The Internet has opened up the GIS community making it possible to place Geographic Information Systems online. There are several hosting solutions available for business, academic, and government GIS systems.
Business can manage their own GIS server with server side software specially created for GIS systems. Companies who have the hardware and a high-speed connection, which can handle multiple user access at a single time, can work with an online company to access international map and GIS-referencing databases.
A dedicated hosting service lets clients lease a partition from the hosting company. This gives them access to software, customer support, and resources. The dedicated server is like having a private server, but lets businesses run their websites on powerful servers with better connections.
An easier way to establish a web presence is to sign up for shared hosting. This is the most affordable and practical solution for most business enterprises. They contain scripts necessary for establishing and maintaining Map Hosting such as mapserver.
This is one industry where open source is a better choice than commercial software. The GIS community collaborates successfully. Their systems are made to fit together in modules or applications.
Commercial 'boxed software' systems can cost up to $100,000 to implement plus several years maintenance. Licensing fees are added to this figure. Most commercial software uses proprietary storage formats. Once the data is entered into the hosts system it stays there. If the client is unsatisfied, they are forced to remain or lose their data. Not all hosts will offer an export script. There is no migration if the business outgrows the software solution. Upgrades are placed on a legacy with patches.
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It is usually impossible to find a forum where end users or developers can chat about commercial boxed software. Map hosting sites do not offer customer service or support for boxed packages.
There are several advantages to open source software, such as mapserver. It is much easier to find a developer or programmer to help build applications or fix bugs in the system. There isn't an 800 number to phone, but there are dozens of websites where developers can be reached.
A good Map Hosting company will offer customer service and support. When a business needs help their staff programmers and cartographers will be able to offer help. Few boxed software packages offer the support and quick turnaround of open source.
A map hosting company should consider their clients as partners. The customers know their business and understand the science of GIP applications. They should be willing to work with their customers to make increase the utility of the platforms.
All software has bugs, even the commercial software packages. Open Source never leaves the development stage. Instead of one team working on bugs and improvements, a wide range of professionals constantly search for bugs and ways to improve the system.
The technology behind GIS is becoming commonplace. That does not mean it is easy to code and maintain. A good host can assist with development, consulting, installations, design, troubleshooting, data cleanup, web design, and hosting of both existing MapServer applications.
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