Introducing Portal for ArcGIS

by | Oct 17, 2016

Portal for ArcGIS is an Esri product that extends ArcGIS for Server. This blog post describes what the product is all about and how it is different from ArcGIS Online.

By Eric van Rees

What is a portal?

Esri defines a portal is an important logical component of a modern Web GIS, providing “the needed geospatial framework and organizational infrastructure to discover, manage, share, and use content”. A portal can be implemented as part of the two main Web GIS deployment patterns: using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS for Server software including Portal for ArcGIS.

What is Portal for ArcGIS?

Portal for ArcGIS is an Esri software product that can be used to extend ArcGIS Server. It comes with ArcGIS for Server Standard and Advanced since version 10.3 and is a separate installation from Server. Once installed, it functions as a portal for client applications (desktop, web and devices) and ArcGIS Server plus Esri´s online content and services offerings. As such, it is a destination point for GIS assets, functioning as a front-end to web services available through ArcGIS Server. It can also be described as a map-centric content management system that looks and feels a lot like ArcGIS Online.

What is the added value of Portal for ArcGIS compared to ArcGIS for Server?

In addition to providing a front-end to available web services, Portal allows users on the server-size to organize GIS content, that users on the client side can search, visualize or use for building their own applications. Portal includes a map viewer, several ArcGIS capabilities and a series of apps including Collector for ArcGIS and ArcGIS Maps for Office. A central part of Portal is a web map, that can be created in the Portal map viewer and from there be leveraged by all other Esri client apps and APIs.

Portal for ArcGIS or ArcGIS Online?

If Portal for ArcGIS is the right solution for an organization depends on flexibility in terms of cloud adoption, personal preferences and Esri´s available options concerning web GIS deployment.

Esri offers its customers two web GIS deployment patterns. The first option is through SaaS (software as a service, using ArcGIS Online where your data is stored in the cloud). The second option is on premise, using Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server and the ArcGIS Data Appliance, with pre-installed data on a physical machine. Hosting ArcGIS for Server software can be done on-premises or in the cloud with many different options to meet one´s particular deployment needs.

Now, Portal for ArcGIS offers a solution for organizations for whom using a public cloud is not an option or that face additional security requirements. Maintenance is another reason to choose for one or the other: choosing ArcGIS Online means that Esri is responsible for maintenance, whereas with Portal the user has to take care of this.


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Eric van Rees
Eric van Rees is a freelance writer and editor. His specialty is GIS technology. He has more than eight years of proven expertise in editing, writing and interviewing as editor and editor-in-chief for the international geospatial publication GeoInformatics, as well as GIS Magazine and CAD Magazine, both published in Dutch. Currently, he writes about geospatial technology for various clients, publications and blogs.

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