GEOG 865
Cloud and Server GIS

Touring ArcGIS portals and organizations


This lesson provides a tour of some public facing ArcGIS Online organizational pages while also describing how Portal for ArcGIS is configured and used.

Exploring some ArcGIS Online organizational pages

Organizations wanting to share access to maps and data links with the public will often do this on ArcGIS Online using “organizational” pages that are similar to look and function to Portal for ArcGIS. It is rare or unlikely that you will find a Portal for ArcGIS implementation open to the public because, in most cases, portals are isolated to internal environments for security and resource management purposes; however, looking at these organizational pages on ArcGIS Online can give you an idea of how a portal interface feels and behaves. Esri sometimes even refers to ArcGIS Online as a type of portal (lower-case "p"), not to be confused with the Portal for ArcGIS (upper-case "P") software product meant to be installed on internal infrastructure. We will keep this distinction between a lower-case portal and upper-case Portal in mind and use it throughout the lesson.

See this article for Esri’s official take on the difference between ArcGIS Online organizational subscriptions and Portal for ArcGIS deployments: Understand the relationship between Portal for ArcGIS and an ArcGIS Online subscription.

The first page we'll explore is a portal for City of Aurora, Colorado Maps. The page looks somewhat like the default ArcGIS Online site, but it’s been customized with the city’s logo image and some local maps. Click the Gallery link, and you’ll be taken to some web maps that the city has shared with the public. Try a few of them. If you’re a small government, this is a real simple way to get some maps online without having someone with a ton of JavaScript experience on staff.

The Groups link is a place where collaborative groups can be configured for different purposes. Later, we’ll take a look at an organization with some extensive groups. Aurora is not heavily using this feature.

Now, take a look at this portal for City of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It uses the same sort of layout and concept, except everything is in Portuguese. Explore around a little bit with a few of the maps in the gallery.

Here’s one more example from the International Joint Commission. Go to this page and explore. Then click the Groups link. The International Joint Commission is a large governmental organization made up of US and Canadian offices. The groups page allows maps and other resources to be organized around local sub-jurisdictions. Click a group name, and then click the Content tab to see some of the maps shared in each group.

The three pages we’ve looked at all have a similar look and feel, as they have just undergone some minor customization from the default style. An example of a page with a bit more customization is Boston Maps. Navigate around this page for a while and you’ll see that although the style on the surface looks a bit different, underneath you have the same core links and structure.

Finally, take a closer look at our own organizational ArcGIS Online instance at Penn State. In this case, you can sign into the site to get access to more content and functionality than you had in the other cases. In the Penn State organization, you can create content (maps, apps, etc.) and upload data, all of which are hosted by esri's servers in the cloud (likely running on AWS or Azure infrastructure). As the sites are utilized, apps developed, and data uploaded, credits are consumed. Credits cost real money, and the amount can add up very quickly, particularly when uploading large quantities of data (imagery can be a culprit) or running geoprocessing tasks repeatedly (think of running a geocoding operation on addresses across the country). As we discussed earlier, these personalized ArcGIS Online organizations are a quick and easy way for you to create your own portal, but they aren't free. Being thoughtful about how they will be used and if restrictions should be put in place to prevent users from consuming excessive credits (intentionally or accidentally) is a good idea. 

Tour of Portal for ArcGIS

Because most Portal for ArcGIS deployments are not public facing, this lesson does not offer an interactive tour; however, please watch this video segment from the 2016 Esri International User Conference where product evangelist Derek Law demonstrates an example portal. This link starts at about 28 minutes in, and you should watch it until at least minute 32.

Notice that the user experience of Portal for ArcGIS is nearly the same as with an ArcGIS Online organizational page. The main difference is that the back end hardware is managed by your organization, not Esri. The name and password that you use when you log into the portal is also managed by your organization; Esri does not store or do anything with those credentials, and something like your ArcGIS Online developer account would not work for logging into someone's portal.

If you are still not entirely certain of the purpose or functionality of the portal, or if you are confused about the difference between Portal for ArcGIS and ArcGIS Online, I recommend watching the entire presentation in the above video link. The beginning part of the video is introductory chatter, and the technical material starts at about 7 minutes in.