Cloud GIS Terms

Sangeeta Deogawanka


Confused by the various GIS cloud related terminology?  Listed here are short definitions to GIS cloud related apps, services, and mobile GIS terms. Visit the related article: Learn about GIS in the Cloud.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

EC2 is a cloud computing service from Amazon that allows renting of virtual computers and run your own computer applications. It also provides an environment for running the ArcGIS Server.

ArcGIS Explorer

This is a free downloadable application from ESRI, to access online GIS content and capabilities (free, ready-to-use datasets hosted by ESRI). You can combine with your own maps, search and visualize your data, create custom maps, perform spatial analysis, and display presentations.

ArcGIS Mobile

ArcGIS Mobile is a cloud extension of ArcGIS to enable field operations with your Windows Mobile. It allows you to sync field data with the GIS data across your organization. You can create or update geospatial data in the field, discover and explore maps, find places and more.

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ArcGIS Online Service

An offering from ESRI with 2D map services, 3D globe services, task-based functional services, including online map layers, to support your GIS work. With ArcGIS Online Service, you can find, create, and share web maps instantly.

ArcGIS Server in the Cloud

Part of the ESRI Managed Cloud Services, the ArcGIS Server software service can be deployed in the cloud (or on-premise) on various platforms – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer, VCE. You can deploy the infrastructure, software, data management and app development capabilities for your organizational needs. 

Cloud Computing

It refers to hosted services on the internet, for storage and access of your data and programs, instead of your computer hard drive or local storage device. The technology makes use of internet, central remote servers and a virtual infrastructure to manage your data, applications and computing needs. The cloud offers instant access and computing of any volume of workload on demand, from any location and any device. There are various working models for easy access and operations; namely service and deployment models.

Convenient, on-demand, network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” [National Institute of Standards & Technology]

Cloud GIS

This refers to hosted services on the internet meant for users of GIS technology or members of public who want to access maps. Services include map service, data storage and access, powerful analysis with applications, to manage assets and information. Learn more about GIS in the Cloud.

Cloud Status

This refers to the real-time view of the performance and uptime of cloud products and services, visible on a dashboard, showing status updates of cloud performance and latency.

Community Cloud

Community Cloud is a cloud deployment multi tenant model (multiple clients /organizations on a single server) on shared infrastructure; managed and secured by the participating organizations, with common or shared goals.


This is an extension of the Software-as-a-Service model for providing GIS solutions as a service, usually offering specializations in areas like incidence reporting, disaster and transport management. Many companies have developed products and apps offered as a service for a seamless management and integration of GIS workflows. This SaaS based solution is expected to become a dominant delivery method for geospatial capabilities as it also integrates BI in the service.

Cloud GIS Service Models
Cloud GIS Service Models

GIS Cloud Publisher

It is an ArcMap extension that moves your maps and data from desktop GIS into the GIS Cloud with a single click.

Hybrid Cloud

The hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization combines the security of private cloud while running applications from the public cloud. The public and private cloud infrastructures operate in tandem, using an encrypted connection for communication. A hybrid cloud environment can also be a combination of two or more clouds (Private, Public or Community) connected by proprietary technology.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

A type of cloud computing service model in which the provider hosts virtualized computing infrastructure over the Internet. Facilities offered include processing, storage, networks, and other computing resources for the consumer to run arbitrary software, operating systems and applications.

Managed Cloud Service

Managed Cloud offers benefits of dedicated private cloud services, with add-on services of high network security, constant availability, automated resource balancing and failover.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

PaaS is a type of cloud computing service model in which the provider hosts hardware and tools on its proprietary underlying infrastructure. This enables users to create software applications using the existing tools in a provider managed environment.

Private Cloud

Private Cloud is a cloud deployment model where the cloud infrastructure is accessible by a single organization, for greater data control and security.

Public Cloud

Public Cloud is a cloud deployment model made available over a public network to multiple clients, with shared infrastructure and pooled physical resources.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

SaaS is a type of cloud computing service model where the provider delivers software and applications remotely over a network. This enables the user to leverage the underlying software for hosted application or software on demand.

Spatial Cloud Computing (SC2)

This is the geography component in cloud computing, delivering on-demand geo-intelligence. SC2 delivery also includes base spatial data, GIS as a web service, hosted geodatabases and solutions.


Chappell, D., GIS In the Cloud – The ESRI Example, Sep 2000 [Web]

Cloud Computing

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Sangeeta Deogawanka