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There are multiple solutions for deploying Tableau.
You can publish workbooks to Tableau Server (on-premise) or Tableau Online (cloud hosted by Tableau) and leverage intricate data governance schemes. Workbooks can then be consumed from any browser and on mobile devices.
You can also publish Tableau Public which is publicly available and you can even embed these on websites.
You can share workbooks with user that don't have licenses and they can interact with these on Tableau Reader. This often has limited functionality (like the inability to see underlying data or connecting live to few data sources).
Choosing the elements of your deployment will vary on your company size, data usage, data sources and company policies. What are your current use cases?
Steve - in general you have that right. Other than Tableau Server, you can use Tableau Online as well. Tableau Online is a cloud hosted SaaS options that gives you similar capability of Tableau Server, but without the necessary headaches of managing the infrastructure. Beyond that though there are some nuances to using tableau server or Online vs public, beyond just the "public" nature of the information.
As in most cases, the devils in the details, and the best option for you is an "it depends" type of answer. Some questions you may want to address:
1. Is the pool of consumers you intend to share with a set of named users? Or is it general public? Does that pool change, and if so, how often?
2. Where is the data for your vizzes coming from, and do you expect that data to change over time, hence you may need to update the vizzes? (e.g. live vs. extract)
3. What level of security, control and governance do you want for your end users?
4. What industry do you serve? (I realize this may not have anything to do with technology, but it does add considerations for compliance, etc.)
There are other questions along these lines, but you get the general idea, I hope. I would recommend you get in touch with your respective Tableau Sales person to ensure that you are choosing the right option for your specific needs.
To answer you question on dashboard vs. sheets - much like how you can 'hide' sheets that are part of a dashboard within desktop, you can choose to only publish the dashboard, and not need to explicitly publish the sheets.
This is helpful. Thank you