We’ve spent some time on this blog discussing ArcGIS Online. As we have said, we see this new mapping platform as a major step forward. But detailed discussion of the advantages misses the most central point; ArcGIS Online brings simplicity. Users, organisations, developers all will benefit. We thought is worthwhile discussing areas we see ArcGIS Online simplifying:

Organizing, Administering and Sharing Geo-Data with ArcGIS Online within Organizations

1) Groups and users – Online offers a slew of ways to organise data into groups, and share with a specific group of users. If your data is confidential, then host Online behind your firewall.

2) Data Conversion – We are often approached with questions around mobile apps which allow both access to and editing of shapefiles. Sure it can be done, but there is much time and effort needed to achieve, what we often think is a less than perfect solution. With ArcGIS Online shapefiles are converted to interactive feature layers. If these are generated as hosted feature layers, editing is now possible.

So you can share easily share access to your shapefiles via ArcGIS Online, edit them and convert them back to shapefiles at any time.

3) No need for ArcGIS Server – Let’s be careful here. ArcGIS Server is not going away, in fact it sits behind and drives ArcGIS Online. Server provides functionality not present currently in Online. But for those without Server expertise or the need for its advanced functionality, finally there is a simple solution for publishing geo-data

4) Data formats – We’ve mentioned shapefiles, but Online supports data in many formats. One of the coolest we think is spreadsheet data.

5) Who needs application developers? – Yikes, as a GIS development company that is a little scary, but true. If you simply wish to publish interactive geo-data, without specific tools, you can now embed or share your web map.

6) Platform administration – Take a look at an ArcGIS Server published data-set or endpoint below:

ESRI_StreetMap_World_2D ArcGIS Server Endpoint

Nice and readable? Not at all. Now look at a details page of an ArcGIS Online web map.

Much better. Overall setting up, and administering ArcGIS Online web maps is very simple.

ArcGIS Online Making Application Development Quicker, Easier

1) One source – Developing software solutions with other geo-vendors like Google often requires the use of a combination of their products. With ArcGIS Online all is wrapped up into one platform.

2) Web Maps – These are at the heart of the platform. Data is published in ArcGIS Online as a web map. This is essence a collection of data sources published as a single entity. Applications now need only consume one source, not multiple as was once the case, considerably simplifying development.

3) Standardization – Data hosted in ArcGIS Online is standardized. Direct application interaction with ArcGIS Server demands additional code to discover layer type, and adjustments for differences. This all adds to application complexity.

4) Focused configurable apps – Once developers built a single app to serve a wide group of users. They would throw in many tools to satisfy an array of demands. Those days are slowly moving behind us. With ArcGIS Online we can publish focused data, and consume it with a lightweight application which provides simple, very specific workflows. Esri have introduced the idea of web app templates:

A Guide to Hosted Web Templates in ArcGIS Online

These form an excellent foundation for building custom lightweight web app solutions for clients.

5) Mobile development – ArcGIS Online has revolutionized mobile development; easy access to data in a simple format.

ArcGIS Online Improving Users Access and Understanding of Geo-Data

1) Access – GIS and non-GIS users will see improved easier access to geo-data. With focused apps and embedded web maps, geo-data is becoming ubiquitous; available anywhere, anytime.

2) Easy to Understand and Use – At the heart of ArcGIS Online are well designed apps which tell stories (see Esri’s discussion on Storymaps), share useful maybe critical data and provide very specific tools for discovery and interaction. Geo-data and tools at your fingertips is where we are headed.

As a company a key part of our 2013 strategy is to broaden and deepen our work with ArcGIS Online. As we have discussed above we recognize the many benefits the platform brings to our work for clients.

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