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  Why use an External Open Database rather than Proprietary tables built into GIS Software?

In selecting GIS software, users tend to pay close attention to features such as its user-friendliness, the learning curve, analytical capabilities and so on, but often overlook the issue of databases. In contrast, we believe databases and connectivity are the keys to unleashing the full potential of GIS to function as Decision Support Systems.

GIS solutions eventually evolve into decision support solutions, where invariably the power of an external database becomes a requisite, requiring further investment at that stage. First time users embarking on GIS-based decision support solutions using desktop GIS software, learn that internal tables are restrictive, becoming more so as their data grows. The tables are sluggish on queries, cumbersome when it comes to data entry and updates, and do not maintain data integrity. Soon, users begin to feel claustrophobic. This can even happen sooner than originally anticipated, particularly if they are building up their data at a fast rate. When users reach this stage, they often have little choice but to opt for integration with external database, involving additional cost of purchasing development tools, and further programming work.

While all GIS software can boast of individual strengths, we find the greatest strength of WinGIS lies in the vision of its developers to make its database end as ‘open’ as possible, creating the potential to build powerful decision support systems.

The developers of WinGIS took this bold step instead of adopting the traditional stance of developing inbuilt proprietary databases. This innovative approach allows easy linking of WinGIS-based GIS solutions with any pre-existing corporate application or corporate database, irrespective of its format, an outstanding feature few other GIS software can claim to possess.

And the enabling technology, the bridge to bring this about? Our product… WinQuery. WinQuery can empower you by allowing you to link WinGIS directly to any commercial database of your choice. The implications are far-reaching as we explain below.

In our experience, GIS software linked to external databases like Access, SQLServer, and MySQL, are flexible and efficient compared with software that work with proprietary tables, and offer the following benefits:


1. Feeling of Familiarity

Users, almost always, embark upon GIS with some prior knowledge and hands-on experience of Windows, office applications and at least one of the open databases. Continuing to work with their 'regular' database gives them a feeling of being on familiar ground and that they are merely extending their expertise to manage geographic data.

The feeling of being in familiar territory gives the user a sense of confidence which serves well to drive away the anxiety, fear and hesitation often associated with treading ‘new ground’. Introducing GIS to an organization is thus made easier, more welcome and more acceptable.


2. Efficient data handling and data sharing

When it comes to storing and retrieving text data, particularly when a large number of data records is involved, an external relational database is far more efficient than proprietary tables integrated into off-the-shelf desktop GIS software, because it is designed precisely for this purpose.

Data can be easily entered, updated and queried within the familiar user interface of commercial database software, like Access, SQLServer, and MySQL. With open databases, users enjoy the flexibility of querying the database with their own data browser and reporting tools.

As a bonus, the data in the database also becomes easily available for sharing within their organization, and integrating with other software applications, like statistical and calculation programs. Present day statistical, simulation and modelling software run on data stored in corporate databases. GIS being another application for decision-making, the integration and interoperability between these applications become easy when the GIS application also runs on the same database.

It also becomes easy to distribute the database to others with a similar or compatible system.


3. Access full processing power of databases

The full raw power of modern databases, including desktop databases, to process complex queries at lightning speed is made available for the GIS-based decision support solutions. Such solutions typically require heavy number crunching of the textual data in complex queries to meet with their requirement.


4. Enhanced productivity and savings

When GIS software is linked to ‘open’ commercial relational databases, their productivity, price/performance ratio and networking flexibility is extended to the GIS solution.

Productivity is further enhanced because the GIS workstation need not be tied up with data entry, querying and report generations. These activities can just as well be carried out in other office PCs, without having WinGIS installed. Attribute data can be queried in complex combinations in the relational environment external to the GIS PC. The results can then be accessed by the GIS workstation in a networked environment to generate thematic maps and visualize its geographic distributions.

Cost savings arise from the need to buy fewer GIS software.


5. Only need to maintain one database

By using the organization’s database that serves as common repository used for several other information systems, such as revenue, periodic maintenance or engineering data, can also be used for the GIS solution effectively. The advantages of this approach are significant:

The user can easily share data between application systems.
Data may be linked together, thus opening opportunities for deciphering new relationships amongst the data.
The development of GIS database can be accomplished more economically by using existing data, thereby reducing the cost of re-building it.
Data redundancy is eliminated, i.e. updates need to be done only once and once updated, everyone in the organization sees the new data.

6. Harnessing the rising technological and commercial advantages of open database management systems

Relational database technology is a rapidly evolving technology. Given the substantial on-going R&D being undertaken by RDBMS companies today, and their rate of progress, it is unlikely for any proprietary internal database development to match that of external commercial databases.

In view of this fact, many mainstay organizations and enterprise solutions are committed to ‘open’ database systems for their data storage and processing. This is to make sure that their organizations have not only immediate access to all the obvious advantages that current technologies offer, but continued access to future developments as well, quickly. Linking GIS with open databases ensures that clients are not deprived from enjoying the benefits of such technological developments, which are a form of competitive edge.

Further, the user has the freedom to choose from competing vendor technologies.


7. Enterprise solution

These open databases come with multi-user functionality and security options for enterprise-wide networked solutions, making implementation of enterprise solutions straightforward.


8. No new investment

Since most organizations entering the world of GIS would have made prior investments in databases for their other applications, the GIS solution may involve just opening up new tables or connecting to existing data.

The availability of existing in-house database and querying / reporting tools further allows the organization to use its existing skill resources to maintain the GIS solution. There is less need to invest in staff training to support any new or unfamiliar technology.



Based on the above, we conclude that combining GIS software with open, external relational databases are more efficient and cost comparable, compared with proprietary tables integrated into off-the-shelf desktop GIS software.

We at rankSolutions believe this approach will be the future trend of GIS-based decision support solutions. WinQuery meets with users’ demands for low-cost, easy-to-use software based on technologies that enable users to interact with their data in more flexible ways, using software products with which they are already familiar. This will lead to a new level of productivity, ease of use and organizational cooperation.






















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