Skip To Content

Approaches for publishing services with ArcGIS

ArcGIS offers three approaches for sharing your information with others through web services. This gives you the flexibility to deploy your services on a server whose size, scope, and cost most closely match your needs. The three options are as follows:

  • ArcGIS for Server
  • ArcGIS Online
  • Portal for ArcGIS (using ArcGIS for Server as a back end)

ArcGIS for Server

ArcGIS for Server offers services for all your GIS work, including mapping, geocoding, geoprocessing, imagery analysis, 3D data, network analysis, OGC access, mobile data extraction, and serving geographic features. It gives you access to a broad suite of security, logging, and tuning options.

With ArcGIS for Server, you can easily scale your server by adding more machines. You can deploy your server on-premises or in a cloud-computing environment such as Amazon EC2. You can use many supported data types, and you have access to optional extensions for network analysis, data interoperability, geostatistical analysis, and more.

ArcGIS for Server includes a scriptable administrative API, and if you are so inclined, you can extend the functionality of your services using custom ArcObjects development.

ArcGIS for Server is offered in Basic, Standard, and Advanced editions that expose increasing levels of functionality.

  • The Basic edition exposes geodata services and read-only feature services.
  • The Standard edition exposes all types of GIS web services and can be supplemented with some extensions.
  • The Advanced edition exposes all types of GIS web services, includes a mobile applications SDK, and can be supplemented with the full variety of extensions.

ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online allows you to publish GIS web services to an Esri-administered cloud environment. You don't have to install anything; you just sign in to your ArcGIS Online account. There are two types of services you can deploy:

  • Feature services expose the geometry, attributes, and symbol information for vector GIS features. They are appropriate for displaying, querying, and editing your business data on top of web basemaps.
  • Tiled map services expose a set of pregenerated map images (known as a map cache) that can be viewed as basemaps in a web mapping application. When you publish your service, you can also ask the server to create and store a cache of tiles. You can then bring the tiles into your web map by accessing the service's URL.

Using a combination of tiled map services and feature services in your application allows fast mapping while supporting query and editing operations.

ArcGIS Online hosted services are available through organizational subscriptions to ArcGIS Online. An advantage of using ArcGIS Online is that you don't have to install any server software or tune the services. The services run in an Esri-administered cloud environment in which the server automatically scales up to meet demand.

Portal for ArcGIS

Portal for ArcGIS offers the same tiled map services and feature services as ArcGIS Online. The difference is that you install the portal on your own network infrastructure. You connect your own ArcGIS for Server implementation to the portal to act as the web service hosting engine.

Although Portal for ArcGIS requires more setup than ArcGIS Online, it is an appropriate choice for organizations that are not connected to the Internet, cannot send their data off-premises, or need full control over the hardware running the portal.

Using Portal for ArcGIS, you can allow a broad segment of users to publish feature services and tiled map services, while leaving the administration of more advanced services (such as image services and geoprocessing services) to a narrower group of ArcGIS for Server publishers.

Authoring, sharing, and using services

ArcGIS for Desktop can help you author and share your GIS resources on any of the above types of servers. In the case of a map, you'll typically do your cartography in ArcMap, and then choose a menu option to share the map as a service. You'll be guided through the process of analyzing your map for performance bottlenecks and publishing the map.

For other types of resources that aren't created in ArcMap, such as locators, you can right-click the item in the Catalog tree and choose the option to share it as a service. A geoprocessing model can be published by right-clicking a result in the Results window and choosing the option to share it as a service.

Once a service is published, you can use it in web, desktop, and mobile applications. Services have web addresses, or URLs, that client applications can use to access them. When you use or develop an application, you'll provide the URLs of the services you want to use. Your application goes to the URLs and begins working with the services to bring in the maps or other GIS functionality that you request. This pattern is the same whether you're working with services on ArcGIS for Server, ArcGIS Online, or Portal for ArcGIS.

The remaining topics in this help contain more detailed instructions for sharing your GIS data.