ArcGIS Online

Keep the home fires burning - don’t allow your ArcGIS operations to be disrupted!

The phrase “Keep the home fires burning” is an idiom that means “to maintain daily routine and provide the necessities of life in a home or community.

But what does that phrase have to do with your ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise operations?

WebGIS operations need two parts to be usable: Users and Content. Someone also must manage those users and be able to manage content and settings. That person fills the Administrator role.

In any organization, there will be churn. People will separate from the organization, they take vacation or annual leave, they may be out sick or with a family situation for an extended period. There are endless reasons for a resource to be unavailable. Churn doesn’t necessarily have to mean disruption. With planning, service disruption caused by organizational changes may be avoided.

As a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, ArcGIS Online follows a “shared responsibility” model. That means that there are aspects of ArcGIS Online that Esri provides and manages, and there are other aspects of ArcGIS Online that are owned and managed by the customer. For instance, Esri manages providing the code and the team to keep ArcGIS Online running, while the customer provides content, designs the look and feel of their ArcGIS Online organization, assigns software licenses, and manages members – like members of the administrator role.

In ArcGIS Enterprise, the customer assumes most responsibility. In many modern environments, responsibilities related to the physical hosting environment is managed by the hosting provider (eg: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), but every other aspect of the deployment is managed by the customer.

Part of keeping ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise running involves creating, updating, and following contingency plans. In the event of an emergency, how does an organization pivot? If a key resource is unavailable, who steps up to fill the gap? Similarly, ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise customers need to be prepared to respond to contingencies. If your WebGIS administrator becomes unavailable for whatever reason, who has been assigned the ability to assume that role?

Ultimately, the customer bears the responsibility of managing an ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise organization. Esri respects the privacy and sensitivity level of users and content ArcGIS Online organizations manage. Esri does not access or manage customer content or invite members to an ArcGIS Online organization without very strong justification. The process we have defined and documented is onerous and time consuming. It must be – when Esri must administer a customer’s ArcGIS Online organization, considerable avoidable risk is introduced. This is a great responsibility that we do not take lightly.

Conversely, Esri has no access at all to a customer’s ArcGIS Enterprise. In this case, business continuity and incident response planning is the customer’s sole responsibility, and is absolutely crucial to the success of a customer owned ArcGIS Enterprise Deployment. Not only should GIS administrator contingencies be considered, but availability challenges must be holistically anticipated across the entirety of the system.

How do customers plan for contingencies?

Simply put: Have a plan. Having a plan is a universal concept and is a basic essential for many aspects of day to day living. Build a plan early,  review it and update it frequently – minimally after an impactful organization change.  If the Admin is taking planned leave, promote a user to admin. Better yet, name multiple administrators – two or three is usually fine. ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise support custom roles to provide fine grained permissions if the scope of the administrator role is too broad for a short, planned leave. Design a custom role that fits your needs.

For many organizations, a convenient way to avoid substantial service disruption is to use a single sign-on technology like SAML. SAML allows for centralized user administration at the organization’s domain level. If an administrator becomes unavailable, their account may be accessed by simply requesting the domain user’s password be changed by the domain administrator. The Administrator account may then be accessed and used to assign someone else the admin role. Similarly, for organizations that do not have SAML or have not configured it for use for ArcGIS Online, domain administrators can intercept password reset emails and forward them to the user who is to be delegated admin responsibilities. All these options are preferable to asking Esri to perform administrative tasks on a customer’s behalf.

For ArcGIS Enterprise customers, ensure that hosts can be accessed via console in case an ArcGIS Account change is required. Identify those resources who can log directly onto those servers and who have the necessary rights to run ArcGIS account recovery tools and those who have the ability to quickly and effectively troubleshoot other outages. Leverage resources like our ArcGIS Enterprise Hardening Guide, which offers advice not just for configuring security options and system settings, for also for critical strategic maturity tasks like building out contingency plans.

Do not wait for an inevitable event that causes a key user to be unavailable to think about this critical aspect of managing your ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise organization. When all else fails, contact Esri Support Services, who may assist you with guidance and options.


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