What does it take to support a GIS?

GIS Contributor


At the City of Santa Clarita the GIS division started in 1995 with one HP UNIX box and one person that basically printed out maps as requested. There was limited knowledge at the City of what GIS really was or could do. During this time period the Technology Services division rarely was called upon to support the needs of GIS.

About two years ago a staff was hired who knew GIS and what it could do for the City. A manager was hired who helped put together a team to staff the GIS division. The GIS division that had been a sleeping giant was waking up! This changed the picture of what was required of Technology Services to support the GIS division. Very quickly new workstations were needed, plotter, high quality color printer, large format scanner, more storage space etc. in order to do serious GIS work. GIS has become our best customer getting a GIS division fully functional hardware & software wise is very time intensive.

GIS can put serious loads on the network infrastructure large files are transferred across the wire on a daily bases. In part due to the needs of GIS to print large files we moved up the schedule to convert our file server from Novell 3.12 to Novell 5 .1. Novell 3.12 did not have the space on the sys volume to spool the large print jobs this resulted in “out of disk space” errors on a daily basis.

We have also found that GIS is driving up the hardware requirements of many of our users base systems. Much of the graphical output generated by GIS is for use by other departments in the city. The display of this data requires a computer with higher RAM requirements than our standard base system, which is requiring expenditures beyond just the GIS division. If other departments are to benefit from GIS’s work their computers must be able to display the maps, etc.

GIS needs the ability to upload & down load large files from outside sources also. The Technology Services division has provided a T1 1ine as this conduit to the outside world.

Since the City uses ESRI products for 95% of its GIS needs we are in the process of converting all of our GIS workstations to Microsoft NT so we can utilize all the latest software from ERSI. We are also going to move all the mapping data from the HP UNIX box to a Microsoft NT server with 81 gig of storage space.

GIS work requires a lot of processing of data thus upgrading of workstations is a continual process the GIS division needs the fastest processors available. As we bring new computers into the city we always make sure the GIS division has the latest technology available. We plan on providing the analyst with an Intel Xeon processor this is cost effective due to the large amount of time the analyst spends waiting during the processing of graphical output.

Among the many things we have learned is the GIS professional is very different than our normal customer they need the latest technology to effectively do their jobs. They are also very knowledgeable of what is available and not shy about telling us their needs. This has worked out to our benefit as we now work with GIS on a daily basis some of the projects we are working on for GIS help both divisions such as pulling the numerous city databases into one location. This will allow GIS to effectively pull data, plus managing the City’s databases becomes much easier in the long run for Technology Services. Our two divisions also share resources we both have a need for SQL Server training so we shared costs brought a trainer in and learned the material together.

A growing GIS division is a lot of work to support but it is a pleasure to work with a division that understands technology plus has many goals in common with the Technology Services division.

About the author:

kisterGordon Kister is a Systems Analyst with the City of Santa Clarita. He has worked over 10 years in both private and public settings in the Information Systems field. When he’s not maintaining the City’s network of over 400 computers, servers and and various peripherals, he can be found flying his Cessna 172 Skyhawk or surfing Ebay.

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