The familiarity and explosion of web based GIS systems have caused a sudden increase in the number of mapserver hosting services. Several web hosting websites are offering internet map hosting.
A good host offers MapServer and supporting software plus PHP mapscript and other utilities needed to manage a web mapping site. Clients can install frameworks within their own webspace and include additional features.
The package can include Joomla, a content management system designed for creating and supporting web pages and content for the mapping site. The administrator interface offers complete control over the website.
Other software packages that require some programming include Drupal and Myspace. Each can be customized to suite most business needs without requiring a programmer.
The most important element is bandwidth. Vector and raspe images draw a high demand on the server's CPU. Many non-industry hosting companies put limits on the number of database requests per hour, or the amount of bandwidth required per hour. When these limits are met, the website goes off line. The length of time the site remains down ranges from one hour to the end of the month.
When looking for a Mapserver hosting company it is important to establish the CPU load limits, and data base queries, per hour, and per page, before signing the contract. They should also include secured sehll access, database, and solutions that will help.
The GIS industry has specialized hosting needs. The primary value is to eliminate the complexity of the software installation and maintenance, permitting the client to focus on their business.
The main problem that arises is that mapserver can consume 100% of a server's resources, especially if the data isn't configured by a professional. Hosting companies should include their own mapserver professional who can help throttling and stop clients from consuming the entire CPU load.
Speed is another concern. The layered images can demand several kilobytes and dozens of database queries. This slows down the server, and can time out the user's browser. It also makes the it almost impossible to incorporate the GIS images and information via mobile or wireless units. This reduces the functionality and dramatically decreases the practical aspects of the web platform.
Cost is also an issue. Many clients abandon hope of finding a shared hosting service for an affordable price. They either select a dedicated server or try to maintain private servers. Each of these can cause their own problems. Both require professional maintenance, one or two weeks set up, and twenty-four hours a day maintenance. A server can require a rebooting at any time of the day or night. If no one is available to reboot the system, it goes down until someone returns to conduct a reboot. This down time can be disastrous for most businesses.
A host should be in the business of helping the global GIS community put their systems online. A good Mapserver Hosting service can help clients create new types of online GIS applications that integrate spatial systems and development platforms to create a powerful online website that will not go off-line, no matter how many concurrent users access it.
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