Before you jump ahead and learn about PostGIS, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with PostgreSQL. Some PostGIS users are in-fact reliant on geographic object support, which is provided by PostGIS as an extension.
On this page, you’ll learn about what the software does, how it does it and how it can be made good use of. Furthermore, I’ll teach you how to select the best option in the form of a hosting plan from recommended providers.
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 a format that is readable across many platforms.
A very minimalist PostGIS homepage
Licensed under the GNU general public license (GPL) version 2, free and open-source PostGIS gives geographic options. PostGIS follows the Open Geospatial Consortium’s Simple Features for SQL Specification.
The app empowers PostgreSQL to run location queries. It gives the PostgreSQL database more types, functions, operators, and index enhancements. These features combine to create a spatial database management system.
For projects interested in quickly putting together an application, the OpenGeo Suite exists as a geospatial tools bundle, available for fast deployment.
GeoServer is worthy of attention for sure.
A Complete Geospatial Package
OpenGEO uses PostGIS in conjunction with:
OpenLayers 2 and 3
Let’s take a look at what they are and how they can be applied.
GeoServer, GeoWebCache, and QGIS
GeoServer is a feature server for running logical operations and data handling. GeoWebCache aids in data delivery with client-side web maps caching. QGIS is an open source desktop application. It lets you view and manipulate geospatial information.
OpenLayers and OpenGeo
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.
PostGIS allows a multitude of capabilities for using Geographic Information System data, including the following 8:
Processing and analytic functions for vector and raster data
Rastering map algebra & geographic queries
The 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
PostGIS supports many common file types: 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 make use of Server ArcSDE or their web APIs. Four popular open-source options are QGIS, OpenJump, uDig, and gvSig.
They work well with Linux, macOS, and Windows. Several open source mapping servers are also available. A few of the most widely used options are MapServer, GeoServer, Degree, QGIS Server, and MapGuide Open Source.
PostGIS 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.
Integration with Other Data Sources
OpenStreetMap screenshot via WhoIsHostingThis
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.
Commercial and Government Uses
This makes it the ideal tool for a variety of commercial purposes. Mobile application giants FourSquare & Instagram 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 U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses PostGIS with GeoServer. Portland Transit and a variety of other transportation apps make use of PostGIS with OpenGeo.
In 2000, PostgreSQL was built in an academic capacity with support for geometric shapes but lacked support for comprehensive mapping projects.
Open Source Beginnings and Growth
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. The first supposedly stable version followed in 2005, although six previous versions were already usable.
In 2006, PostGIS was officially being implemented in aid of features for SQL.
Getting Faster and More Capable
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.
Due to the program’s open source nature, regular contribution is also not uncommon.
PostGIS download page screenshot via WhoIsHostingThis
You may download one of the binary installer packages available for Windows, Mac OS X, as well as Linux. It’s available in the package managers of all the major Linux distributions: Red Hat, CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, and OpenSUSE/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.
Don’t Install PostGIS, Let Your Web Host Do It For You
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.
Selecting the Perfect PostGIS Hosting
As an open geospatial consortium software package, PostGIS works to extend PostgreSQL, combine with other development software, and improve the way developers utilize spatial data in a database.
This means that PostGIS hosting must be developer-friendly, have quality customer support, and offer performance servers. You don’t necessarily need a host that caters directly to PostGIS, but rather one that’s known to help out developers with support for things like PostgreSQL, Perl, and MySQL.
A big part of developer friendliness relies on the interface and experience provided by the host. Development software ranges from options like Apache 2.2 to Perl 5.10 and Python to MySQL. All of these are used by developers, but not all hosts provide the proper support.
Hosts that Set Up Your Development Environment
It’s important to locate a host that not only supports the right development software but loads your account with them as well. A host that sets up your initial hosting account with whatever development software you need, like PHP, MySQL, and Node.js, is essential.
Open source, general-purpose scripting language
Object-oriented, top-level programming language
Open source scripting language
Hosts that provide a wide variety of development tools to take advantage of our helpful, too. Some tools to look for include Perl, Python, PHP, Java, MySQL, and Curl. Deployment of such programs should be easy with a host that prioritizes developers.
All database programs require high security, due to a lot being at stake. At times, the data at hand is highly confidential, meaning any security breaches can have serious implications.
Some hosting providers concentrate less on security than others. Having said that, I always prioritize an adequate level of security when selecting a host or hosting plan.
The host often provides options for increased security such as backups, brute force defense, and firewalls. Some hosts provide security measures such as a tool that blocks hacks before they happen to a site, along with a dual firewall, and brute force defense.
Updates Without Rebooting
The inclusion of KernelCare, a rebootless kernel update. With KernelCare, your database, website, or program doesn’t see any downtime during the said update. This is helpful from both a reliability and customer trust point-of-view.
Reliability and Server Speed
A PostGIS database runs spatial analysis and queries. Many of which require significant server power. Because of this, it makes sense to find a PostGIS hosting company that allows for numerous types of hosting plans.
Shared vs. VPS vs. Cloud
This way, a program or website with PostGIS can scale up from shared hosting to cloud, dedicated, or VPS hosting. Cloud hosting is a safe bet, here. For instance, you could place your PostGIS database and website onto a public cloud or consider something like a private cloud or dedicated nodes. Hybrid hosting is also a consideration.
Developers should also think about dedicated server hosting for the most advanced hosting environment, or even a managed hosting account so that you can pass off the majority of hosting duties to true experts.
PostGIS Hosting Customer Support
Customer support ties into developer friendliness, but it’s important to analyze what each PostGIS hosting company has in terms of direct support. For example, 24/7 support through the telephone, along with living chat, a solid knowledge base, and a ticketing system are things to look for.
Pros and Cons of PostGIS
As a final summary before jumping to my host recommendations, let’s summarize the ups and downs of PostGIS. Do take the below into consideration when wanting to work with the popular extension.
It provides a manageable option for data storage on GIS software.
Allows for the easy use of spatial analysis and queries.
By using third-party software and programs, a user can access data easier with the help of PostGIS.
It utilizes the same approach as SQL to conduct queries. Therefore, those familiar with SQL should have no problem.
NoSQL methods have been shown to retrieve data faster, especially when it comes to complex queries.
PostGIS doesn’t always scale properly when working with larger spatial data problems.
Plug-ins are often required in order to deal with some of the PostGIS shortcomings.
Top 3 PostGIS Hosting Providers
Now we have covered the basic ins and outs of PostGIS as a software and extension, let’s take a look at the best hosting providers supporting it.
For the most developer-friendly PostGIS hosting company, consider A2 Hosting. It stands out with its support of the most popular development software (like PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Perl,) and the free site transfer makes your job even easier. We also like managed hosting companies like Atlantic.net and LiquidWeb if you’d rather pass off the PostGIS hosting controls to the host and focus more on development.
As for security, most of our recommendations look strong, but A2 Hosting delivers perpetual security with the rebootless kernel updates and the dual firewall. Liquid Web also touts its high-security options through dedicated servers and its managed hosting program.
When looking for scalability and performance, think about Atlantic.net for your PostGIS hosting. It offers dedicated servers, cloud hosting, and some additional options such as colocation hosting. Atlantic also provides incredible performance, along with dedicated servers and VPS hosting.
LiquidWeb is one of the most frequently recommended hosting providers by WIHT. They offer anything from managed e-commerce hosting to top dedicated servers. Reliable uptime guarantees, and 24/7 support via live chat, phone or e-mail is also considered standard.
Overall, LiquidWeb is a great choice for PostGIS hosting.
PostGIS 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.
About Brenda Barron
Brenda is an active online publisher and experienced WordPress blogger. She has been building websites since 1997. In addition, she publishes science fiction and fantasy stories under the name Brenda Stokes Barron.
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Who's Best for PostGIS Hosting?
We think A2 Hosting is the best choice for PostGIS.