Why Online GIS for Local Government Is Moving To The Cloud

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Is your local government’s, once cutting-edge online GIS now looking antiquated and in need of an upgrade? If so, you will be in the market for an upgrade and I’m here to show you why a move to Mango’s cloud GIS system will save you a lot of time, money and effort.

Most U.S counties and cities are still running a first generation web mapping system. Typically these systems are self-hosted and running proprietary server software. For the most part, these first generation systems are well past their use-by date and aren’t in line with the expectations and requirements of the modern user.

These legacy systems often suffer from the following issues:

  • Poor / non-existent support for mobile devices
  • Inconsistent results / behavior between different browsers
  • Reliance on now redundant browser plugins such as Flash or Java
  • Complicated and outdated interface
  • Difficult to update maps and data
  • Server instability and outages

There is often trepidation about replacing an existing system. This is mainly due to past difficulties with procurement and the rollout of new systems.Legacy web mapping systems were big, expensive and very time consuming to roll out, and no one is excited about the prospect of going through that process again Luckily for you, the latest generation of cloud based online GIS systems are lightweight, very easy to use and reasonably priced.

I’m the CEO of Mango and in this article we will be looking at the benefits of our online GIS for Local government. I’m confident that by the end you will be excited rather than anxious about the prospect of migrating your existing system to the Cloud.

Common Cloud GIS Objections

Fact: 70% of organizations have at least one application in the cloud.

Local government has been slow to embrace the benefits of cloud based systems when compared to the private sector. The reasons for this slow adoption are varied, but let me start by addressing some common concerns.

1. The Cloud Isn’t Secure

This is a common misconception. Having a physical server in the next room feels comforting, but usually a quick review of who has access to that room and what physical and network security measures are in place is enough to shatter the illusion, especially when compared to the security procedures practiced by cloud providers.

Mango, for example, uses Amazon’s EC2 Infrastructure and their data centers are some of the most secure locations on the planet as attested to by their compliance with over 50 global security accreditations, laws and frameworks. In addition to physical security, Mango has multiple levels of data security in place including 256-bit encryption of all online transactions.

For a more detailed look into cloud security for local government, I recommend reading the following post from our blog: How To Know If Cloud GIS is a Security Risk for Local Government.

2. With Cloud Systems We Sacrifice Control

With cloud system you lose control in some respects but gain it in others. The main concession is fine grained control over functionality. Mango offers a large number of customization options, using our point and click interface that you can easily modify, including:

  • Logo
  • Color scheme
  • Layout
  • Domain name (E.g. use maps.mydomain.com rather than maps.mangomap.com)
  • Functionality (we have a large range of tools that can be added to maps)
  • Interface text
  • Popup windows
  • Legend
  • Sidebar

This offers a wide range of flexibility to create map applications that meet the specific requirements of local government. But needless to say, an off the shelf system will never offer the same level of control as a custom built system. This usually isn’t a problem for Mango’s local government clients as their requirements are well understood and Mango already excels at catering to their needs. That being said, what Mango may lack in terms of fine grained customizations, it more than makes up for in its resilience.

The time it takes to create maps in Mango can be measured in minutes rather than days or weeks as may be the case with custom built systems. Updates are even more rapid and updated datasets can be added in seconds or new functionality added with only a few clicks. This allows you to respond rapidly to emerging requirements in terms of data or functionality that may not have been envisaged at the outset.

3. Moving to the Cloud Will Be Expensive

This is probably the objection that is furthest from the truth. Rather than costing money, a move to Mango usually represents a significant cost saving for local government clients.  True, a cloud based system represents an ongoing cost, but that cost in most cases is less than the cost of keeping an existing self-hosted system running, when all the costs are taken into consideration. In tech we call this TCO (total cost of ownership).

Unlike a proprietary server solutions, there are no surprises. There are no license fees, no upfront costs and no maintenance contracts with Mango; just a fixed monthly or annual payment that can be as low as $49 per month and cancelled at any time.

Benefits of Mango for Local Government

A move to the cloud isn’t merely about addressing concerns that would assume that the aim is to make the case for a cloud based online GIS being equal to the self-hosted option. In in reality the cloud offers a wide range of additional benefits.

So let’s take a look at some of the biggest benefits that Mango offers.

1. Mango Is More Reliable Than Legacy Server Systems

At Mango, we benefit from economies of scale and these benefits are passed onto our clients. This means you get a Mercedes Benz quality at Toyota prices.

Nowhere is this more apparent than server stability. Even for a large county it’s not financially viable to have staff monitoring your online GIS 24/7. Even the most loved and nurtured servers fail from time to time, be it a hard drive failure or a system crash.

At Mango, we take server monitoring very seriously, with someone on call at all times. At the first sign of trouble alarms are triggered on the cellphones of our engineering team and that’s 24/7/365. Regardless of whether it’s Christmas Day or halfway through the Superbowl.

In addition to round the clock support we have extensive automatic failover systems in place, with backup servers standing by at all times ready to be called into action on the rare occasion a server fails or becomes unresponsive.

Thanks to this vigilance we enjoy an average website uptime of over 99.98%.

2. Mango Requires Far Less Maintenance Than in-House Systems

Patches, upgrades, replacing failed components. Each time requiring your time, your expense. Custom built systems are fantastic when they are first launched but can become a major burden if the functionality isn’t regularly updated to keep pace with the very fast moving world of tech.

The iPhone just celebrated it’s tenth birthday, but still a significant number of local government web maps don’t work on mobile. With Mango we take care of all that for you. What’s more we are frequently adding new features and updates to the Mango platform in order to stay in front of developments in technology and access preferences. That means all you need to concern yourself with is data updates, something that Mango makes a breeze.

3. Mango is Easier To Keep Up To Date

At best keeping your data up to date in a self hosted system is a clunky process, at worst it’s a major headache that requires outside assistance. Updating data on Mango couldn’t be easier; in most cases it’s as simple as a single click. What’s more when you upload a new version of a dataset Mango automatically updates all of the maps that are using it.

Even if a few clicks seems too much like hard work, Mango can also auto-update. This happens through integration with Dropbox. A Dropbox folder is located on your local computer in which you can store the datasets you’re using for Mango and each time a file is modified Mango automatically detects this and updates your maps.

4. Mango Is More Accessible for Your End Users

In 2017 global mobile internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time. Mobile support is no longer an optional extra, it’s essential. Without it you can say goodbye to half of your traffic and cut your user satisfaction levels in half.

In 2017 it’s still all too common to see online GIS systems that don’t work on mobile or worse yet require largely defunct browser plugins such as Flash or Java. In such cases, fewer than one in three of your potential visitors will be able to access the system. Mango is fully mobile optimized and works on all modern browsers without the need for plugins. What’s more, with Mango you are future-proofing your online GIS. When you use Mango, development doesn’t grind to a halt on the day of launch, we release frequent updates to address new browser versions and phone models as they emerge.

5. Mango Will Keep You Ahead of the Curve

The internet is a fast moving place. Designs and features that are all the rage today are old news by tomorrow. Trying to stay in ahead alone is like trying to swim upstream. With Mango, you can be sure that we are always keeping tabs on new developments and workflows in web mapping and rapidly working those new features into our system. Each time we release a new tool or customization option you will be informed by email and it can then optionally be added to your maps with just a few clicks from the administration interface.

Final Thoughts

As you can see Mango’s cloud based solution for local government offers significant tangible benefits over a self-hosted in house system. But the proof is in the pudding as they say, so I encourage you go and sign-up for our free 30-day trial and take a look for yourself. You will have your first maps up and running in minutes and I would love to hear your feedback.

Visit: Mango Maps – Local Government 

More by Chris Brown

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