ArcGIS Enterprise on AWS

ArcGIS Enterprise on AWS

Have you seen all those clever and funny AWS commercials? For the normal GIS person adding yet another platform to learn and use can be a bit daunting. Don’t fret, we are not abandoning you, to put your mind at ease yes, we can handle that for you BUT for those of you who are D.I.Y. Geogeeks; below are some tips.

Cycle AWS instances to save on your monthly bill.

Cycle AWS instances to save on your monthly bill.

More and more of us are moving our infrastructure into the cloud. Practically speaking this is just the way of things. What do you do when you have several Amazon Web Servers (instances) that do don't need to have on  all of the time? Ideally, by now Amazon should have come up with some kind of scheduler but they probably would charge for it. Or maybe they've intentionally left that up to third party products....

Doing Small Business using 'The Internet of Things'

If you haven't caught-up yet, The Cloud is over. 

What we expect these days is everything syncing, everything secureeverything available all the time. And when I say all the time, I mean At Any Second. Truly. 

It's not just us in tech that expect this. It's all of us together. The 1st World public at large. When we see commercials depicting pausing a movie in one room and moving to another to watch the rest, all without breaking stride or spilling the popcorn. That sets an expectation. Those professionals in Geospatial are used to this. Google has been setting public expectation for our industry for over 10 years. 

So... we at Cloudpoint are purveyors of these expectations as well as consumers. Here's what we use to do what we do as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible. (in order of adoption) 

Carbonite - Jon has been using Carbonite faithfully since his county engineer days. It's cloud-based mirroring backup system that has paid for itself ($70 year) time and time again in possible lost hours (See the DropBox note below). The first initial back-up takes a day or two but it's worth it in the end. 

QuickBooks Online - Cloudpoint is full of geospatial and engineering professionals, not MBAs and CPAs. QuickBooks Online helps us keep all of our finances in one place and lets us know what is important with it's canned reports and monthly metrics. At tax time you can give the keys to your accountant and everything is there for him to comb through. 

DropBox - Who isn't using dropbox.... anyone? Buehler? This is our workflow. We have a paid professional account that we all share. Most of our customers have a free version (or we create one for them) and then we "share" our project folder with that user. So when I RDP onto the Rock Falls server that .dbf of addresses is already sitting there. **One point of Note: while using ArcMap, it's best to pause the syncing, GIS files like to get corrupted if they're saving and syncing at the same time. 

AWS - In early 2012, Jon purchased ArcGIS Server and Micah (as a sub-contractor then) helped him put it onto an Amazon EC2 Server. Our relationship with Amazon Web Services was solidified. Now we use it as back-up, Image hosting license management and that machine is a part of our local network. the Up/Down Speeds do vary with they size of server, but that's something you can throttle and even pause.  It's one of our goals to learn and use more of what's available to us as a Service from Amazon. 

SquareSpace - This is a great company. Based out of NY, NY, it's our website hosting company. We pay for the middle-tier package for $16 a month. I spent about a week porting over all of our information to get the site up and running. A few months ago, before our yearly fees were due, I flirted with a few other companies/website services. Eventually, I just cleaned up the cobwebs a bit and the site feels fresh again. Their support is amazing as well. - Part of the Log-Me-In family, is a less robust, easier interface of online web meetings than it's big brother. As a professional organization we are expected to have the capacity for web-based assistance and webinars. You can't say to a customer, "Oh, well, No I can't see your desktop. Is your I.T. guy around?" Also, Be warned of 'free' desktop sharing applications, some have been used maliciously. 

Insightly - Customer management is something we're new to. The huge services like are way too complex and expensive. Insightly helps us all be on the same page with Contacts, Tasks, Projects and due dates. It integrates with G-Mail and Evernote. However, like Quickbooks above, you needs to actually use the tool for it to be useful, Garbage in-Garbage out. 

MerakiSystems Manager- Mobile Device Management. We rent iPads, or as we call them Mobile Data Collection Devices. Cisco purchased Meraki almost  year ago for their network and access point solutions. So they made the System Manager aspect free. I love free. This allows me to track, wipe, manage or lock any device before it leaves the building. The user interface and set-up is a little cumbersome, but did I mention it was free. 

Pertino - Best for last. I contacted this small startup about 9 months ago for a free trial. It's a cloud-based VPN service. Their company has grown in the last year and I'm glad to have been in on the start. I have already detailed the road traveled with this group. I gladly now pay for a monthly subscription to be able to print to the office printer, RDP to any computer on the network, directly share files, and see services (like an ArcGIS license manager) as if that computer was sitting next to me. Safe and Secure. 

Well That's it! Most of what Cloudpoint uses to fully channel the 'Internet of Things' . While certainly not an exhaustive list, (of course email, texting & the like) but fairly complete. I hope this helps someone who is looking to filter out the noise and just understand what everything is for. As I'm sure this list will grow in the future, I do feel like what I have here is honestly vetted and in practice. 

Moving to the Cloud For VPN Solution

Cloudpoint has been using 'The Cloud' since our incorporation. We don't need to be convinced that data, files or systems are safe. Sometimes (today for example) it can get kind of hinckey and frustrating, but for the most part we're On Board with being On the Cloud. 

We recently started using a new SaaS (software as a Service) product for creating a Virtual Private Network. Pertino. The VPN  has been a natural evolution of remote offices and telecommuting. Since there are only 3 full-time employees, soon to be 4, we are naturally out of the office quite consistently. In fact it is rare the week that we're all together.  VPNs keeps us connected and keeps that connection secure. Here's a quick video on how VPNs work. In the Past this usually has required an Appliance. No Longer, enter Pertino. 

Pertino has just come out of Beta. So we can talk about it like its an actual product. The theory is easy: When you are on a Pertino Network your machines and devices see each other as if they were on the same local LAN. When you are actually on the same local LAN, Pertino still works but you see a duplicate workgroup, local and Pertino. Ideally it all focuses on IPV6 addressing. We have 4 Laptops, One Amazon EC2 instance and our local Server all running on one Pertino Network, No More FTP... Rah!

Here's the amazing part for us Esri Users. The fantastic folks at Pertino have worked tirelessly to actually DOWNGRADE their technology to IPV4 for legacy products... Like ArcGIS License Manager. What's that you say? "AGS Flex License Manager is supposed to work with IPV6."? Yeah, Maybe... Sometimes.... until you have a protocol that actually requires you to use IPV6, then you find out how flaky it actually is.

But that doesn't matter anymore because They actually tested this on ACTUAL Esri software! I have too, and it works! Sitting on my couch at home, I boot up ArcMap and using Pertino it authorizes a Concurrent License from our server there at the office. 

That, my friends is the awesome power of the Cloud, and the dedicated programmers at Pertino.  

Now, Is it all Dandelions and Lollipops? Nope. Sometimes I have to stop and restart my Pertino app, On some Devices you have to edit your host file because of OpenDNS or Cheap Modems, and there is a cost (You'd want to pay for this service). BUT Their Customer Service is filled with Exceptional who truly want it to work for you, Even if you only have 4 people in your office. Case in point the ArcGIS License Manager. 

That being said, We're planning on being LONG term Pertino Customers. 

ArcGIS Online Specialists in Town!

ROANOKE, Illinois - Friday, September 20, 2013- Cloudpoint Geographics Inc. has received the designation of being a ArcGIS Online Specialist from Esri Inc of Redlands California.  The ArcGIS Online Specialty  is for partners who have made ArcGIS Online an integral part of their business and want to increase their business around Web GIS and the ArcGIS platform.

ArcGIS Online is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that lets members of an organization create, share, and access maps, applications, and data, including authoritative basemaps published by Esri. Through ArcGIS Online, you get access to Esri’s secure cloud, where you can manage, create, store, and access hosted web services, and because ArcGIS Online is an integral part of the ArcGIS system, you can use it to extend the capabilities of ArcGIS for Desktop, ArcGIS for Server, ArcGIS applications, and ArcGIS APIs and Runtime SDKs.

"We have worked hard to provide our customers with the best possible solution for their online geospatial needs."  Says, Jonathan Hodel President and CEO of Cloudpoint Geographics. "Becoming an ArcGIS Online Specialist opens possibilities to integrating desktop data that may have previously been limited to only a few users. It also helps introduce new opportunities in a more user-friendly enterprise environment."

Ten Months ago in December of 2012, Cloudpoint was awarded the honor of becoming one of Esri's most nimble and newest Business Partners. This past July we also joined an exclusive community of Value Added Resellers for Esri Software. There are precious few in downstate Illinois and it's a pleasure for us to serve our customers in that way.   

Time after time ArcGIS Online has been our go-to solution for security, access and easy application deployment into the cloud. This designation from Esri validates our efforts and endorses the best practices we have promoted.  Cloudpoint has the experience with ArcGIS Online and now the endorsement by Esri to confidently assist your organization with set-up and administration of ArcGIS Online. Please contact us with any questions of opportunities we may help with:

Micah Williamson

Geospatial Services Manager

iPad Rentals: Giving Municipalities an affordable option

Don't want to buy expensive GPS equipment?

Do you need web access in the field?

Cloudpoint has begun the rental of mobile GPS collection devices. These are ruggedized iPads specifically in a special casing to provide complete weatherproofing.  The devices are locked down but outfitted with appropriate software and internet to give field crews the tools to start a GIS.  

If you think about it, this is a perfect solution. Most local governments want to be on the right side of cloud computing. They want their crews to be up-to-date and efficient. However, a majority of public works garages don't have the technical expertise to deploy tablets. Don't forget about fighting with the finance department over whether or not a cellular data plan is a taxable benefit. As well, a city council may not like seeing 5 iPads come through as a capital expense. There are many reasons why local governments might opt not to go to a mobile workflow. It's easier to stay with paper, but can you afford it?

We are offering a pre-loaded mobile solution for short-term projects. No software, subscription, data plan or techie geek required. Any field worker can be trained and collecting data (including photos) within minutes. After the project's completion, you get the data and walk away.