Credits Explained

Most people are aware of all the cool things you can do with ArcGIS Online. They know they can access thousands of layers through the Living Atlas and Open Data portals.  They know they can distribute maps and engaging web applications like Story Maps within their institution or with the public.  They know ArcGIS Online can power data collection apps like Collector or power spatial analysis in a web browser.  Although the capabilities of ArcGIS Online are understood, some people still hesitate to make the leap to the cloud because of a single word: credits.

What is a credit? How many credits does a Story Map use?  How do I keep my users from spending all my credits?

These are all common questions I will address here.

Credits are the currency in ArcGIS Online. The storage and processing you do in ArcGIS Online takes place on servers. This storage and processing is not free, hence the need for a mechanism to account for this activity (credits).

Many of the things you do in ArcGIS Online consume few or no credits. When you create a Story Map for example, you are only charged for storage. Access to Esri’s configurable application templates are completely free. Unless you are working with very large amounts of data, the amount of credits consumed by storage is quite small – less than 15 credits per year for 1 GB for file storage.

Services, like tile caching, geocoding, and analysis consume more credits but even these are quite reasonable when working with small data sets. If you are doing heavy processing with more data, do so on your desktop with ArcGIS Pro or ArcMap then publish your results in ArcGIS Online. Local processing is free and you will again only be consuming credits for storage in the cloud. Promoting this workflow in your organization can drastically reduce credit consumption by your organization.

In addition to promoting credit reducing workflows, administrators have three main ways to control credit consumption in ArcGIS Online:

1.  Create custom roles - With custom roles you are able to control user access to credit consuming activities in ArcGIS Online. For example, generating tile services at multiple scales over a large geographic area involves a lot of processing and generates a large amount of data to be stored in ArcGIS Online. Needless to say this will consume a large amount of credits up front, and storage of several GBs will chip away at your credits over time. You may want to consider assigning users a custom role which disables tile generating capabilities.

2.  Generate organization statistics – Use the View Status dashboard to monitor the activity in your organization. You can filter credit consumption activity over time and export statistics so that you can work with it as a spreadsheet. This is useful for identifying any spikes in activity so that you can take action, either by reaching out to students or even disabling accounts.

3.  Assign credit quotas - This is a new administrative tool that is extremely helpful in keeping your organization’s credit usage in check. You can assign credit limits that apply specifically to tile generation, geoenrichment, geocoding, and analysis services. Credit quotas do not apply to item storage, and limits can be adjusted at any time. Credit quotas can be assigned by groups, roles, or to individual users. When a user reaches their credit limit, they will still be able to access their content, they just won’t be able to use the aforementioned services until an administrator assigns them a new quota of credits.

As an ArcGIS Online administrator, we want you to focus on bringing the power of cloud GIS to your organization, not fretting over credits. We hope these tools and best practices will help you understand and manage credit use so that you can concentrate on what counts – empowering your users to solve spatial problems with amazing maps and applications!

For a breakdown on credit costs per service click here. Watch for future blog posts which will dig deeper into each of these methods.

Brendan O'Neill

About Brendan O'Neill

Education specialist on the Patterns and Practices team at Esri, focused on promoting best practices for implementing GIS technology in K12, higher education, and research institutions. @geo_neill
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