ArcGIS Online and Moving to the Cloud

Many GIS professionals are getting used to the new ArcGIS Online offered by ESRI. ArcGIS Online is a cloud based solution for data pooling and sharing which offers many datasets and basemap layers free to the public that have been shared by many Organizations from the Government level to private industry information. But many of you are also wondering, Is this a solution for my organization?

The answer to that depends on several factors, including number of users and budget as a top concern. ArcGIS Online offers users’ access to GIS data from their GIS Department online without having to install complicated software. The first step is to decide which Online account is right for you. They are offered at four levels each with the ability to add users in 5 user increment for a specified cost:

• 5 users with $250 in service credits
• 50 users with $1,000 in service credits
• 100 users with $1,750 in service credits
• Larger Enterprise plans to meet your organizational needs

All the user needs to do is simply create a free account and request the administrator of the organization to add them to the group or the administrator can invite users using their company email via the Organizational Account.

A benefit of this functionality of operating in the cloud means that the expensive software and hardware needed to run GIS Server and distribute this throughout internally is no longer needed. The user can create maps, layers and basemaps for easy distribution with functionality that can be tailored to a specific departmental task or create groups and roles for each user. This allows the direct holder of the data to make updates and notes, that can be extracted from the map and edits made to the existing database without having to spend time tracking down “the latest and greatest” from the source. Another benefit in having this in place I it can serve as a back-up should your server have a catastrophic failure or your employee is out sick but needs to work from home.

Many of you are wondering about security. How is the security of ArcGIS Online. What if something happens and a glitch in the system makes all of our proprietary data available to the public? Well either of these could potentially happen. The security offered by ESRI Cloud is like Fort Knox, but your account is only as vulnerable as the security your organization has on site. It is more likely that your organizational server can be hacked and users access the data using an existing employee account. This is a highly unlikely scenario but not improbable with today’s public knowledge of how the internet works and tools and websites that facilitate these types of activities. The other issue is data being shared publicly. This can be controlled at the administrator level by defining user permissions and what they can share but essentially, when a user chooses to share, they have three choices:

• The Public
• The Organization
• A Specific Group within the Organization

Now it is not totally unbelievable that a user in your organization could accidentally share a proprietary dataset to the public. There is an easy remedy for this though if discovered this has occurred. The administrator or user simply un-shares the public access.

There are many benefits and disadvantages to using ArcGIS Online for your Organization. In time as the field of GIS advances more and more information will be needed from the public, governmental agencies and members of your own organization.

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