ArcGIS Online is Not the Answer to Every Question

I am the first to admit the communications from Esri over the past year or two regarding ArcGIS Online has come down to a single idea. ArcGIS Online is the answer to every question. It addresses data silos, simplifies service publishing, makes map and app creation easy, provides great basemaps, offers free and subscription accounts, unites enterprises and more. The plenary at Esri UC seemed to reinforce this idea. Jack Dangermond’s off-hand comment during the morning session, “You don’t have to buy this, but you should” seemed to seal the vision.

But when you dig a bit deeper and talk with Esri staffers involved in user implementations, they are bit more circumspect. Further, if you fear that committing to a subscription account means you will be left to fend for yourself and burn through your first stack of credits, that’s not the case.

ArcGIS can be the answer to all questions. That is, an organization can host all its data and services in an organizational account and use them to build internal and public facing maps and apps. But, that may not be the best use of resources (aka money). I learned that for some organizations a better implementation might include a local ArcGIS Server implementation that pushes out the services. Those services can be registered with ArcGIS Online and thus be accessible and useable to those who have access (via an account or if they are public). In this implementation, credit use is very low since the local server is “doing all the work.” The credit hits are only for the communication between ArcGIS Online and the local server. This is exactly the scenario reader Kevin shared via e-mail when he suggested that ArcGIS Online may well help push sales of ArcGIS Server.

Esri has worked closely with its beta users to learn how they have implemented ArcGIS Online, the challenges they’ve faced and the solutions they’ve teased out. That information, along with internal testing, form the basis for a series of currently internal, draft docs detailing a stab at best practices.That information, while still in development, is shared with new subscriber organizations. Those organizations can also use a several week trial period where they can monitor ArcGIS Online use and how that use eats up credits.

Esri is also testing a variety of ArcGIS Online organizational implementations for different industries such as local government. The goal is to explore what types of processing are heavily used vs. lightly used and to try to find ways to manage costs. For example, it may be more efficient and less costly to create tile caches locally in ArcGIS, then upload them to ArcGIS Online instead of doing that work in the cloud.

Esri hopes to complete its initial work and formalize some of these guidance documents in the coming months. As more than one Esri staffer pointed out, so much about ArcGIS Online is new, not just the hosting in the cloud but also the subscription and credit models, that teasing out these best practices is not trivial.

Published Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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