Sorry for my lack of knowledge.

I have been using GIS for a while but just for analysis and don't know much about the data side of the business.

Recently my boss asked me to think about setting up a GIS platform that should be able to handle this type of data appended to property location:

  • Co-ordinate data
  • Location value
  • Basic hazard data
  • Model output data
  • Detailed reports from our Engineering field force

Potentially the number of properties could runs into millions and it could be interesting if the engeneers on the field could have access to the maps and input information live into the database.

Also maps should be made available to colleagues and stakeholders through an online platform.

I have always been using ESRI but never used ArcGIS Server and it would be great if somebody with more experience than me could put me on the right path.

How would you set up the system?

Are there openesource alternatives?

  • The first question is whether or not your company will be housing the server and hosting the website to view the data from the server. Using something like ArcGIS Online might be easier to set up and get going for sharing and editing the data. However, you get more flexibility and functionality out of running a server.
    – Branco
    Jul 2, 2014 at 16:52
  • Plus if you are going the server route... Are you or someone within your organization knowledgeable about web development and the various languages that go along with it (primarily JavaScript)? To input the information live from the field to your server can be a tricky implementation depending on what technologies you use to set up your server, too. There are many layers of technology between a field person and the storage database that you would need to set up and maintain. Also, would you need to worry about connectivity with the field people. Like what happens if they lose internet.
    – Branco
    Jul 2, 2014 at 16:56
  • Your first question is very broad and maybe hard to answer in this forum. Your second question has been asked before in a variety of Q/A on this forum before, here is one example: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/6604/…
    – artwork21
    Jul 2, 2014 at 18:42
  • Thank you very much for replying, it helped me to frame the issues involved in such project.
    – Giacomo
    Jul 23, 2014 at 11:29

3 Answers 3


I thought I would add a late answer here to expand upon my comments from last year.

After re-reading this, I thought of a few good examples of sites that I know of that would be beneficial as examples to anyone viewing this question. The City of Hudson, Ohio has an interesting GIS website. They incorporate city work orders, city layers, community info, and a few other things into their website. There are a few different applications the city has put together for various purposes. A lot of it is still based on Silverlight, but it seems like they are expanding and converting things over to JavaScript. I believe everything they do is still based off an ESRI server as the backend.

Another example using Open Source software (PostGres/PostGIS, GeoServer) is the TreeKeeper suite from Davey Resource Group (Davey Tree Expert Company). Since I currently work there, I can give a little more information on how things operate. The info is stored in the PostGres/PostGIS backend and fed through GeoServer to OpenLayers. The OpenLayers site is hosted through a ColdFusion server although it could as easily be done through PHP or other server type. Although not shown in the demo, the field personnel, clients, and others involved in the projects are able to create, update, and delete features via the web interface and there is a mobile interface, too.

I was not involved in either of those two projects directly. However, I am familiar with the way they operate. For the TreeKeeper site... The user sees a page rendered in OpenLayers/HTML. Whenever they edit/create/delete, that request is filtered through an AJAX (via jQuery or other JS library) request to an API set up in ColdFusion that then runs a query to the PostGres/PostGIS database server making the appropriate changes. Changes then spread out to GeoServer to adjust tiling, if necessary, and other mapping related items. Once the changes are done, the webpage will either reload (saving its state) or respond to a AJAX response change to update the view for the user. I am assuming the City of Hudson's sites operate in a similar fashion, but I know they use different APIs for their work.

Basically there is a chaining of requests/events that happens to make sure things are updated accordingly.

There are numerous projects out there to support this. I keep seeing new web APIs pop up, server side technologies, hosting services, etc etc every time I Google web mapping. Once you know your set up and the availability of technology (not to mention the rogramming/server skills of your staff), you can design a workflow that will send information back and forth to users. If you're limited on knowledge and have a flexible budget, ArcGIS Online or other subscription based service may be the easiest for you since they usually handle all the heavy lifting of data storage, request routing, authentication, and user interfaces.


The top open-source alternative is MapBox. It's lets you utilize multiple baselayers from Google Maps, Bing, ArcGIS, etc. Ultimately, it's better to host your GIS server "in the cloud" using Amazon EC2, or Rackspace, which will allow you to easily scale horizontally (more servers), and vertically (more powerful hardware).

If your intent is to keep data analysis private and in-house, utilizing desktop programs such as ArcMap, then stick with ArcGIS private servers. However, if you want to easily share data and maps with colleagues who will view results online, then definitely check out MapBox.

  • Interesting solution, thak you I will explore it!
    – Giacomo
    Jul 23, 2014 at 11:26

I recommend using GeoServer and OpenLayers for the geographic data. The backend can be stored using PostGIS/PostgresSQL. I tried a project using FLASK py, Leaflet and PostGIS it works fine and you can deploy your work using Paas services like Heroku and GIT CLI. Totally useful and doesn't take time to deploy, especially if you are a beginner like myself, python is the perfect choice.

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