Cloud computing is growing in importance for GIS professionals. Reasons for its importance include cost, scalability, flexibility, and rapid deployment. Two specific scenarios for GIS in the cloud are particularly compelling:
ArcGIS Online is designed to function as a complete stand-alone Software as a Service (SaaS) application for web mapping and geographic information management. It has also been designed to fully integrate with ArcGIS software deployed on-premises.
ArcGIS Online maps and services can be used in any client, including desktop, mobile, and web applications. Users can author their maps with ArcGIS Desktop software or simply create maps by uploading their data using a browser. They can then publish these maps as map tiles or feature services in ArcGIS Online and provide access to any ArcGIS client via open REST APIs to any web or mobile client.
Users can control access to the maps they wish to share while, at the same time, supporting multiple open collaboration opportunities. Once a map is created, it can be shared with a specific group or everyone. Because information is stored in the cloud, anyone who has access to the map can discover it, view it, add additional layers and graphics to it, and share it again as a new map—all in a cloud environment.
Organizations can leverage their investment in GIS by publishing their maps and data for others to use in ArcGIS Online. At the same time, smaller organizations and even individuals can share their data and maps as map services without having to acquire their own GIS server software. ArcGIS Online provides access to powerful capabilities that can be implemented by anyone, from professional GIS analysts to the casual mapmaker.