What Is Looker? Benefits, Uses, & More

By Amod Rai

Companies are turning to business intelligence (BI) tools to organize and make sense of their data.

Looker, acquired by Google in 2019 and now part of the Google Cloud platform, has become a frontrunner among BI tools. But if you’re coming from a popular BI platform like  Power BI or Tableau, Looker can be a sharp departure from how they approach business data analytics.

In this article, we’ll answer:

  • What is Looker?
  • How does Looker work?
  • How is Looker different from Power BI and Tableau?
  • Why use Looker?
  • How do you get started with Looker?

Let’s jump right in.

What Is Looker?

Simply put, Looker is a cloud-based platform that takes business data and visualizes it, giving companies a unified, single source of truth for all their business analytics. Its powerful insights can help organizations explore and reveal patterns in their data.

The platform includes embedded analytics, workflow integrations, and custom data apps.

How Does Looker Work?

A unique feature of Looker is its modeling language called LookerML. This lightweight, flexible markup language gives teams the power to define the sources for their data and how it’s shared as well as how it’s combined with other data. As a result, anyone within the organization can create reports and dashboards and access a unified source of data.

Looker is compatible with transactional databases like Oracle and MySQL and the analytical data stores BigQuery, Snowflake, and Redshift. Add-ons for custom data applications and experiences are also available.

Looker vs. Tableau vs. Power BI: How Are They Different?

While we don’t list every difference and similarity here, understanding how Looker, Power BI, and Tableau approach data analytics is important for picking the right platform for your team.

Here’s a quick comparison:

  Looker Power BI Tableau
Pricing
  • Customizable based on company needs
  • Role-based licensing

  • Custom pricing for larger deployments
  • Role-based licensing. Costs depend on the number of users and access level
Cloud Capabilities
  • Can be deployed on-premises or through any public cloud environment

  • Multi-cloud friendly
  • The only public cloud service it can be deployed through is Microsoft Azure. A desktop component is sometimes required 

  • On-premises solution available
  • Can be deployed on-premises or through any major public cloud environment or through their own cloud service. Like Power BI, a desktop component is sometimes required 
Usability
  • Highly customizable & collaborative with parallel publishing 

  • Requires a built-out semantic model for storing business logic and metrics during setup
  • Self-serve

  • No parallel publishing

  • Requires upfront technical setup & support
  • An intuitive, feature-rich interface

  • No parallel publishing

Why Use Looker?

Nowadays, companies need flexibility and the ability to customize in order for technical users and business users to collaborate. Looker provides both. Advantages include:

  • Browser-based: Since Looker’s entirely web-based, you don’t have to worry about software installation or updates. It also allows for easy content link-sharing. 
  • Multi-cloud friendly: Looker’s multi-cloud capabilities allow you to easily change where you choose to deploy Looker and which underlying cloud database with no impact on the end user’s experience.
  • Made for everyone: Business intelligence analysts and non-technical users alike can use Looker. Analysts with SQL experience can define and maintain business rules for their organization while less tech-savvy users can access and interact with content relevant to them.
  • Customizable: Developers can also use the Looker platform to build and deploy their own custom end-to-end applications. Or, they can start with Looker pre-built applications such as web analytics, marketing analytics, and sales analytics.

How Do You Get Started with Looker?

Before adopting Looker, first look at where your company’s data is stored, how data is used, stakeholder needs, and address any compliance and data governance concerns. 

One of our Cloud Experts can help you get started and decide if Looker’s right for your organization. Schedule a consultation with us today.

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