The combination of QGIS for data analysis and management and PostGIS for data storage, security, and user management is, in my opinion, the foundation of a geospatial killer app. And best of all it is open source so it can be implemented without any licensing fees. Of course licensing is only part of the cost of implementing software and the problem with open source has always been that it does not always have the best documentation and training can be intimidating for those without a strong IT background.
I am offering my two courses “QGIS 3.0 for GIS Professionals” and “Introduction to spatial databases with PostGIS and QGIS 3.0” for $10 each until the end of May 2019 (use the links above for discount). These courses will provide you with all the background you need to make the move to open source enterprise level GIS.
The biggest benefit to making this switch is the ability to have multiple users editing the same data simultaneously. This capability in commercial software will quickly end up costing your organization 10’s of thousands of dollars (just for software, not including IT support) and the learning curve to implement it is, in my opinion, steeper than moving to open-source methods. In addition you will need to pay commercial GIS companies thousands of dollars for training. If you need multi-user editing (and most GIS companies will at some point) I see no benefit to sticking with your commercial GIS software. But you can rest easy knowing that your spatial data, stored in PostGIS can be viewed and analyzed using your familiar commercial tools. It cannot be edited in most commercial GIS packages but that is not really a problem since editing is very easy in QGIS so you can easy implement a hybrid system where editors and low-level users use QGIS for free while your GIS staff can continue using your commercial licenses for analysis and visualization if they are more comfortable with that.
Other benefits of using open-source GIS include
- Robustness – Any enterprise level database software, including PostgreSQL, is going to be orders of magnitude more robust (safe from crashes, data corruption, etc) than a file-based data storage. Commercial database server companies compete on the basis of robustness, security, and speed. If their databases fail it can be national news and billions of dollars are at stake so they have the best and the brightest software engineers they can hire making sure that any possibility of crashing or security glitches are minimized. And open-source database server projects are not much different. In fact most of the web is based on open source database servers because of their economic feasibility.
- Security – For many of the same reasons listed above enterprise databases will be much more secure than file-based systems. This applies both to the possibility of hackers snooping around your data and to user error. User error is minimized by controlling exactly what each user is allowed to do in your database. They may be allowed to create or edit but not delete features, or only modify certain fields, etc. This allows relatively low-level employees to work in your expensive database without fear.
- Accessibility – Data stored in an enterprise database can be accessed from virtually anywhere via the internet. Setup within an organizations firewall is relatively simple. Access from outside is more complicated and you may need the help of an iT consultant to set it up but is certainly possible to securely access your GIS data from anywhere in the world. It can be accessed by virtually any GIS software, on virtually any operating system, from virtually any programming language. If you want to access that data from a web page, or a mobile application, or pretty much anything you can imagine, it is possible.
- Speed – Many GIS operations can be performed in PostGIS itself, and since PostGIS is running on a server and servers are generally much more powerful than a desktop computer you may see significant performance gains and may be able to purchase less expensive computers for GIS users in your organization.
Learn more about my courses on QGIS and PostGIS with the videos below. You can also learn more about my other courses on Web development for GIS, Mobile Mapping applications, and Python at my courses page.