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There are lots of comments on different forums about different types on online GIS data/map sharing tools.

What I need to know is what ArcGIS online CAN'T do compared to the functionality of the open source options?

I have big geodatabases that contain dynamic data that is constantly being updated and shared across multiple offices. The geodatabases contain raster data with information that needs querying - Lidar/bathymetry data. We also have vector features that could be as many as 2000 features in any one feature layer.

I have heard that it is a struggle to get raster layers into AGOL and they will just be an image with no data behind them

I have also heard that there is a limit on the number of features AGOL can display at any one time?

It seems a total minefield as to which one to use but I would prefer the free option if the functionality is the same or better in opensource.

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    do you have access to ArcGIS Server? Having Server makes AGOL a lot more usable IMO, as you don't have to store your data on AGOL, but instead just use it to access the services in Server. – Craig Mar 5 '14 at 13:39
  • I would recommend you taking a look at CartoDB, mostly for vector features. – matallo Mar 6 '14 at 9:20
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I have big geodatabases that contain dynamic data that is constantly being updated and shared across multiple offices. The geodatabases contain raster data with information that needs querying - Lidar/bathymetry data. We also have vector features that could be as many as 2000 features in any one feature layer.

For starters AGOL has NO built-in search mechanism for your layers. So forget querying layers out of the box.

For that, you're better off using either a custom application or even a packaged viewer (Flex, Silverlight) which have built-in search tools.

EDIT

You can now configure searches against feature layers in your web map. These configured searches will work in the same address search bar provided by Esri.

This is not the best option now. The best option would be to publish an application from ArcGIS Online. For instance, publishing using the Web AppBuilder would give you options to add widgets similar to the Silverlight and Flex viewers which are soon to be unsupported by Esri.

I have also heard that there is a limit on the number of features AGOL can display at any one time?

I personally tested this out of curiosity. Simply turning on more than 3 layers caused the default map viewer to lag. These were services hosted on AGOL as well.

It seems a total minefield as to which one to use but i would prefer the free option if the functionality is the same or better in opensource.

Free? Then stay away from ArcGIS products in whole. Something open source and easy to use? There are many posts around here regarding Open Source development. Take a look at OpenLayers, it's a good starting point. If you need to query ArcGIS Server layers from open source applications, get acquainted with the ArcGIS REST API.

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