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First let me describe the task: My lab has approached me about setting up a simple GIS for a colleagues 'non-spatial' lab. There are a couple of key characteristics to the intended setup:

  1. Fully open source. The workstation will be running OSGeo-Live.
  2. Single workstation. They only want one new computer in there, and they have no network set up as of yet, so it'll be stand-alone.
  3. It has to play double duty: it will both as the server of a spatial database that holds all the data collected for the lab (so an Admin account needs to have full access to this database), but also act as a workstation for students who can come in, view the data, run analysis, but CANNOT edit the data.
  4. System needs to be low on maintenance, so sysAdmin jobs kept to a minimum.

I'll quickly explain my background: I have training mainly as a GIS analyst, working almost exclusively so far as a Desktop GIS user. I have recently started looking into GIS sysadmin stuff and webserving. I have SQL experience, Geodatabase design training, and data management experience on a single user network database. Unfortunately, this is a situation where money is tight, and I was the only person in the lab who knows even a small amount of IT. The answer to my question might be: hire someone who does this for a living. That, however, is not an option.

Now I've chosen the OSGeo-Live distro for obvious reasons, and the fact that it comes pre-packaged with more abilities than will be asked of it by this user group. This is important, however, because with time this lab wants to:

  • build a central server that will include spatial info, and
  • start serving maps over the internet. This, however, is not my task right now. It would be good, however, if I made the system as extendable as possible so when these upgrades become a priority they don't have to do a complete system overhaul.

Now that's my situation, here are my specific questions:

Database: What's the best way to setup a multi-user spatial database on a single computer that also acts as a workstation? Partitioning with admin account write access?

Backup: Since there is no network infrastructure now in place, what would be a good local system for backing up the spatial database? Seperate internall hard drive with a simple cron bash script?

Resources: Could someone please point me in the direction of some intro sysAdmin resources for small scale (single lab) network and database sysAdmin, design, implementation.

Thanks so much in advance, Scott

EDIT: Also, I've read a bit on choices of database. I'm inclined to go with PostGIS because it might make it easier to migrate to a larger network later on. But Spatialite is intriguing because it is simpler and would require less maintenance and a less restrictive setup. Is it true that going for Spatialite now would make migration to a larger enterprise setup harder in the future?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

PostGIS can do what you're talking about. I have it set up on a laptop for personal use, but if I wanted to expand it out simply dumping the data and loading it onto a more traditional server would be sufficient.

You can use Postgres's roles to define admin and read only accounts.

To back up the data you can set up a cron job that runs pg_dump and stores the results where ever you need them to go.

QGIS, OpenJump, or basically any other desktop OSGeo program can be used to access the data, produce maps, and run analysis.

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I've taken this approach, and it seems as though it should work fine. PostGIS is not that much more of a pain than Spatialite, and since there is need for transportability, PostGIS seemed liked the better long term decision. Thanks. – svh160 Feb 14 '13 at 15:07

If students dont need to save data locally or can save data into usb stick or something, i would just create "root" image which you can return when you need. Every one has root access. Why, because it's fastest and easiest way to do it.

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