ArcGIS Server – Lessons Learned

I recently have had the experience of creating a GIS from the ground floor up and distributing and disseminating this information to various individuals inside and outside of the organization. This was a very informative experience and I would like to share some insight with our subscribers in case one day you find yourself in this situation.

  1. It is hard.

Creating, maintaining and sharing GIS information in general is not an easy task. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked someone for a shape file and all I get back is the .shp. This is just a prime example of some confusion in sharing just an ESRI specific file format with another user. Once the decision is made to share, distribute, and consume the data with other members of your organization outside of GIS many considerations must be made. The design and implementation of the architecture can vary greatly depending on needs. There is a lot of planning and design that must go into the GIS System setup and configuration.

  1. Have a basic architecture in mind to implement and stick to it.

Once you have decided how everything fits into play within your organization you can design the architecture of your database and establish user roles and groups. During this process there will be much trial and error. It is important not to deviate from what you originally had in mind. Trying to change course mid-stream can cause confusion within yourself and also may create programming issues and errors that won’t be discovered until testing and implementation. Which can be frustrating trying to locate what exactly is going on and where ion the back end it got messed up.

  1. Replication management can be tricky and confusing.

Replication and Versioning, you mean those aren’t the same thing? When managing replicas and versions of those replicas it is very important to understand how database schemas and editing work. I have a few tips for this. Always right down what you did when creating replicas and versions so you can remember if they were one-way, or two-way replications and which one is the parent and which one is the child. Always remember schema changes come from the parent down and edits come from the child up. Try to keep as few replicas as possible and manage the data editing through versioning. Use the Database Administration tools for working schemas in ArcMap, they are much more richer and thorough set of tools then what it displays in ArcCatalog. The other benefit is you can just work with the features you are updating not the whole database which speeds up processing time.

  1. Anticipate that there will be changes.

Even with the best of plans and intentions, something is not going to work like you want it to. Ideally the goal is to stick to the original plan as much as possible. As time passes and your GIS work is being consumed by more individuals and more people recognize the benefits of GIS, people will want special features or additional columns that make the data more relevant to their work and benefit the organization as a whole.

  1. Once the system is up and running TEST, TEST and TEST.

Once you have installed the server and created your SDE, replicas and versions you must test out the system as thoroughly as possible. There will be something that was missed, a mistyped instance or server name, administration frustrations, and data connection issues. Test synchronizing your schema changes, test pushing edits back up to the parent, sit down with users at their desk and go through the process with them. Testing is the most important part of the process because ultimately the goal is to have a working database.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If something is not working like it should, or what was once whole is now broken don’t be afraid to reach out to IT or ESRI support. They are there to help and are happy to help, and very knowledgeable people who you can leverage to gain career skills and employee growth.

  1. It is all worth it.

In conclusion, the final result when completed is all worth it. The sense of accomplishment and the ability to provide accurate up-to-date real time data, editing and application to work processes for other employees is extremely beneficial to the organization, its staff and yourself.

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