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Options for remote ESRI software access

As of 23 March 2020, all courses for the remainder of the Spring semester are to be done online due to precautions for COVID-19. Since the campus teaching labs will not be accessible, we are providing an outline of the options with pros and cons available to instructors and students using ESRI ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro in their courses or projects.

Option 1: Access the Apps@UT virtualized computer lab

  • Ease of access – works from any operating system and only requires install of small plugin
  • All processing done on UT servers
  • Easy access to your T-Storage (H-drive)
  • User does not need to install patches, updates or do annual license renewal
  • Can be slow for more resource intensive tasks
  • Needs consistent internet connection
  • Potential to be slower and less reliable than usual during times of heavy use
  • Less ability to install add-ins or customize software

Option 2: Installation of software on own computer- download from OIT software distribution

  • May run faster on relatively powerful computers
  • Works on slow or inconsistent internet connections
  • Ability to install add-in components and save interface preferences and default settings
  • Requires Windows OS (though Mac users do have options)
  • Some may have difficulty with installation due to program/download size, system requirements, licensing etc
  • Need to renew license once a year and potentially find and install patches
  • May run slower on older or less powerful machines

Option 3: Use ArcGIS Online

  • Requires only an internet browser and can be used from anywhere
  • All processing done on ESRI servers
  • Easy to share datsets, maps, and analysis results
  • Simple to setup accounts with UTK single-sign-on
  • Service not meant to replace desktop GIS so analysis and editing functions are very limited
  • Extremely limited functionality for raster data
  • OIT allocates a limited number of “credits” to accounts (can be replenished on request)

Option 4: Use Free & Open Source Software such as QGIS

  • Free to download and install on any machine
  • QGIS installers exist for Windows, Mac or Linux
  • QGIS interface is similar to ArcGIS and basics are usually intuitive for experienced ESRI users
  • Plugins are relatively easy to find and install
  • Different enough that instructions made for ArcGIS would be difficult for beginners to follow
  • Documentation not nearly as comprehensive as ESRI and tends to lag behind versions
  • Some functions basic to ArcGIS require plugins or separate software (ie viewing LiDAR LAS data)