I will soon have to plan where and how our raster data will be stored as we will be upgrading from ArcGIS 10.0 to ArcGIS 10.2. The following questions first need to be addressed before I can make any demands on my IT Department. The rasters which will be stored are mostly Aerial photos and Topographic Maps. Every year we get new datasets which will be added to the collection. Older versions of the maps will be held in the same database. I work in public administration where around 400 people use a browser based mapping client to call the data. Nobody needs write-Permissions for raster data apart from me.

  1. Where? Using ArcGIS Server I presently have the option of either holding the raster in MSSQL-Server using SDE or holding them in a FGDB.

  2. How should they be served? Direct connect or 3-Tiered as an sde service?

  3. Other recommendations? ECW Format or TIFF? Rastercatalogs? Rastermosiacs? There seem to be many options available.

Could anyone offer some opinions?

  • is it for visualisation only (base maps) or do people need to run analysis based on the data (e.g. orthorectification, classification...)?
    – radouxju
    Nov 12, 2014 at 12:53
  • Only visualisations Nov 12, 2014 at 13:34
  • You seem to be asking multiple questions here which is not as per the Tour.
    – PolyGeo
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:57

2 Answers 2


We store our data in tiff (or bigtif) with compression because it can handle very large images and you can read it (+ its its internal metadata) with most softwares. I don't like to store images inside of a database because of the size (even if thesize limits have been largely improved), and use som .vrt to extract/combine the valuable information from your archive. For visualization, tiff can internally store pyramids (jpeg compressed, using gdaladdo), which is great.

I suggest that you serve your images as WMS, an international specification.

PS: Before I was using LZW compression, but since I've had some bug with it I rather use deflate now.

  • +1 I have also been encountering bugs with LZW compressed tiffs that were generated in ArcGIS.
    – Aaron
    Nov 12, 2014 at 15:26
  • it is not specific to ArcGIS, I had the problem with GDAL too.
    – radouxju
    Nov 12, 2014 at 15:28
  • 1
    I believe Esri moved to a GDAL engine from Erdas, so this would be the same issue. Have you contacted Esri about this?
    – Vince
    Nov 12, 2014 at 17:00

All of our rasters are saved as either TIFF or Mr. Sid formats on a separate server from the rest of our ArcGIS infrastructure. These are read-only for everyone but the staff who manage the files. It also makes it possible for people who do not use ArcGIS to be able to pull these images in to their software. We do have a ArcSDE database just for the raster mosaics (at 10.2 it is all direct connections) but all that holds is the image tile footprints and pointers to the actual .TIF & .SID files.

We did have one person in another office try and put one year of images for our county in to ArcSDE. With the amount of headaches it gave them trying to get that to work they decided it was not really feasible for us to store them inside ArcSDE with the amount of tiles we had to manage.

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