Google Data Studio Real Time Reports: Made Easy

on BI Tool • July 16th, 2020 • Write for Hevo

Introduction

Before getting into Google Data Studio real time reporting, let us talk about Google Data Studio.

Data Studio is a business intelligence tool provided by Google along with its cloud platform. It can be used to explore, visualize, and create dashboards based on various data sources. Having access to such tools spare organizations of the effort in implementing their own reporting dashboards.

Data studio also comes with granular scheduling capabilities for both reports and data extracts. Since it is built on top of Google applications, it tightly integrates with Google based data sources like Google Analytics, Bigquery, etc. It also inherits the intuitive sharing and access control settings that are part of Google suite.

This post shows you how you can set up Google Data Studio real time reports by using the Data Studio Auto-Refresh extension.

Prerequisites

  • Google data studio account. 
  • Chrome browser.
  • Basic understanding of business intelligence tools and data loads.

Hevo, A Simpler Alternative to Integrate your Data for Analysis

Hevo offers a faster way to move data from databases or SaaS applications into your data warehouse to be visualized in a BI tool. Hevo is fully automated and hence does not require you to code. In fact, even the maintenance required is minimal.

Check out some of the cool features of Hevo:

  • Completely Automated: The Hevo platform can be set up in just a few minutes and requires minimal maintenance.
  • Real Time Data Transfer: Hevo provides real time data migration, so you can have analysis-ready data always.
  • 100% Complete & Accurate Data Transfer: Hevo’s robust infrastructure ensures reliable data transfer with zero data loss.
  • Scalable Infrastructure: Hevo has in-built integrations for 100 plus sources that can help you scale your data infrastructure as required.
  • 24/7 Live Support: The Hevo team is available round the clock to extend exceptional support to you through chat, email, and support call.
  • Schema Management: Hevo takes away the tedious task of schema management & automatically detects schema of incoming data and maps it to the destination schema.

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Understanding Data Freshness in Google Data Studio

Google data studio works using the connectors provided by Google, its partners, and the outside community. Most data connectors support a live connection to its data sources. A live connection means that the data is fetched every time a dashboard or report is loaded. An example of such a data source is the Google Sheets application. Reports based on large data sets results in the Data studio being slow because of this data load.

In cases where a user can sacrifice freshness of data for faster load times, Google provides the option of data extracts. This works based on a snapshot of data from the defined data source and does not maintain a live connection.

The schedule of the extract can be configured up to hour level granularity. Whether you use a live connection or an extract, for the data to be reflected in a report, Data Studio needs to be refreshed using a button in the dashboard. The need for this manual refresh prevents Data Studio from acting as a true real time dashboard. 

Steps to Set-up Google Data Studio Real time Reports

In this post, we will set up real time reports in Data Studio using Google Sheets. The reason for selecting Google Sheets is because it is one of the data sources that support live connection. You will begin by creating a new Google Sheet.

  1. Login to your Google account and create a new Google Sheet. For now, let us name it ‘report_source’ and fill in data as shown below:   
DateTop SalesRegion
10 Jan 20204Amsterdam
11 Jan 20205Amsterdam
12 Jan 20205Amsterdam
13 Jan 20205Amsterdam
  1. Navigate to Data Studio and create a report by clicking the Report button as shown below.
Report
  1. When it asks for the data source, click on ‘Google Sheets’ as shown in the below screenshot.
Connect to data
  1. Once the sheet is selected, Data Studio will automatically recognize dimensions and create an initial report for you. You can change this by dragging and dropping dimensions. For our objective, we will stay with the default one. Pay attention to the refresh button at the top. Any time data in your Google Sheet changes, you will need to use this button for the dashboard to refresh.
Refresh button
  1. To avoid this manual refresh, install an extension called Data Studio Auto-Refresh in your chrome browser. It is available here. Once installed, manually refresh the page once. Please note you should refresh the page via browser refresh button and not the dashboard refresh button in the above image. Click on the extension button and you should see a panel where you can schedule your refresh interval.
Data Studio Auto-Refresh

Any changes that you make in the Google Sheet will now reflect in Data Studio at most by a minute. Even though this is not truly real time, it can serve the purpose in most cases where the requirement can actually be managed by having near real time updates.

Challenges

Using the above approach comes with a number of challenges.

  1. The most critical bit is to have the data updated in real time in one of the data sources for which Google supports the live connection. In this example, you need to get your source data updated in Google Sheets in a real time manner. This will need a custom developed module in itself. A workaround is to use Google Sheets’ App Scripts to pull data from your source based on a trigger or schedule.
  2. Google Sheets data transformation abilities are limited and hence you will need to execute any transformation before writing to Google Sheets. Such a transformation will require an ETL tool or custom development.

A better option is to use a cloud-based ETL tool like Hevo that can handle such real time loads from most popular data sources to Data Studio.

Using Hevo

Hevo provides a more user-friendly platform for integrating data from multiple sources for analysis.

Hevo is a No-code platform. So you can combine data from dozens of sources and analyze on Google Data Studio without writing a single line of code. You do not have to worry about manually configuring the schema because Hevo detects the schema of the incoming data and maps it to the destination schema automatically.

You can manage your data securely in real time and have it analysis-ready in your desired destination at any time.

If you want to take Hevo for a spin, try it out over here!

Share your views on setting up Google Data Studio real time reports in the comments below!

Easily visualize your data in Google Data Studio