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Understand the relationship between ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online are two comprehensive products that provide organization-wide mapping, analysis, data management, sharing, and collaboration capabilities. Both products support these workflows in secure, scalable, and flexible ways that you can customize to meet your organizational and business needs.

When choosing which product is right for you, note that it does not have to be one product or the other. ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online are designed to work together and can serve different purposes in your organization.

ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online similarities

ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online operate around a central website that empowers organization members to create, customize, analyze, and share 2D and 3D data, maps, and apps. Members can share this information with select groups, the entire organization, or the public.

With both ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online, you have access to templates and configurable apps to get started, as well as a suite of Esri apps for the office and the field. In addition, you can use a vast collection of geographic data and information through ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World.

Administrators can customize the look and feel of the ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise sites, add users, adjust privileges, and set advanced settings and properties through similar web-based interfaces.

For developers, the same APIs and SDKs are available for both ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online.

ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online differences

While there are similarities between the two products, there are differences in how they are deployed and the set of features and capabilities available.

Infrastructure, installation, and deployment

ArcGIS Online is a highly scalable software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering from Esri. It is hosted on Esri servers and completely scaled, managed, updated, and maintained by Esri. Because Esri controls the update schedule, you are not responsible for upgrading or patching the system. What is current in ArcGIS Online is always current for any user around the world. As your usage and data needs scale, ArcGIS Online dynamically scales with you without the need for you to provision additional servers or infrastructure, though additional data stores are available if necessary. With ArcGIS Online, only an organizational subscription is required.

ArcGIS Enterprise is software that is installed on infrastructure you control and manage, whether in the cloud, on-premises, or on virtual machines. This allows you to design a highly customized system that meets your organization's business needs and service level agreements. You can deploy all base ArcGIS Enterprise components on one machine or scale out to many machines. High availability and disaster recovery strategies are supported, as well as deployments that are completely disconnected from the internet. With ArcGIS Enterprise, you have complete control over your system, whether that is when to patch the system or when to upgrade to the next version of the software.

ArcGIS Enterprise typically has one to two releases per year, whereas ArcGIS Online typically updates three times a year. Though ArcGIS Enterprise does not include all features and functionality that ArcGIS Online has and vice versa, you can typically expect to see most ArcGIS Online features within the ArcGIS Enterprise portal in the next few ArcGIS Enterprise releases following an ArcGIS Online update.

Esri also provides Esri Managed Cloud Services to run ArcGIS Enterprise on behalf of your organization.

Features and capabilities

While both products enable foundational mapping and location workflows, there are some differences in what advanced, or additional, capabilities are available.

You can extend ArcGIS Enterprise through the use of capability-based server roles such as the following: GIS Server, Image Server, Mission Server, GeoAnalytics Server, Notebook Server, GeoEvent Server, and Knowledge Server. Each of these roles provides unique capabilities such as image and raster processing and analysis, tabular big data analysis, data science and real-time data alerting, processing, and archiving, scripting, and the ability to model relationships through knowledge graphs.

ArcGIS Online supports ArcGIS Image for ArcGIS Online for image and raster processing and analysis and supports ArcGIS Velocity for big data analysis, data science, and real-time data processing. To facilitate scripting workflows, use ArcGIS Notebooks in ArcGIS Online.

You can share data between ArcGIS Enterprise organizations or an ArcGIS Enterprise organization and ArcGIS Online organization using distributed collaboration. To share data between ArcGIS Online organizations, use partnered collaboration.

A key difference between the two products is that ArcGIS Enterprise can connect to user-managed data stores, whether cloud storage, folders, or databases. Publishers can reference the data in place from within these stores when publishing datasets that can be viewed and used on the web. This allows you to bring your own storage and integrate with data there while also using data storage provided by ArcGIS Enterprise (through ArcGIS Data Store). In ArcGIS Online, all data is hosted by the ArcGIS Online system. To store data in ArcGIS Online that originated in, for example, a relational database, you must copy the data to ArcGIS Online, or use distributed collaboration to share data from ArcGIS Enterprise to ArcGIS Online.

Using ArcGIS Enterprise, you can publish additional types of services such as geocode services and geoprocessing services that you can use throughout your ArcGIS Enterprise environment.

Lastly, both ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise support organization-specific logins through SAML and OpenID Connect to streamline authentication between systems. Both also support multifactor authentication. However, ArcGIS Enterprise provides additional security and authentication options such as web-tier authentication and Active Directory.

Using ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online together

In ArcGIS Enterprise, you can use ArcGIS Online services such as elevation, geocoding, geoenrichment, and more. You can also access and incorporate ArcGIS Living Atlas content curated by Esri such as basemaps, imagery, demographics, infrastructure, and environmental data. To use this content, your ArcGIS Enterprise deployment must have access to the internet.

Many organizations use ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online together by implementing distributed collaboration. Distributed collaboration allows you to share layers, maps, and other data from one system to the other. For many, this makes data more accessible across an entire organization and allows for workflows such as managing data in ArcGIS Enterprise and sharing it with the public through ArcGIS Online.

Both products support organization-specific logins through SAML and OpenID Connect so you can streamline authentication between systems. This means that you can use the same username and password for both organizations, making it easier for your users to only remember one username and password. However, these are still separate organizations, each with their own identity stores and set of associated content. You cannot log in to ArcGIS Enterprise and expect to see the same content as when you log in to ArcGIS Online.


Organizations often implement ArcGIS Enterprise when they require full control over the hardware running the system or when data is prohibited from being physically stored off-site or on infrastructure not controlled by the organization. ArcGIS Enterprise is also an option when servers, computers, and devices in the organization are not connected to the internet or have an unreliable internet connection. In addition, many organizations choose to deploy ArcGIS Enterprise when advanced analytical capabilities and distributed processing power are needed.

When choosing how to use ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise, consider the following:

  • Do you need to deploy on infrastructure you control or infrastructure Esri controls? What are your service level agreements and expectations?
  • Who will need access to your system and where will they be accessing it?
  • What type of analysis will your organization perform and where do you want the analysis to run?
  • Do you need to integrate with your own data stores or would you prefer that Esri hosts your data?


For additional implementation considerations and best practices, see Architecting the ArcGIS System: Best Practices.