The Best PostGIS Hosting: Who's The Best For Your Site? [Updated: 2018]

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PostGIS Hosting

PostGIS featured image

What You'll Learn

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.

PostGIS homepage
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.

Find The Best PostGIS Hosting For You

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A2+Hosting screenshot
A2 Hosting Entry VPS plan
20GB 2TB
  • Support 4.5 stars
  • Features 4.5 stars
  • Uptime 4.5 stars
  • Value 4.5 stars
4.5 stars
226 user reviews
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$5.00/mo
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Interserver screenshot
Interserver Linux Cloud VPS plan
25GB 1TB
  • Support 4.5 stars
  • Features 4.5 stars
  • Uptime 4.5 stars
  • Value 5 stars
4.5 stars
206 user reviews
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$6.00/mo
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LiquidWeb screenshot
LiquidWeb 2 GB VPS plan
40GB 10TB
  • Support 4.5 stars
  • Features 4.5 stars
  • Uptime 4.5 stars
  • Value 4.5 stars
4.5 stars
62 user reviews
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$59.00/mo
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Host1Plus screenshot
Host1Plus Amber plan
40GB 1TB
  • Support 5 stars
  • Features 4.5 stars
  • Uptime 5 stars
  • Value 4.5 stars
4.5 stars
9 user reviews
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$15.00/mo
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OpenGeo Suite

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

GeoServer
GeoServer is worthy of attention for sure.

A Complete Geospatial Package

OpenGEO uses PostGIS in conjunction with:

  • GeoServer
  • GeoWebCache
  • QGIS
  • OpenLayers 2 and 3
  • Boundless SDK
  • GeoExplorer

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

OpenLayers 2 and 3 are JavaScript frameworks for browser-based mapping needs. Boundless SDK is a full-service development kit that pairs with OpenGEO with libraries and templates for fast prototyping. GeoExplorer is 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.

PostGIS Capabilities

PostGIS Capabilities

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 Tools

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.

Mapping Servers

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 Capabilities

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
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.

PostGIS History

PostGIS History

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.

Custom Installation

PostGIS download
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.

Developer Friendliness

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.

Software Name Description
PHP Open source, general-purpose scripting language
Python Object-oriented, top-level programming language
Perl Open source scripting language
Node.js JavaScript runtime library

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.

PostGIS Security

PostGIS Security

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.

Host Security

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.

PostGIS Pros and Cons

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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

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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