One of my main goals at Esri UC and EdUC this year is to wrap my brain around ArcGIS Online and its new subscription service option referred to as ArcGIS Online for Organizations. Today, in a session, I learned how one could combine free and subscription accounts in an educational setting.
To get more information on how to think about this sort of implementation, I spoke to Kenneth Field who works on the education team. One thing he helped me understand is that even though free personal accounts are free for the account holders (for non-commercial use), if they hit an organization’s stash of maps or services, credits are deducted from that organization’s credit bank account. That's also true if someone without a subscription hits a publicly available map on a blog or website that uses an organizational account's data or services.
Thus, organizations, educational and otherwise, need to think carefully about the right mix of free and subscription accounts and public hits on an organizational account based on their budget and mapping needs. Can free account users, with clever use of their 2GB of storage and manipulation of data around limits such as the 1000 features per shape file, do what they need to without tapping into the organization’s bank account? How many individuals require the ability to publish mapping services and thus require organizational accounts? Can they be instructed how to best consume those service and share maps such that they do not “break the credit bank”? Will embedded maps built with organizational data or services published for public consumption eat up too many credits to be a viable solution?
Esri and its users are still exploring the various paths forward. Best practices are likely some months (or more) away. And, as Kenneth suggested, it may be that different kinds of organizations, in different disciplines or markets, may develop a wide array of implementation models for ArcGIS Online.
As he spoke, I was reminded of the launch of what was then called SDE, and later became ArcSDE and is now simply part of ArcGIS. Back at launch in the early 1990s the big mystery was how to “tune” SDE for maximum performance. There was a lot of trial an error and a few experts emerged. In time best practices and tuning guides emerged. I suspect the ArcGIS Online community will go through a similar process; it’s likely already begun with the beta testers and those exploring organizational accounts via the 30 day free trial.