shrug-l: ArcGIS Alternative

Porter, William B. william.porter at
Tue Apr 5 09:57:27 EDT 2011

Part of the Cost-Benefit analysis should include technical support:  How
complete is it from the software maker and what user groups exist that
offer support.  

GIS has a steep learning curve.  The most successful programs have at
least a small team of people using the same software, cooperating and
sharing technical skill. 

I started digital mapping in  1986 in what was then the Dept. of Natural
Resources.  I used AutoCAD because Jody Miller in State Lands and Tom
Watters in Beaches and Shores used it.  They were the gods of mapping
[and surveying] so I followed their lead.   We shared tech innovations,
tools and toys.  When I moved to ArcInfo in 1991 the Manatee program was
a step-child of the Marine Lab in St. Pete.  They used ArcInfo under
Unix - so I did too.  I discovered true deities of GIS in Tallahassee -
Linc Clay and Stan Hammer - also used ArcInfo under Unix.  They pretty
much insured my survival during the learning curve.  


The best software in the world is worthless unless you know a team of
experts willing to help you.  A GIS person starting out alone with only
tech support from the 'factory' has a tough row to hoe [don't get to use
that expression much].  Taking Unix out of the learning  curve helps and
a point and click object oriented interface helps - but you still have
to learn GIS logic and theory.  Only a masochist would start out with
orphan software to prove how tough he or she is.


When I start in any discipline I try to steal from the best:   go with
software that the most successful and helpful GIS shop near you uses.
If your County has a MapInfo shop and a support group  eager to help
[like SHRUG is for ESRI users] then MapInfo may be the way to go.  If
you're near a college that supports GRASS or other free open-source
software, use that and hope they stay with it.  If you can tie into an
educational system the cost of ESRI software drops 90%.  It is amazing:
I can buy ArcPAD for $75 because I have an EDU mailing address. 


I used SAS because I learned it at the Marine Lab in St. Pete.  After
moving to TLH I learned DNR had John Orndorf, a recalcitrant,
curmudgeonly SAS genius.   

One co-worker tried to undercut SAS with a low-rent rip-off, BASS.   It
was as embarrassing as it sounds.  After 6 weeks of testing and buying a
subscription,  he learned that it could not read more than 10,000 lines
of data.  In the end I negotiated an agency-wide subscription to PC SAS
covering DNR in TLH and the Marine Lab in St. Pete.,  wresting it from
the mainframe and 3270 terminals . It was far cheaper than BASS per


That's another consideration:   the per-use fee drops on most software
when used in an agency.   Not all software uses scalable licensing. 


William  B. Porter     william.porter at                412 5972

Application Coordinator for GIS / Infrastructure

Florida A&M University


1601 S. M L King 

Suite 303

TLH FL 32307





From: shrug-l-bounces at
[mailto:shrug-l-bounces at] On Behalf Of Keith
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2011 6:23 PM
To: shrug-l at
Subject: shrug-l: ArcGIS Alternative


Hey Shruggers,


My purchasing department is making me do a cost benefit analysis of
paying our annual maintenance to ESRI versus abandoning ESRI in favor of
some other GIS software, if there is such as thing.


Are there any comparable GIS suites out there that have the same, or
greater, functionality as Desktop and Server 10?


And what is there cost to replace, and implement, 2 ArcInfo concurrent
use licenses, 1 ArcGIS Server Std Enterprise license and 1 EDN license?


Silly exercise, but one I have to do nonetheless.


Keith Sandell, MBA

GIS Manager, Corporate Analytics

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

2101 Maryland Circle, Tallahassee, Florida 32303


ofc. 850.521.8341   |   cell 850.727.2897


"If we are to achieve results never before accomplished we must expect
to employ methods never before attempted." - Francis Bacon


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the SHRUG-L mailing list