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What is PostGIS Hosting?

PostgreSQL users who need a geospatial database extender must consider open source PostGIS. Following ISO standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), PostGIS allows geographic data to be stored in format that is readable across many platforms.

Licensed under the GNU general public license (GPL) version 2, free and open-source PostGIS gives PostgreSQL geographic options. PostGIS follows the Open Geospatial Consortium's Simple Features for SQL Specification.

The app empowers PostgreSQL to run location queries. More specifically, it gives the PostgreSQL database more types, functions, operators, and index enhancements. These features combine to create a spatial database management system.

OpenGeo Suite

For projects interested in quickly putting together an application, the OpenGeo Suite exists as a geospatial tools bundle, available for fast deployment. It uses PostGIS in conjunction with:

  • GeoServer: feature server for running logical operations and data handling
  • GeoWebCache: aids in data delivery with client side web maps caching
  • QGIS: an open source desktop application
  • OpenLayers 2 & 3: JavaScript framework for browser-based mapping needs
  • Boundless SDK: a full-service development kit that pairs with OpenGEO with libraries and templates to quickly prototype
  • GeoExplorer: a fully built map composition and publishing tool for the browser

The OpenGEO Suite is just one way to take advantage of the functionality of PostGIS, it's a well curated stack for quick publication and testing. Deeper customization is suggested for scalable enterprise needs or a mobile heavy user experience.

Capabilities

PostGIS allows a multitude of capabilities for using Geographic Information System data, including:

  • Processing and analytic functions for vector and raster data
  • Rastering map algebra & geographic queries
  • Packaged command line for file importing
  • Rendering raster data in a variety of formats
  • 3D object telemetry support
  • Network topology support
  • Packaged Tiger loader (US Census Bureau geocoder)
  • Geocoder, and reverse geocoder.
  • File types support for: GeoTiff, NetCDF, PNG, JPG, GeoJSON, GeoHash, KML, and more through extensions.

Many desktop tools that work with PostGIS are available from third parties. Support is available for professionally licensed tools developed by ESRI, such as ArcGIS, and any of their tools which makes use of Server ArcSDE or their web APIs. Four popular open-source options are QGIS, OpenJump, uDig, and gvSig.

They work well with Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. Several open source mapping servers are also available. A few of the most widely used options are Mapserver, GeoServer, Deegree, QGIS Server, and MapGuide Open Source.

Use Cases

The purpose of PostGIS can range from storage solutions for professional surveyors, to mobile ready map applications that need to stream data on the fly. Desktop, web and mobile applications are all supported and interoperable.

Some third party tools like GeoDjango have even stacked compatibility with popular data sources like Google Maps or Open Street Maps. What attracts most organizations to support PostGIS is how functional and performance optimized it is for storing and retrieving geo-data quickly.

This makes it the ideal tool for a variety of commercial purposes. Mobile application giants FourSquare & Instragram both use PostGIS for their geospatial needs. The ability for PostgreSQL sharding is also compatible with PostGIS, so it makes project scaling very easy.

Beyond commercial applications, municipal and governmental organizations have used PostGIS successfully. The National Oceanagrphic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) uses PostGIS with GeoServer. Portland Transit, and a variety of other transportation apps make use of PostGIS with OpenGeo

History

In 2000, PostgreSQL was built in an academic capacity with support for geometric shapes, but lacked support for comprehensive mapping projects. In response, PostGIS was created in 2001 under the GNU General Public License by Refractions Research while doing systems work for the British Columbian government.

Early releases of the tool slowly added geography-unique geometry storage while optimizing for query speed. This later expanded to integrate with OpenGIS, and later expansion for the broad compatibility available today.

Extensions

Custom Installation

You may download one of the binary installer packages available for Windows, Mac OS X, Red Hat Linux,CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, or OpenSUSE and SUSE. You must install it and enable it in your database. You may also compile your own installation from the source, if you have the technical skills and desire to do so.

As always, contact your hosting provider to ensure compatibility before installing anything on your Web server. If you do not wish to manage installation yourself, consider one of the many available Web hosting plans which come with the latest version of PostgreSQL and PostGIS installed for you.

PostGIS Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do I need PostGIS?

    PostGIS adds functions that make it easier to work with spatial data. While you can certainly store raw data in any type of database and use code to interpret it in such as way that pulls spatial meaning out of the data, PostGIS and products like it make it a lot easier to store spatial data and use it in meaningful ways.

  • How do I get PostGIS?

    You install PostGIS by accessing the command line of the server where you wish to install the software, ensuring you have the necessary dependencies in place, and then following the instructions provided at the PostGIS website. Then you enable PostGIS for each PostgreSQL database where you want to use it. At least, that's the easy way to do it. If you're adventurous, you can also download the source code and compile your own installation.

  • When was PostGIS released?

    The first version of PostGIS was released in 2001. However, the first stable version wasn't released until four years later.

  • Is PostGIS active maintained?

    Yes, the PostGIS development community is very active and there are typically several updates to PostGIS every year.

  • Who develops PostGIS?

    PostGIS was originally developed by Refractions Research who spearheaded development of the application through version 1.3.2 of the software which was released in 2007. Since then, the project has been managed by an open source community of user-developers led by the PostGIS Project Steering Committee.

  • Who uses PostGIS?

    Many location-based applications and services may use PostGIS as a database. Applications that can be powered by a PostGIS database include Kosmo, OpenJUMP, MapServer, MapGuide, Kosmo, and more. In addition, companies like Instagram, Uber, and FourSquare use PostGIS as well.

  • What makes PostGIS different from other SQL database extensions that add spatial support?

    First, and most important, PostGIS is free and open-source. Many other spatial data extensions for SQL databases come with a hefty fee. Second, PostGIS works with PostgreSQL databases while most other similar products extend different types of relational databases.

  • Why PostGIS and not MyGIS?

    According to OSGeo, PostGIS was created for PostgreSQL databases rather than for MySQL databases because PostgreSQL is a more flexible database management system than MySQL. In other words, it would've taken a lot longer to design PostGIS for MySQL (MyGIS) than to create PostGIS for PostgreSQL, potentially dooming the project to failure before it had even gotten off the ground.

  • What alternatives exist to PostGIS?

    PostGIS is built specifically for PostgreSQL, and is the largest, best supported platform for storing geospatial data. Here are some alternatives though:

    • H2GIS: built for JAVA and founded on JDBC with Simple Features
    • JASPA: also uses PostgreSQL, focused on layer management
  • What makes PostGIS stand out from the competition?

    PostGIS arguably has the largest supporting community, longest history, and variety of extensions.

  • What are the server requirements for running PostGIS?

    Any deployment of PostGIS will likely be on a server which is either a DBaas or else it needs to be a private server with enough memory and storage to run PostgreSQL. 512MB memory or higher is encouraged for simple sites.

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