thresholds, etc.

  • Halting emails from being sent to the group unless the data is up to date (while the workbook owner does get an email that the data isn’t up to date).

  • Notify data owners when data is corrupt in some way (extraneous values, too many Null values, too large a change, etc.)

  • Sending a one line email notification that could be forwarded through an email-to-sms gateway such as ########@txt.att.net or a messaging provider such as Twilio.

  • Batch reporting to distribution lists of non-Tableau users, for example emailing a weekly operations report to front-line staff who aren’t on Tableau.

  • Combining images and text into an HTML email for a more customized, professional look.

  • Merge multiple views into a single consolidated PDF, for example sending a company overview and per-region detail.

  • Blend views from separate workbooks in the same email, for example a view from the operations dashboard and a view from the finance dashboard.

  • Bursting reports, for example sending to a manager a dashboard for each of her direct reports.

  • Send SMS messages to escalate an issue to your support staff.

  • Whatever combinations of the above you can imagine!

How does it work?

While the details on how to set up alerts will be left in the User Guide, it’s important for Administrators to know how things are working behind the scenes.

The general flow of a single execution of VizAlerts goes like this:

  1. Connect to the PostgreSQL repository database of Tableau Server, and query it for a list of Views subscribed to on specially configured, disabled Schedules

  2. Compare Schedule information to last runtime information stored in a local text file—based on this, determine which Views are due for alert testing

  3. For each View found due for testing:

    1. Generate a Trusted Ticket on behalf of the Subscriber of the View

    2. Redeem the Trusted Ticket to export the CSV data for the View, impersonating the Subscriber

    3. If one or more rows are found in the CSV:

      1. For a “Simple Alert”, generate a new Trusted Ticket, export the PNG of the View, and email it to the Subscriber.

      2. For an “Advanced Alert”, iterate through each row of the CSV, sending emails or performing other actions as instructed by the data itself.

Upgrading from VizAlerts 2.1.0

  1. Backup your current VizAlerts directory to a separate location.

  2. Download version 2.1.1 from https://github.com/tableau/VizAlerts/releases, and unzip to a new folder alongside your existing VizAlerts folder. You should have three folders at this point: The live, current installation, the backup of the current installation, and a new folder you unzipped v2.1.1 into.

  3. Merge VizAlertsConfig changes into new workbook

    • There is a new version of \config\VizAlertsConfig.twb that contains a new Custom SQL query. It's easiest to simply drop this into your existing VizAlertsConfig workbook. To do so, here are the steps:
      • Download your existing VizAlertsConfig workbook from Tableau Server and open it in Tableau Desktop
      • Locate the new VizAlertsConfig workbook from the new VizAlerts folder, in the config subfolder, and open it in Tableau Desktop (you'll need to edit the connection to point to your Tableau Server postgreSQL database)
      • Edit the connection in the new VizAlertsConfig workbook, then edit the one table in the connection pane. This will open the Custom SQL dialog.
      • Copy the Custom SQL Query.
      • Carefully update your current VizAlertsConfig workbook with the new Custom SQL query.
      • Now re-publish the current VizAlertsConfig workbook to Tableau Server, making sure that you are embedding the password in the connection. This will not break v2.1.0 of VizAlerts.

  4. Copy config files

    • Copy the \config\vizalerts.yaml file from your current VizAlerts folder over the same file in the new VizAlerts folder
      • No changes were made to this file, so it will work just fine the way it is
    • If you're using SSL to connect to Tableau Server, and have a certificate file you're storing in the VizAlerts folder, make sure it's copied to the new location
    • If you've referenced any other files for passwords or anything else, make sure they're copied as well.

  5. In Task Scheduler, disable the existing VizAlerts scheduled task.

  6. VizAlerts outage begins

  7. If you didn't already publish the updated version of VizAlertsConfig, publish it now, ensuring that you embed the password when you publish it!

  8. Rename folders

    • Rename the existing VizAlerts folder with something like "-old" at the end of it
    • Rename the new VizAlerts folder whatever the old one was called

  9. Testing

    • Open a command prompt, navigate to the VizAlerts folder, and execute VizAlerts one time. Ensure it runs properly, and review the logs if there are any errors.
    • Test a single alert by adding a test_alert comment to a viz, and then run it again in the command prompt, again ensuring that no errors are logged.

  10. Optional: If you want to ensure that no alerts were skipped during the upgrade, copy the \ops\vizalerts.state file from the -old VizAlerts folder to the current one.

  11. In Task Scheduler, enable the VizAlerts task

  12. VizAlerts outage ends

  13. Remove the -old VizAlerts folder and any backups you made, whenever you feel comfortable

Installation Prerequisites

Tableau Server

The Tableau Server instance that you wish to run VizAlerts against must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Must be v8.3 or higher.

  • The readonly user must be granted access on the Tableau Server repository.

  • Subscriptions must be enabled.

  • The host you plan to run VizAlerts from must have its IP address listed as a Trusted Host

  • If it wasn’t already obvious, you need to be a System Administrator on Tableau Server to set all this up.

  • A Project configured with appropriate (usually very limited) permissions for the VizAlerts schedule viz. The VizAlerts schedule viz pulls information from the Tableau Server repository (using the readonly user) and can be configured in a number of ways so in general you’ll want to limit access to the VizAlerts system administrator(s).

Tableau Desktop

To install VizAlerts you’ll need to use Tableau Desktop Professional once to publish the VizAlerts scheduled trigger viz. Here are the requirements:

  • A version of Tableau Desktop appropriate to the Tableau Server version you are installing to. See http://kb.tableau.com/articles/knowledgebase/desktop-and-server-compatibility. If you don’t have Tableau Desktop or access to someone’s computer where you could use it then you can download a trial vesion of Tableau Desktop Professional from http://tableau.com.

  • The machine that is running Tableau Desktop will need to have a PostgreSQL driver installed, if you need one you can download it from http://www.tableau.com/support/drivers.

  • You’ll also need to make sure you can access the Tableau Server from your Tableau Desktop machine, you may need to open one or more firewalls to enable connection to Tableau Server and/or the PostgreSQL repository.

  • The machine where Tableau Desktop is located will need access to the …\VizAlerts\config\ScheduledTriggerView.twb in order to publish it.

Host Machine

This is where VizAlerts will be run from, which means that this machine must be continually up and running for VizAlerts to function. This can be one of the Tableau Server hosts if desired, but it doesn’t have to be. It must have the following properties:

  • Static IP address

  • Always running

  • Within same domain as Tableau Server

  • You must have administrative rights to it

  • Should not need to have much processing power as heavy work is offloaded to Tableau Server

VizAlerts has been built and tested on Windows, but it’s also been known to run on Linux and Mac.

SMTP (Mail) Server

VizAlerts needs to point to a mail server to send email. This can simply be the same server you used when you set up Tableau Server for subscriptions. If your mail server is set up to support SSL encryption, that is ideal, but it’s not required.

Installation

You’ve got everything you need, now let’s get this thing running!

Configure Tableau Server

Making any of these configuration changes requires a restart of Tableau Server, so if this is being done on a live / production server, make sure to do this during a maintenance window.

Trusted Tickets

VizAlerts uses Trusted Authentication to impersonate users and obtain access to Tableau Server views in CSV and PNG format. To grant it this access, run the following command at a command prompt on the Primary host of Tableau Server:

    For versions 10.5 and higher:
    tsm configuration set -k wgserver.trusted_hosts -v <HOSTNAME OF VIZALERTS HOST>

    For pre-10.5 versions:
    tabadmin set wgserver.trusted_hosts <HOSTNAME OF VIZALERTS HOST>

Repository Access

The Tableau Server repository database contains information VizAlerts needs to function. Grant it access by enabling the readonly user:

    For versions 10.5 and higher:
    tsm data-access repository-access enable --repository-username readonly --repository-password <YOUR PASSWORD>

    For pre-10.5 versions:
    tabadmin dbpass --username readonly <YOUR PASSWORD>

Restart

Once you have finished the above steps, you must save the configuration and restart Tableau Server. When you’re ready to do this, run the following commands in the command prompt:

    For versions 10.5 and higher:
    tsm pending-changes apply
    tsm restart

    For pre-10.5 versions:
    tabadmin configure
    tabadmin restart

Custom Subscription Schedules

A key component that allows VizAlerts to work in the intuitive way that it does is that users who wish to schedule an alert are able to subscribe to them on disabled Subscriptions schedules. These are schedules that you must create in Tableau Server, then manually disable so that no subscriptions are ever delivered for them. Since the data for who subscribed to what views on these specific schedules exists in the PostgreSQL repository, VizAlerts can use this information to tell itself when it is appropriate to test those views for an alert condition.

You can create as many schedules as you like, on whatever intervals you like. The important bit behind the schedules is the naming convention that you use, because this is how VizAlerts knows which schedules to consider “alert” schedules that it needs to pay attention to. I recommend naming them like this:

ѴizAlerts – [frequency]

Copy and paste that when you create your schedules—the first letter is actually the Cyrillic letter Ѵ, which will cause your Alerts schedules to be sorted at the bottom of the list when someone goes to subscribe. This can help users avoid subscribing to them by mistake when they only mean to set up a standard subscription:

Note that you must have at least one enabled Subscriptions schedule for anyone to subscribe to a viz on Tableau Server, so if you have just enabled Subscriptions for the first time, you’ll also need to create a single non-VizAlert schedule that isn’t disabled.

Create your new schedules like so:

­­­­­­

If you wish to allow your users to trigger their VizAlerts when the workbook they are a part of refreshes its data extract(s), then create two additional Subscription schedules using the same method you did for the others, except that instead of:

ѴizAlerts – [frequency]

...they should be named:

  • ѴizAlerts – On Refresh Success
  • ѴizAlerts – On Refresh Failure

These will automatically be picked up by VizAlerts when someone subscribes to them, and their alert will be executed when the corresponding refresh activity occurs on their workbook.

Open the VizAlertsConfig Workbook

VizAlerts gets the list of alerts that users want to run, and when they should run, from Tableau Server’s own PostgreSQL repository database. The way it accesses that information is through a Tableau workbook that you’ll publish to Tableau Server. For this step you’ll need the instance of Tableau Desktop. To publish the viz, do the following:

  1. Open Tableau Desktop.

  2. Open the …\VizAlerts\config\VizAlertsConfig.twb workbook.

  3. You’ll get a prompt about Custom SQL. You can review the SQL if you like, then press “Yes”.

  4. Depending on the Tableau Desktop version, you may get a prompt about the workbook being newer. Press OK to continue. You will get a login prompt that looks like this:

  5. Click Edit connection. The dialog will change to this dialog:

  6. Enter the following information:

    1. Server: your Tableau Server domain name

    2. Port: the port for the PostgreSQL repository, default is 8060

    3. Database: leave as workgroup

    4. Authentication: Change to Username and Password.

    5. Username: leave as readonly

    6. Password: enter the readonly password that you previously configured.

    7. Require SSL: check this box if you are requiring SSL to connect to the Tableau repository.

  7. Click Sign In to sign in.

  8. The Tableau view that appears looks like this:

Configure the VizAlerts ScheduledTriggerView Viz

The scheduled trigger view will initially show as empty because we haven’t yet set up any VizAlerts. The main reason that a Tableau workbook is used to tell VizAlerts what to do, is that it gives the Admin a lot of flexibility in deciding which alerts should be processed and how they should be processed. There are a number of parameters and calculated fields that can be used to create a high degree of customization, which we’ll talk about in a second, but to keep things simple, there are only two settings that you must edit to get started:

Substitute your own email domain name where you see “yourdomain” in both fields. For example:

  • .*tableau\.com (only allows email to be sent to tableau.com addresses)
    and…

  • vizalerts@tableau\.com (only allows “from” address to be “vizalerts@tableau.com”)

If you’re just trying to get things up and running, skip to Publish the VizAlertsConfig workbook

Here’s a list of the major calculated fields and the (default) parameters associated with them:

General Settings

   

Calculated Field

Parameter for default value

Description

data_retrieval_tries

default_data_retrieval_tries

The number of times VizAlerts will attempt to retrieve data for a particular viz before notifying of the failure.

notify_subscriber_on_failure

default_notify_subscriber_on_failure

When true (the default), the subscriber to the simple alert or the owner of the advanced alert is notified when there is a failure.

timeout_s

default_timeout_s

The number of seconds allowed to download a visualization before Tableau will notify of a failure. This prevents overloading Tableau Server with visualizations that are too slow to render

task_threads

default_task_threads

The number of threads used for to process Email and SMS notifications for a given VizAlert. For high-volume alerts sending hundreds of notifications, a count of 5 or more could be necessary for timely processing. Discuss with your IT team so that you don't end up beating your SMTP server up too much!

viz_data_maxrows

default_data_maxrows

The maximum number of rows that VizAlerts will attempt to process from any VizAlert, when the viz data is downloaded. This applies to both Simple and Advanced alerts.

viz_png_height

 

Sets the default height of downloaded images for Simple Alerts as well as the VIZ_IMAGE() content reference.

viz_png_width

 

Sets the default width of downloaded images for Simple Alerts as well as the VIZ_IMAGE() content reference

Email Action Settings

   

Calculated Field

Parameter for default value

Description

action_enabled_email

default_action_enabled_email

Denotes whether alerts can send emails. 1 (the default) if email actions are supported, otherwise 0

allowed_from_address

default_allowed_from_address

The email address you wish all email alerts to be sent from. Note that for Advanced Alerts, this is used only if the author did not specify their own “from” address in their viz. This uses Regex notation (see below for details).

allowed_recipient_addresses

default_allowed_recipient_addresses

The set of domains and addresses that email alerts can be sent to. This uses Regex notation (see below for details).

SMS Action Settings

   

Calculated Field

Parameter for default value

Description

action_enabled_sms

default_action_enabled_sms

1 if SMS actions are supported, 0 (the default) if not.

allowed_recipient_numbers

default_allowed_recipient_numbers

The set of allowed recipient phone numbers (or partial numbers). This uses Regex notation (see below for details).

from_number

default_from_number

The default number that SMS messages will originate from. This must be a number registered with Twilio that can do outbound SMS and be of the form +[country code][full phone number]

phone_country_code

default_phone_country_code

The default country code to use when recipient phone numbers do not have a country code.

Schedule Settings

   

Calculated Field

Parameter for default value

Description

is_valid_schedule

schedule_name_filter

Use to determine what Tableau Server subscription schedules will be checked for alerts.

Calculated Fields

The calculated fields such as action_enabled_email allow us to create formulas inside Tableau to give us more fine-grained control. For example, we can allow a specific user to send email to any address, rather than use the default setting like so:

Translated, this simply means that if the user called “mcoles-test” wants to email anyone in the world with VizAlerts, they can, but everyone else’s email recipients will still be restricted to the pattern you set for the default_allowed_recipient_addresses parameter (e.g., only your company’s email addresses).

If you want to define even more extensive policies, well, that’s why it’s a Tableau viz! You can build out that calculation further using other criteria, or even blend or join other data sources to the original connection. It allows for almost unlimited flexibility.

Regex Notation

VizAlerts uses Regex Notation in setting the allowed_recipient_addresses, allowed_recipient_numbers, and allowed_from_address values for maximum flexibility. Each individual email address a VizAlerts is attempting to send mail to must match the pattern the administrator has defined in the configuration viz. So this feature will allow you to define a set of rules like these:

That would allow email to jane@mydomain.com, bob@subdomain.someotherdomain.com, and myfriendlyAOLuser@aol.com while denying email to addresses like jerry@someotherdomain.com and icanhazallyourdata@aol.com.

A full explanation of what you can do with regex notation is beyond the scope of this document, for more information about regex we suggest you use http://www.regular-expressions.info. Here are the key elements:

  • .* is the wildcard pattern to accept all characters.

  • If any of the following characters are used, they must have a \ preceding them to be accepted: \^$.|?*+()[{

    Example: If I want to accept all datablick.com addresses then the regex would be .*datablick\.com

  • Separate domains or email addresses are separated by the pipe | character.

    Example: To accept all datablick.com and tableau.com addresses then the regex would be .*datablick\.com|.*tableau\.com

Publish the VizAlertsConfig workbook

Here’s how to publish the workbook:

  1. Go to Server->Publish Workbook… If you haven’t already signed in to Tableau Server and need to, you’ll be prompted to sign in. Once you’ve signed in the Publish Workbook dialog will appear:

  2. Change the Project and/or Name of the viz if you want, if you change the Name you’ll need to record this to use in the next section.

  3. Change the Permissions if need be. Only Administrators should have rights to alter this workbook.

  4. Under Data Sources click Edit. The Manage Data Sources dialog will appear:

  5. Set the Publish Type to Embedded in workbook.

  6. Set the Authentication to Embedded password.

  7. Click outside of the dialog to close it.

  8. Click Publish. Tableau will now publish the viz and open it in your default web browser:

  9. Click on the view to verify that it works as expected.

  10. You can now close the browser window and Tableau Desktop.

Optional: Install Python & Required Modules

If you wish to run VizAlerts as a Python script rather than a binary executable, you will need to follow these steps. Otherwise, you can skip this section. Note that the rest of the documentation assumes that you are running the binary executable, so whenever you see instructions to run vizalerts.exe, know that you'll need to use python .\vizalerts.py instead.

  1. On the Windows host you want to run VizAlerts from, download and install Python 2.7. This can be done in multiple ways, but we suggest this MSI installer: https://www.python.org/ftp/python/2.7.13/python-2.7.13.msi

  2. Add ";C:\Python27\;C:\Python27\Scripts\" to your Path environment variable (assuming you chose the installation defaults when installing Python)

  3. Install the following Python modules:

    1. PyYAML (recommended: http://pyyaml.org/download/pyyaml/PyYAML-3.11.win32-py2.7.exe )

    2. The final five modules, requests, requests_ntlm, pypdf2, twilio, and phonenumberslite, are best installed by opening a new command prompt and running the following commands:

      pip install requests
      pip install requests_ntlm
      pip install pypdf2
      pip install twilio
      pip install phonenumberslite

      • If your computer does not have access to the Internet, see Appendix A.

    3. Note: Despite the requirement to install the last two modules, deciding whether to enable the Twilio SMS integration feature is up to you—either at the environment level, or at more flexible sub-levels. Enabling the Twilio SMS integration requires a Twilio account (free accounts are available).

      Also, please also note that it’s possible to send SMS messages without Twilio, as short email messages to subscribers who’s mobile network providers have an email-to-SMS gateway available. For example, xxxxxxxxxx@txt.att.net works in the USA. See the SMS Actions section of the VizAlerts User Guide for more details.

Configure VizAlerts

Now that Python is installed, we can configure VizAlerts. Unzip the VizAlerts.zip file to a folder of your choosing. For the purposes of this manual, we’ll assume the files were extracted to C:\VizAlerts.

  1. The next task is to give VizAlerts all the information it needs to connect to our Tableau Server instance. Open the file C:\VizAlerts\config\vizalerts.yaml in a text editor. Each of the configuration settings in that file are commented to explain what they do, but we’ll go over the most important ones here:

Email Settings

 

smtp.serv

This is the name of your SMTP server.

smtp.address.from

The email address you wish all email alerts to be sent from. Note that for Advanced Alerts, this is used only if the author did not specify their own “from” address in their viz.

smtp.address.to

When an alert fails to run, failure details will be sent to this address along with the Subscriber, so it makes the most sense to use your own address or Admin distribution list here.

smtp.ssl

When true, VizAlerts will attempt to use SSL for email encryption (which your SMTP server must support). If you do not wish to use encryption, leave it “false”.

smtp.user

Username for the account used to connect to your SMTP server. If no authentication is need, leave it “null”

smtp.password

Password for the account used to connect to your SMTP server. If no authentication is need, leave it “null”. The password must be enclosed in single quotes.


If desired, this value can be a valid path to a .txt file containing the password, e.g. 'c:\users\mcoles\password.txt', rather than the password itself.

Tableau Server Settings

 

server

Name of the Tableau Server you wish to run this instance of VizAlerts against.

server.version

Major version of the Tableau Server you are running VizAlerts against (this must be 8, 9, or 10)

server.user

This is ANY user licensed in Tableau Server--it does not need to be an Admin, as it is only used in authenticating over HTTP.

· If you are using Active Directory authentication, prepend the domain name in front of the username, e.g. “tableau.com\mcoles”

· If you are using Local Authentication, simply supply the username, e.g., “mcoles”

server.user.domain

The Active Directory domain for the server.user account, leave as null if using local authentication.

server.ssl

When set to true, use SSL to connect to Tableau Server (recommended if you have enabled SSL).

vizalerts.source.viz

This identifies the VizAlerts scheduled alert viz. it must be of the form workbook/viewname. The publishing information for this viz will be used

vizalerts.source.site

Identifies the Tableau Server site for the vizalerts.source.viz.

Security Settings

 

server.ssl

When set to true, use SSL to connect to Tableau Server (recommended if you have enabled SSL).

server.certcheck

If using SSL then validate the certificate If set to true then you must also specify the server.certfile.

server.certfile

Full path to the set of trusted CA certificates in .pem format

SMS Action Settings

 

smsaction.enable

Set to True to enable SMS Advanced Alerts to be sent. If set to False then all other smsaction fields are ignored. (Default False)

smsaction.provider

The only supported provider at this time is twilio.

smsaction.account_id

The account ID at the SMS provider.

smsaction.auth_token

Authorization token provided by the SMS provider.

Testing

Whew! All that was lots of fun, but let’s get to the good stuff and test this thing to see if we did everything right. We’ve got a few tests to run to validate that everything is working, starting out from simple to more complicated:

Can VizAlerts Connect? Test

Run the following from a command prompt on the Windows host you set VizAlerts up on. By default, VizAlerts will expect you are running it within the context of the directory you created it in, so change to that directory first, then run the script:

cd C:\VizAlerts

C:\VizAlerts\vizalerts.exe

It should have successfully generated a Trusted Ticket, queried the PostgreSQL database in Tableau Server, then realized there was nothing to do and quit without error. If it didn’t, please see the Common Errors section.

Simple Alert Test

Now for a more extensive test on a Simple Alert. Subscribe to any Tableau Server View on a VizAlerts schedule that you set up (pick a view that renders in less than 10 seconds or so). We recommend subscribing on a VizAlerts schedule that runs every 15 minutes for this test, even if you just remove it afterward. After you subscribe, run the command again:

C:\VizAlerts\vizalerts.exe

Now, wait 15 minutes, then run the same command again. If data is present in the viz, you should receive an email! If not, you shouldn’t. Simple as that!

Put VizAlerts Through Its Paces Test

For this test you are going to use the same Tableau workbook that the VizAlerts contributors use to verify VizAlerts is working after we’ve changed the code. Note that this workbook only works with Tableau version 9.0 and up.

  1. In Tableau Desktop open [VizAlerts Install Folder]\VizAlerts\demo\VizAlertsDemo.twb.

  2. Go to the Advanced Alerts view and set the VizAlerts From Email and VizAlerts To Email parameters to your test email address:

  3. Choose Server->Publish workbook… to start the publishing process. Use the default settings, which will include the External Files option:

    We suggest you publish the workbook in a place where other users who will be configuring Advanced Alerts (see the User Guide) can see the workbook.

  4. Click through the warning(s) about including external files and publish the workbook.

  5. If you’re on Tableau v10 or higher you can skip this step. When the confirmation window appears, click Open in browser window to open the VizAlertsDemo workbook on Tableau Server.

  6. Login to Tableau Server if you need to and navigate to the Advanced Alerts Demo worksheet.

  7. Scroll down in the worksheet and enter a comment with the text “test_alert”.

  8. After the comment has been posted, go back to your Windows command prompt and enter:

    C:\VizAlerts\vizalerts.exe

    If the script runs and exits the first time without processing anything, run it again. (Tableau can take a moment to update the data with the “test_alert” comment that acts as a trigger). VizAlerts will now generate 30+ emails with a variety of tests demonstrating the VizAlerts features. Read through the emails to understand what is expected of each. If you get any error messages then check the Common Errors section below as well as the FAQ in the User Guide.

Optional: Send Yourself Some SMS Messages Test

If you have set up the integration with Twilio now’s the time to see if it works, you’ll be using the same testing workbook from the prior demo. that the VizAlerts contributors use. Note that this workbook only works with Tableau version 9.0 and up.

  1. In Tableau Desktop open [VizAlerts Install Folder]\VizAlerts\demo\VizAlertsDemo.twb.

  2. Go to the SMS Success Tests view and set the VizAlerts To SMS parameter to your test SMS phone number:

  3. Choose Server->Publish workbook… to start the publishing process. Use the default settings, which will include the External Files option:

  4. Click through the warning(s) about including external files and publish the workbook.

  5. If you’re on Tableau v10 you can skip this step. When the confirmation window appears, click Open in browser window to open the VizAlertsDemo workbook on Tableau Server.

  6. Login to Tableau Server if you need to and navigate to the SMS Success Tests worksheet.

  7. Scroll down in the worksheet and enter a comment with the text “test_alert”.

  8. After the comment has been posted, go back to your Windows command prompt and enter:

    C:\VizAlerts\vizalerts.exe

    If the script runs and exits the first time without processing anything, run it again. (Tableau can take a moment to update the data with the “test_alert” comment that acts as a trigger). VizAlerts will now generate 10 SMS message with a variety of tests demonstrating the VizAlerts features. Read through the messages to understand what is expected of each. If you get any error messages (which will be delivered by email) then check the Common Errors section below as well as the FAQ in the User Guide.

Final Steps

Set up a Scheduled Task

The last step, now that everything is working as expected, is to automate this so that VizAlerts can run regularly when it is supposed to. To do this, we need to set up a Scheduled Task on the Windows host that VizAlerts runs from, which will run this for us on a regular basis.

First, let’s create a new Task:

Fill in the name and description. Make sure it will run whether the user is logged in or not. The task should be set up to run under a service account rather than a personal one, if possible. This account must have full control permissions on the VizAlerts files, and if you specified text files instead of passwords in the vizalerts.yaml config file, the account will need rights to read those files.

Set up the Trigger (when will it run?). We strongly recommend running this every 1 minute, as this will keep alerts executing on time, and the vast majority of executions will be quick checks that don’t actually do any work:

Set the Action on the Task (what will it do?)

And save the task! You can now test out the task by subscribing the VizAlertsDemo/AdvancedAlertsDemo view to a subscription and look for an email.

Starter Workbook

Last, but not least, publish the [VizAlerts install folder]\demo\VizAlertsStarter.tbwx workbook to Tableau Tableau Server, and grant permissions to anyone you wish to have an easier way to create Advanced Alerts. This workbook gives users a shortcut to creating them, with all the necessary action fields and examples on how to use them.

FAQ

  • How many alerts can be run at once?

    Alerts are processed in parallel, according to the number of threads you set in the config\vizalerts.yaml file. They are checked according to the Schedule they are associated with, in order of the “priority” field in the config workbook. Here’s an example: Alerts scheduled for 6:00AM will begin being checked at 6:00AM. If you’re running two threads and have three alerts to process then the two alerts with the lowest priority settings will be checked first. If those two alerts take five minutes each to process then the third alert wouldn’t be start to be processed until 6:05am. So two things to pay attention to are how long it takes alerts to process (which you can see in the VizAlerts logs), the timeout settings (since long-running alerts could be caused by a large volume of actions and/or views that are slow to render), and the number of alerts that are simultaneously scheduled.

    When an alert is triggered, it begins sending emails / SMS notifications. These tasks are also processed in parallel, according to the number defined in the "task_threads" field in the VizAlertsConfig workbook.

  • Does VizAlerts use a database to log information about what it has done?

    No, not in its current state, though this is the next logical progression for it. Currently it logs information into text files only.

Common Errors

This section mostly focuses on errors found at installation time. Many other common error situations are covered in the troubleshooting section of the VizAlerts User Guide.

  • Failed with unknown protocol

    • This likely means that you’ve enabled SSL in the vizalerts.yml, but haven’t set Tableau Server up for it. See this portion of the online help on how to do so.
  • Parsing or yaml scanner errors

    • Generally this means that some bad character or formatting issue was introduced to the vizalerts.yml file (typically a tab character—replace them with spaces!). We recommend using this online YAML validator to determine where the problem is (make sure to remove your passwords first!).
  • Invalid regular expression found

    • If VizAlerts won’t start, and sends

    • you an email with this message, it means one of two things:

      • You live in an area where the default delimiter is another character besides commas, such as semicolon. To fix this, just open config\vizalerts.yaml, and change the data.coldelimter to ‘;’ instead of ‘,’.

      • One of the regular expressions in your VizAlertsConfig.twb fields is not correct. Test it out at http://regexr.com/ to make sure it’s behaving.

  • HTTP 406 error

    • You might see the following error: export_view - HTTP error getting vizdata from url http://[your server]/views/VizAlerts/AlertList?&:format=csv&:refresh=y. Code: 406 Reason: Not Acceptable

      This would be due to not embedding the password for the readonly user into the VizAlertsConfig workbook.

    • If you see a 406 on a standard VizAlert, it generally means that Tableau Server could not export the view for some reason. This could be due to a variety of causes:

      • The subscriber does not have access to the view

      • The view could not connect to its data source for some reason

      • A Tableau Server process crashed when it tried to load the view

      • The view had an invalid calculation and couldn’t be loaded

  • Trusted ticket failure

    • Check to ensure your trusted tickets were configured properly. If things are still not working, try this article to test them further.

    • A “-1” result could be due to several possible issues. Please see this article if you’re seeing this error.

  • Unable to export … as CSV

    • This means that the attempt to export the view data for an alert to a CSV file failed, either because of internal errors, or because it took longer than the timeout you’ve set in the config file. If the view can be rendered successfully in your browser, it may simply be taking too long. Increasing the timeout settings may help with this, but a better solution is to try and optimize the viz to render more quickly. By default, the settings use stricter timeouts on more frequently-run alerts, as it’s assumed they’ll have more opportunities to be retried.
  • Exporting Views - Unable to write to folder

    • The Tableau Server “run as” user must have read/write permissions on any folders used for exporting views.

Getting VizAlerts Help

First of all, check with any local admins and any local documentation that might exist. After that, the center for all things VizAlerts is the VizAlerts Group on the Tableau Community https://community.tableau.com/vizalerts

Contributing to VizAlerts

VizAlerts is an open source project distributed under the MIT License. If you’d like to contribute ideas or code to VizAlerts, please visit the VizAlerts GitHub site at https://github.com/tableau/VizAlerts.

Appendix A

Installing Python modules with no Internet access

Setting VizAlerts up on a secure machine that isn’t connected to the Internet can be done by following these instructions. It essentially requires that you download the files that you need from a machine that is connected to the Internet, then copy them over to the secured machine you’ll be running VizAlerts from.

  1. First, download the Python install file. Install it on the Internet-connected machine you’re using to download files, then copy it to your VizAlerts host and install Python there too. On both machines, you may wish to follow Step 2 as well, and add the Python executables to your PATH environment variable.

  2. From your Internet-connected machine, run the following commands to download all of the required Python modules (feel free to adjust the path they download to). These function as basically offline package repositories:

    pip install --download c:\mypythonpackages requests

    pip install --download c:\mypythonpackages requests_ntlm

    pip install --download c:\mypythonpackages pypdf2

    pip install --download c:\mypythonpackages phonenumberslite

    pip install --download c:\mypythonpackages twilio

  3. Copy the entire folder to your offline machine (I'm assuming here that it's copied to the same path).

  4. On your offline machine, install the package from the newly copied folder:

    pip install --no-index --find-links file:c:\mypythonpackages requests

    pip install --no-index --find-links file:c:\mypythonpackages requests_ntlm

    *pip install --no-index --find-links file:c:\mypythonpackages pypdf2 *

    pip install --no-index --find-links file:c:\mypythonpackages phonenumberslite

    *pip install --no-index --find-links file:c:\mypythonpackages twilio

  5. Check for errors in the output. If there are none, you’ve successfully got Python and all the modules installed!

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