I'm using QGIS (and sometimes GRASS and PostGIS) on my 2009 MacBookPro for my thesis project.
I was wondering (during an endless batch generalizing in QGIS) if I can set up a server so I can work from the library/university using the power of a faster home desktop workstation.
So far I understood:

  • I can access a remote PostGIS server via QGIS
  • I can run GRASS via SSH, even with GUI
  • GDAL has PostGIS driver, but it's only for querying and inserting data, the rest of the work is done by the machine that issues the command (or am I wrong?)
  • Basic editing of a PostGIS can be done via QGIS, and I can issue SQL commands to make some more advanced editing

What I would like to figure out:

  • Can I use QGIS plugins remotely? is VNC the only way to accomplish that?
  • is there some documentation for PostGIS+QGIS other than creating and visualizing maps (I found only these types of tutorial)? which tools/plugins can I use, and which of them can be run remotely?

you all confirmed my thoughts about QGIS, if I want to use the processing power of the server I have to control it via VNC/RDP/NX.
as for my second question, let me rephrase it:
If I use postGIS+QGIS and I want all the processing be done on the server, do I have to (learn and) use only SQL queries with postGIS functions?

3 Answers 3


Have you thought about using an IaaS such as Amazon Web Services to host your GIS stack? There are a bunch of Amazon Machine Images (AMI) that already fulfill your requirements. You could spin up an Amazon EC2 instance to run your GIS jobs and manage it remotely from your laptop.

Here is a course that could get you spun up fairly quick (look at lessons 1-3):


Here is a nice VM bundle that you could deploy on an IaaS that has most of your dependencies:


  • 3
    An EC2 instance, for that kind of job, can cost from 13 usd/month.
    – nickves
    Apr 10, 2013 at 19:16
  • Maybe, but you can get a lot out of a micro instance. Apr 10, 2013 at 21:04
  • The price I was refering at was for a large instance, for 50 hours/month. I thought it would be super expensive, but I was surprised. Its affordable.
    – nickves
    Apr 10, 2013 at 21:27
  • Thank you, I think I can save the money of the new hardware and invest some in an IaaS (and do the same for my rendering needs). Still, my main concern is using QGIS remotely... do I have to do it via VNC? Apr 11, 2013 at 7:59
  • 1
    I might be missing something in your question, but I think some kind of remote viewer is the best bet with the IaaS route. I am not sure if there is a situation where you can run QGIS locally and have the processing done remotely. Outside of some kind of custom service on your server, I think you might have to use the QGIS instance on the server. Apr 11, 2013 at 15:27

Here's what I would recommend.

  1. Establish PostgreSQL/PostGIS server on your workstation
  2. Make sure that the database is listening for outside connections

    Modify the /etc/postgresql/9.1/main/postgresql.conf file by uncommenting the "listen_addresses=*"

    Modify the /etc/postgresql/9.1/main/pg_hba.conf file by adding the necessary information to connect to the server from your laptop.

  3. Now in QGIS OR GRASS you can access the data directly running the application locally, but working on remote data.

You could play around with forwarding X11 graphics over a ssh connection to run QGIS or GRASS remotely, but I've found that to be much slower.

  • ok, but in this way if I issue GRASS commands or use QGIS plugins on the dataset, all the processing is done by my laptop, am I right? Apr 11, 2013 at 8:04
  • Correct. I haven't played around with this, but have you considered: grass.fbk.eu/screenshots/web.php Apr 11, 2013 at 14:01

One way to do this is to setup your GIS environment on the server as suggested, then access it using the remote desktop protocol. This gives you a GUI login to the server and you can run everything as if you were sitting in front of it. All processing takes place on the server and no problem using any plugins.

Take a look at: http://cord.sourceforge.net

I've used it with great success from Mac to a Linux server.

  • didn't know you can use RDP with linux, I just found xrdp. But I also read that, while it's faster than VNC, it's slower than freeNX. I think I'll try freeNX server with openNX client. Thanks anyway! Apr 12, 2013 at 7:45
  • 1
    If you data is big , remote desktop is faster , if data is small, less than 10M then straight to postgis is faster. Kde Remote desktop : kde.org/applications/internet/krdc Apr 12, 2013 at 12:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.