Preparing for Change: Reasons to Migrate From ArcGIS Online to ArcGIS Enterprise

If you’re reading this article then you are likely considering if you should migrate from ArcGIS Online to Enterprise, and if it worth it for your organization. In my experience, there are a few things to consider to justify making the leap.

Sample ArcGIS Enterprise Deployment Diagram

Security

Security is usually the number one factor driving this decision. It usually starts out that a GIS team wanted to use ArcGIS Online to leverage applications like Collector or Survey12. Due to how easy ArcGIS Online is to work with, they jumped in and started curating data.

The GIS team perhaps did not consider their organization’s security policies. IT catches wind that the GIS team has organization data in ArcGIS Online, which is hosted on Esri’s servers, and the GIS team gets told they need to get all of the organization’s data off of ArcGIS Online. However, the GIS team has now become reliant on the workflows that ArcGIS Online offers. The only option is to deploy an ArcGIS Enterprise in an environment that meets their organization’s security policies.

Version Control

Control might be thought of the same way as security is above, and in some ways it is. What I’m referring to here though, is the need to control software versions. One of the good things, about ArcGIS Online is that Esri handle’s all the updates. Which takes the pressure off of your staff until an update breaks a critical production application your team relies on for their operations. These updates can be difficult to prepare for, requiring your team to be more reactive. Having your own ArcGIS Enterprise allows you to control the update cycle and plan accordingly. This can reduce or even eliminate any interruption to your production GIS applications.

Data

Ironically, the security and control of data are what typically move organizations into ArcGIS Enterprise. Another reason is for data redundancy and archiving. 

When data is in ArcGIS Online it lives on Esri’s servers. Users can script or mannually export their data for backups/archiving. Although, this is not an ideal approach when you have a lot of data to work with. This also doesn’t allow for point-in-time recoveries, aside from the exported backup. 

Having your data in your own relational database management system, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, or Postgres can allow your organization to set up a highly available database(s) that is recoverable in the event of an error. Like if someone accidentally deletes a swath of data accidentally. Aside from data recovery, having your database in house gives you greater control to alter the schema, relationships, topologies, and more.

Map Services

If you’ve only used ArcGIS Online, you might not even know what a Map Service is. ArcGIS Online uses “Hosted” Feature Services and you may have noticed you cannot symbolize using more than one attribute. This is a funcationality that Map Services have and may be the key in what you are missing with your current symbology. You can also serve a custom basemap or imagery cache. There are many other uses and options that Map Services provide that may help your organization get exactly what you are misisng in your web maps.

Extending Services

ArcGIS Online can do a lot of great things, but it is sometimes limited. If you’ve attended any of the Esri conferences then I’m sure you’ve heard mentions of products like GeoEvent Server, GeoAnalytics, Parcel Fabric, and Utility Network. All of these require some form of ArcGIS Enterprise in order to work with them. What I mean is GeoEvent Server does not require the full ArcGIS Enterprise stack of being federated with Portal but it does require ArcGIS Server and the spatiotemporal data store. The Parcel Fabric and Utility Network both require a fully federated ArcGIS Enterprise environment.

Another reason to consider moving to your own ArcGIS Enterprise is that you get unlimited “Viewer” user types. At the moment “Viewer” user types cost $100 per in ArcGIS Online per user. If your organization is huge and you have a lot of viewer users, then this perk will help offset some of the cost.

Licensing

Last, but certainly not least, licensing. If you get ArcGIS Enterprise as part of your Enterprise Agreement (EA), then you might as well stand up a sandbox and give it a test drive. A sandbox environment will allow you to test out different features, applications, and environment changes before promoting them to your production environment.

Further Considerations

An ArcGIS deployment can be complex. Smaller deployments will typically consist of a database server machine and a machine for the ArcGIS Enterprise components. While other deployments may have each Enterprise component on its own machine. This can be deployed either on physical servers, virtual servers, or in the cloud. If your organization does not have the infrastructure or IT to manage the deployment in-house, then look into deploying your Enterprise in Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Esri has made some great tools to simplify the overall deployment process.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some thought-provoking information. If the thought of deploying ArcGIS Enterprise is what’s holding you back, then we’re here to help. GEO Jobe has performed deployments in a variety of environments while adhering to the client’s specific business requirements. Connect with us at connect@geo-jobe.com to discuss how we can help!

Solutions Engineer

Nick Lawalin is a Solution Engineer for GEO Jobe. Follow him on twitter: @nicklawalin