New Course: MySQL for geospatial applications

Good news folks!  MySQL has quietly become a very good spatial database that is widely available on almost all web-hosting platforms.  If you are looking for an affordable spatial database solution its worth giving MySQL a look.

PostGIS has long been the gold standard for open source geospatial databases.  MySQL had some spatial capabilities but were pretty limited for real GIS applications.  That changed a few years ago with MySQL version 5.6 and even more with version 8 but it seems that MySQL has still not been given a solid look by most geospatial professionals.  This is unfortunate in my opinion because MySQL has one BIG advantage over PostGIS.  It is available on almost every webhosting platform in existence and you can host your geospatial data in a MySQL database that is accessible from anywhere in the world for only a few dollars per month.  Inexpensive hosting options for PostGIS on the other hand have gone the way of the dinosaur and are essentially non-existent today.  It was this lack of affordable options for PostGIS hosting that caused me to take a second look at MySQL and I liked what I found and wanted to spread the good news.

MySQL today is a very capable option as a spatially enabled database, especially for web-mapping applications.  It does not have all the bells and whistles of PostGIS but I believe it will serve the need for most users.  The biggest deficits in MySQL today relative to PostGIS are the lack of support for transforming between coordinate systems and the lack of support for Z and M coordinates.  The first can be dealt with in web.mapping applications due to the availability of PROJ4 bindings in Javascript, but if you really need Z and M coordinates you are out of luck with MySQL.  If you are an experienced PostGIS user you will notice some functions that are available in PostGIS are not available in MySQL but there are usually workarounds for these.  The major functionality needed by most small to medium-sized web mapping projects is all there.

If you are interested in learning more you can sign up for my new course MySQL for Geospatial Applications today for $9.99 using the coupon code MYSQLGEO,  This offer is good through Dec 1.  All of my other courses are also available during this time period for the same price using the same coupon code.

This course will teach you

  • What a spatial database is and why you shoud use one
  • Review of SQL for non-spatial data
  • SQL functions for spatial data and analysis
  • How to load your GIS data into MySQL
  • How to access your MySQL data from a variety of clients
  • How to set up user accounts and control access to your data
  • How to deploy your MySQL database to a web-hosting platform
  • How to customize MySQL to automate your business logic with stored procedures, custom functions, and triggers

Quick start to spatial databases with QGIS and SpatiaLite

In a recent post, I attempted to answer the question What can a spatial database do for you? That post was a broad overview of the advantages of storing your geospatial data in a spatial database. This post follows up with more specific information on how to get started and step by step instructions on using one type, SpatiaLite, with the popular open source GIS software QGIS. Continue reading “Quick start to spatial databases with QGIS and SpatiaLite”

What can a spatial database do for you?

Is spatial really special?

Many GIS professionals come into the field from a specific discipline and become interested in GIS as a tool with which to accomplish their goals in their original field and by attrition or intent begin to shift their focus towards GIS. I followed this path myself.  After going to school to study wildlife biology, I learned about GIS and enrolled in a minor program in GIS and spatial analysis. I think that this is a good thing in many ways. People with an interest in solving problems in other disciplines will push the field forward in directions that someone who’s sole focus was on GIS would be unlikely to go. We need those people in the industry.

But GIS is a technical discipline. At its core GIS is database technology, albeit with a spatial focus. In my humble opinion many university GIS departments, especially at the certificate level, focus too much on the “spatial” aspects of GIS and not enough on the underlying database technology. As a result these programs produce GIS professionals who are very good at cartography and spatial analysis but who find themselves unprepared for the modern GIS job market where there is an increasing need for people with skills in enterprise level database administration, SQL, and web-based GIS. Even if they are not performing those tasks themselves, GIS professionals should at least have an understanding of the technology in order to be able to communicate effectively with those who will be performing those tasks. Continue reading “What can a spatial database do for you?”

What is the optimal GIS data storage architecture for a small to medium sized consulting firm?

This is a loaded question as there is probably not one single answer for everyone. There are important considerations, however, that do apply to all.  I have earned a living for the past 14 years as a GIS/Database specialist for a number of small but growing environmental consulting firms.  This post is specific to my experience but I suspect that at least some aspects of it are common to small consulting firms in other fields and possibly small non-profits as well.  I will focus specifically on optimizing the GIS data storage of large datasets in a single-user environment with this post, but I will follow shortly with a second post dealing with moving from single user desktop GIS to multi-user enterprise level systems.

Continue reading “What is the optimal GIS data storage architecture for a small to medium sized consulting firm?”