Are ArcGIS Online and Portal redundant

08-17-2016 01:51 PM
Occasional Contributor III

We are a small unit of 2 people in our Central IT group providing GIS infrastructure to our agency with about 300 users of which 60 are doing GIS as their primary jobs.  We have an ArcGIS Online account for Organizations and ArcGIS Server but have been resisting spinning up a version of Portal internally. 

My question is, are ArcGIS Online and Portal redundant?  Since we have ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server is there really a need for Portal?


6 Replies
MVP Honored Contributor


Wow, that's a big question. There are similarities and differences. For starters, take a look at this article:

Understanding the relationship between Portal for ArcGIS and an ArcGIS Online subscription—Portal fo... 

This may give a somewhat visual presentation between the two:

Portal vs. ArcGIS Online 

Here is another presentation on it: 

I suppose the way that I would approach this would be to look up some information on each of the two systems, or maybe better yet, talk to your local Esri rep to discuss what is best for your organization.

MVP Esteemed Contributor

For our agency, which also has a small GIS infrastructure group, which are also part of our <10 full-time GIS), but with about 300 part-time ArcGIS users, and of course many GIS consumers, I haven't found a need to fire up an internal Portal yet. There may com a time where I would like this.  I see Portal as being a need if you need to keep things 100% internal or within the firewall.  But there are other options, like just using the security within ArcGIS Server, to accomplish the internal-use only that we need. 

The other place I can see that it would be handy is using some of the web apps (Web App Builder) and many of the other apps and software that are becoming more reliant on AGOL/Portal to authenticate their use, whether just because it needs a (public) basemap, or it needs a named user).  For better or worse, this does seem to be the way all things are heading.  We do not have enough named users to allow all to access via a log in, so then we have the choice of the AGOL-public option or again, looking at internal security options.  So far, we've been using the internally controllable options (thru ArcGIS Server), but that could change as we try to make more of our data/services in an available format for the public (a work in progress).

I guess another option would be is a split between the too (names users, some in Portal, some in AGOL), if for no other reason but to take advantage creating an  site.  Again, even for OpenData, I see keeping the control, and maybe the data itself local (thru .zip shapes and or GP services), while providing a public metadata and link.

Anyway, just some of my thoughts on the subject.  Always good for me to see what others have done or are planning too.

Occasional Contributor III

If all of your organization's requirements for a web mapping system are met by ArcGIS Online, then Portal for ArcGIS is redundant, very costly (staff time) to support, maintain and update, and out of sync with ArcGIS Online capabilities (delayed).


Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Randy,

Just to add onto what the others have posted, you may want to watch this UC tech session video,

Portal for ArcGIS: An Introduction | Esri Video 

Between 8 mins to 22:10 mins, the different Web GIS deployment patterns are discussed and near the end we review some reasons why you would choose ArcGIS Online vs. Portal for ArcGIS and vice-versa.

Hope this helps,

Occasional Contributor III

Some Pros for Portal:

  •   Use Portal if you have sensitive data that you need to keep behind your firewalls.
  •   You are concerned about credits and want to host your own geoprocessing services (routing, etc...)
  •   Portal can also let you setup an IWA/SSO (single sign on) environment. AGOL lets you do OAuth/SAML but not IWA (as far as i know anyway)
  •   Portal allows you to deal with limited named users in a better way than AGOL.  You can publish maps and web apps that are for "Everyone" but because it's behind your firewall, everyone means only authenticated users.
  • Federation with ArcGIS Server, lets you move your security model over to Portals identity based one vs. Server's community (or role base) one
  • Supports 3D hosted services
  • Supports large data services
  • You control the update schedule.  This might matter to some places where riots occur when software is updated.

Some Cons for Portal:

  • Setting up and maintaining Portal is not a trivial task.  Tim is spot on here.
  • It requires a number of resources to setup a full system:

          (Portal, AGS, Data Store and IIS/Web Adaptors.)

  • AGOL is instantly scalable to you (not your headache if you suddenly have a million hits.)
  • Typically, updates to the software start with AGOL and then migrate to Portal.

        e.g. I'm waiting for 10.5 because it offers some functionality in Portal  that is now available in AGOL.  Supposedly, this is switching though to where new functionality will first be released with Portal?

 If you do stand up Portal, highly recommend first taking Esri's fairly new course:  "Deploying Portal for ArcGIS" . 

New Contributor

There are other ways to extend your work with ArcGIS server without Portal, that is when you run in usage limitations, You can check, usually be open to implement multiple solutions, there is no one solution that fits all, portal. web app builder and others, now I suggest to go hybrid and expose your arcgis server to external libraries to be more open and more standard compliant you can try

ESRI GeoPortal Server Esri Geoportal Server | Open Source Metadata Management 

GeoNode + cartoview

terriajs TerriaJS - Geospatial catalog exploration library  you can combine any data source and create your catalogs via services or manually, this viewer is probably the richest in terms of geospatial content you can view in your map