How To Make A Solid Case For GIS Cloud Migration: Your Questions Answered

Alex Coleman, EVP at ROK Technologies, hosted a webinar event outlining the 4 steps to build a solid case for GIS cloud migration; how to calculate the current on-premise costs, quantify opportunity costs, identify cloud costs and how to actualize your organization’s ROI.


As a follow-up to the webinar conversation, we’ve compiled answers to some of the questions we get the most from GIS organizations looking to migrate to the cloud. 

Q: How do I build an effective presentation for GIS Cloud Migration?

A: By downloading the slides from our webinar, calculating the costs specific to your organization, and building the presentation deck starting with slides 16 & 17, a template for you to get the conversation started.

Q: Why can’t employees collaborate in real-time with on-premise environments?

A: Collaboration tends to decrease with distance. As organizations grow, workloads expand and employees scatter – regional offices, home, out in the field, on the road – collaboration becomes more challenging. The cloud streamlines access and continuity for organizations in these situations giving people access to real time data and updates.

Q: Are all or most GIS system and DB admin positions eliminated using a cloud-based approach?

A: Actually, not all. The difference is, that instead of GIS Admins and DBA’s spending the majority of their time troubleshooting and maintaining the software, they can focus on developing and innovating with GIS. When you are calculating the Opportunity Cost, consider the value you can bring to your organization

Q: What does the performance of cloud-based computing and data storage solutions look like compared to local LAN-based solutions?

A: It is comparable, and in many cases can surpass traditional solutions in terms of performance. One of the finer points of using cloud based solutions is the ease of scalability. The performance can scale dynamically with your workload, unlike traditional on premise solutions

Q: How will GIS cloud migration impact ArcGIS Desktop users?

A: Dude…..why are you still using Desktop anyway? For the Administrators/Editors, the recommendation is to use Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to host/centralize Desktop Applications such as ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro (GPU intensive). The advantage here is that all of the compute power will be done in the cloud and you will have access to your network for file sharing/collaboration and Enterprise Geodatabase access. For some Editors and lightweight Users, Web Services can be accessed locally by connecting to domain URLs through ESRI COTS.

Q: How can latency between user machines and the cloud be minimized to make GIS in the cloud usable?

A: Latency, not to be confused with bandwidth, is a known factor since distance is key to determining latency – no matter how fast a connection, data must still physically travel the distance from cloud to machine and is constrained by the laws of physics 🙂 With this in mind, we can reduce the travel time by staying in one availability zone. Most of the clients we work with actually realize better performance after migrating to the cloud.

Q: We don’t have enough server resources in our VM environment. What are our next steps?

A: Generally, we would start off by evaluating what you have running in the environment and the required server specifications.

Q: What are some of the key administration and security issues with GIS cloud migration?

A:The primary issues in both administration and security are vast amounts of workflow differences compared to traditional IT – Administration of a cloud environment, as well as securing it, both require a paradigm shift in the thought process and approach to architecting solutions and solving problems.

Q: How is migration load handled in the cloud?

A: When working with clients on Cloud Migrations, the first step is to understand their environment. To do this, we start with a holistic view, formulating a detailed plan that serves as a roadmap. Using this roadmap, we work with the client to transfer and configure data (Database(s), Imagery, Flat Files etc.), working/project files (ArcMap/Pro documents, scripts, proprietary information), web applications and any third party integrations. After all configurations are complete, we validate the Cloud Environment through a client testing and QA/QC Phase to work out any and all issues. We then hand the keys over and GO LIVE!

Q: What are my hosting options to move from on-premise to cloud or hybrid solution?

A: Hosting options for hybrid or full cloud solutions are vast. You can either go directly to a cloud solutions provider like, AWS or Azure, or, you can engage with a Managed Cloud Services provider who will setup and manage the environment for you. Should you choose the latter option we would strongly suggest ensuring the MSP has experience standing up and managing Esri Software specifically.

Q: What does relocating a GIS environment to AWS look like? What about moving to Azure?

A: Migrating your GIS to AWS, Azure or any cloud solutions provider is accomplished in phases. Here is a brief overview of the methodology we use at ROK. Keep in mind that there are several steps within each phase, but this will give you an overview of what needs to take place.

  • Phase I: Spin up and configure the cloud environment you will use to support your software. Apply security, backup and retention policies.
  • Phase II: Install and configure your Esri Software. Deploy Virtual Desktop Instances.
  • Phase III: Migrate your GIS … this is a great opportunity to “clean the closets” and ensure you are only migrating what you need. We generally start migration planning in Phase I.
  • Phase IV: Cut Over to your new Cloud GIS environment. The entire process timeline varies depending on the complexity of your environment. As a very general rule you should budget 8-10 weeks.


Q: What are some of the cons for GIS cloud migration?

A: There will always be challenges to overcome when encountering something different or unknown. If some of your data or technology is proprietary, you may not legally be able to deploy to the cloud. You may need to modify and/or map your application design and architecture to follow the cloud architecture. You could experience downtime due to technical outages (loss of power, maintenance, etc), but this would also be true on-premise.

Q: What are some of the requirements for cloud migration changes – CPU, balance charge, memory on demand, etc?

A: This really depends on the Esri software that is in use. You can find the specifications on Esri’s website. Here is a link to get you started: ArcGIS Server 10.8 system requirements—ArcGIS Enterprise system requirements | Documentation

Q: I don’t see my question here. How can I get it answered?

A: Great question! If you are looking for an answer to a question not listed here, please reach out.



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