ArcGIS goes behind the firewall

Every day, users from all over the world log on to ArcGIS Online and contribute mapping data to the worldwide base map. This base map serves as one of the largest authoritative base maps available. However, for users with sensitive data, building on and contributing to a public map may not be possible. Recently, at the Federal User Conference, ESRI, the company responsible for ArcGIS Online, announced that the ArcGIS Portal will be available for organizations and government agencies behind the firewall. CivSource spoke with Bernard Szukalski, Product Strategist and Technical Evangelist for Esri, about what ArcGIS is like behind the firewall.

Map data is crucial for a variety of government agencies from public works to law enforcement. However, for agencies with sensitive information, utilizing a heavily public service like ArcGIS Online can be challenging. Esri responded to this challenge by creating the ArcGIS Portal which has two options that are available to users behind the firewall.

The first option is to run a completely self-contained version of ArcGIS Portal. This means that all of the mapping data that is available to users of ArcGIS Online is now available for users to run privately. Users will be able to create their own private user groups, link up government agencies, or add individual users to their private instance of ArcGIS Portal. According to Szukalsk, the user groups can be set up so that they match an agency’s org. chart exactly – giving coordinators the ability to bring in individuals or whole groups as appropriate.

The second option is more of a hybrid. Users will be able to keep sensitive data private and still have access to the the mapping data of ArcGIS Online without hosting it in a self contained instance. Users here will have the option to contribute data to the public maps while still keeping sensitive data private to their own account.

As such, these semi-private user groups will also have the option to interact with the broader, public ArcGIS Online community while still maintaining control over the extent to which they share their own information.

Both options also include an important tool from ArcGIS Online – the ArcGIS Data Appliance which allows users to submit data through a uniform template to ensure consistency. Users behind the firewall will also be able to use other popular ArcGIS Online tools the ArcGIS.com map viewer and ArcGIS Explorer Online.

Szukalski notes that ArcGIS Portal has potentially broad applications for state and local government, “ArcGIS Portal makes it very easy to share and use maps in many different ways.” Local governments may also find that ArcGIS Portal can help them bridge the gap between keeping sensitive data private while providing additional GIS data to the public.

For more information Szukalski has created several tutorial style blogs here.

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