It’s a typical Monday morning after a week’s vacation. You, the best ArcGIS Online Administrator the world has ever seen, are interested to see what your ArcGIS Online members have been creating while you were away. A beautifully styled story map? Survey123 survey? You log in to ArcGIS Online and are immediately confronted by an error message.
Your co-worker Dennis knocks on your door and asks, “How do you stop a rhinoceros from charging? Take away his credit card”…. You wake up a little sweaty, chuckling slightly and very confused. Why didn’t Dennis give you time to answer the question? Do rhinoceros carry credit cards? Should you really be dreaming about managing ArcGIS Online credits?
Let’s face it, managing any shared resource that can be used by a group of humans can be challenging. Especially when relying on self-regulation of the community to ensure that the resources aren’t depleted (Tragedy of the Commons). Managing service credits can sometimes elicit feelings of panic and unease, but it doesn’t need to be this way, ArcGIS Online already has a set of tools in place to manage and monitor credit usage. This post provides some strategies and tips for using these tools so your organization can confidently use credits as needed and sleep soundly at night.
Why are there credits?
Credits provide organizations with the flexibility to use what is needed and pay for what is used. ArcGIS Online has a lot of functionality. You can collect data, display applications, perform routing and geocoding, enrich datasets with demographic data, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. With service credits we don’t assume that all organizations will use similar amounts of each tool or storage. If an organization wants to store its data as hosted feature services and not use any other capabilities, it’s charged for feature storage and nothing else. If an organization wants to use a little bit of every tool, it can do that and only be charged for the processes it uses. The credit model keeps costs low, by enabling organizations to pay for what they use and not what they have access to.
Five credit management tools and strategies
Self-Management and Awareness
Enable Credit Budgeting
Create a customer role that includes privileges to services needed
Combine multiple strategies
Monitor members and refine strategy
Author’s note. The five sections below provide detailed information about managing credits. If you are looking for specific information about a single strategy, scroll to your topic of interest.
1. Self-Management and Awareness
As an administrator, it is essential to be familiar with tools and charging mechanisms for service credits. If you want your organization members to self-manage their use of services and credits, they should also be aware of these topics to make conscious decisions about what tools they are using and the associated costs.
Identify which tools use credits
Become familiar with which tools and services use credits. This table outlines all the credit costing services in ArcGIS Online and how they are charged. Within ArcGIS Online, there are icons and estimators to indicate tools that incur credit charges (Fig. 1). Living Atlas content uses icons on the item page to indicate subscription content (no credits charged) (Fig. 2) and premium content (Fig. 3).
Understand charging mechanism
Credits are charged using different mechanisms depending on the type of tool or service provided. Credits can be charged based on storage size or specific transactions for tools. Transaction based tools, like Geocoding, GeoEnrichment and spatial analysis tools are charged based on the job (tool and records) that is submitted and the output generated: How many attributes are being calculated? How many locations? (And others). See Example 1. Premium content like infographics and some Living Atlas Layers such as tapestry segmentation are charged based on the number of views (transaction) of each item (pan, zoom, identify) by organization members. Living Atlas subscriber content, such as live feeds, traffic service and other layers do not cost credits, but do require an ArcGIS Online login.
Example 1. Geocoding Calculation:
Input data: CSV with 540 Addresses
Credit Math: 540 Geocodes X 0.04 credits per Geocode = 21.6 credits
Storage-based services are charged according to the size of data stored by ArcGIS Online. This is calculated based on the size of data stored and the hourly storage calculations. If you store a 60 MB hosted feature service for two hours, you will be charged for the 2 hours that the data was stored, which equals 0.039 credits (Example 2).
Example 2: Feature Storage Calculation
Hosted Feature Service Size = 60MB, Time Period = 2 hours
Math: 60 MB X 0.24 credits per MB per month = 14.4 credits per month
14.4 credits per month / 730 hours per month = 0.019 credits per hour
0.019 credits per hour X 2 hours = 0.39 credits
2. Enable Credit Budgeting
Credit budgeting is a tool that allows administrators to set a limit for a specific amount of credits that a member can use. Members can use these credits with any transaction-based service. Once a member has used the limit set in the budget, the member will be prevented from submitting further jobs that will cost credits (like taking away a rhinoceros’ credit card).
This approach is also helpful as it sets the maximum amount of credits a user can spend on a single job. For example, if a member wants to GeoEnrich all of the ZIP Codes in the United States with 10 variables (4200 credits) but only had a budget of 100 credits, the member would receive an error message preventing this from being submitted.
Budgets can be set for users as a default and can be replenished by administrators if the budget amount is spent.
In the April 2018 update of ArcGIS Online, the ability for members to view their available credit budgets was added. This enables users to understand how many credits they have access to and when they need to approach administrators to get access to more.
3. Create a custom role that includes privileges to services needed
Credit budgeting is useful to set a threshold for reasonable usage and large jobs for daily work, while leaving the flexibility for members to have access to many different tools. If your members want/need access to all the tools, budgeting can be a great strategy. However, some members don’t need access to the complete set of tools in ArcGIS Online. For example, some members don’t need the ability to publish tile or feature services, and others may not need to Geocode. Create custom roles for members, including privileges to access the services they need to use, but not privileges that they just don’t need. Tip. If you want to control who has access to storage based privileges, consider which general content privileges are assigned to the role.
4. Combine multiple strategies
The three strategies above can be used in isolation or in combination depending on the flexibility or control that you desire for your members. Using credit budgeting and/or custom roles sets rules that are enforced by ArcGIS Online to manage how members spend their credits. Relying on user awareness and self management can work well with strong communication and understanding. The combination of two or all three of these strategies can make you and your members aware of what services they can use and prevent any accidental overuse of the shared resource. Assess your organization members’ needs and pick the right strategy or combination of strategies for you.
5. Monitor members and refine
Monitoring tools provide access to understand how your members are using credits through the view status tab on the organization page and identify which tools have been used over a time period. You can export a CSV of how each user spent credits over a period of time. As mentioned above, credit budgets do not apply to storage type charges. Through the monitoring tools, you can view and export feature storage sizes, modification dates and owners to get additional insight into what is accruing charges for feature storage. We recommend contacting your members and updating your strategies based on insights you gain from these reporting tools.
Note. Web Applications can be configured to allow the public to view premium and subscriber content. To find credit costs associated with these applications, go to the Apps tab and navigate to the Apps with Premium Content Proxy dashboard.
There are many tools and combinations of tools that can help remove the need to think about credits, let alone dream about them. Developing a strategy that works for your organization’s needs will help you to achieve the right balance of control and flexibility while allowing your organization to use the services that are valuable to them.