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Control access in ArcGIS Server

The security of your GIS resources relies on proper, stringent authentication and authorization of your users. Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a user, while authorization is the process of verifying that an authenticated user has the permission to access the requested resource or perform the requested operation. To enforce permissions for secured resources and operations, a user is first authenticated, then their authorization is verified. These terms are defined by your security model.

The security model of your ArcGIS Server site determines who can access the site's services, who can publish, modify, and delete services, and who can perform administrative tasks in the site. There are multiple security models available, depending on the configuration of your GIS deployment and whether you want to integrate your organization-specific identity provider with your deployment.

Users, roles, and permissions

When a resource in ArcGIS Server is secured, only authorized users can access that resource. ArcGIS Enterprise, including stand-alone ArcGIS Server, manages access to a secured resource by using a role-based access control system. There are three main components in a role-based access control system: users, roles, and permissions.


A user is any person or software agent accessing a server resource. An identity store is a list of users who can make resource requests. Both ArcGIS Server and the ArcGIS Enterprise portal have built-in identity stores, and you may also use the identity stores of an organization-specific identity provider.


A role is a set of users with a specific level of access. Users who comprise a role are usually related by function, title, or some other relationship. For example, users who will perform administration of an ArcGIS Server site could be grouped into a role called Administrator, and users who only need to view and explore GIS resources could be assigned a role called Viewer. In the ArcGIS Server built-in identity store, a user can belong to more than one role. In the ArcGIS Enterprise portal's built-in identity store, a user is only granted a single role.


Permissions grant authority to perform a certain task or access a certain resource. A permission can only be assigned to a role. Individual users can only acquire permissions by inheriting them from their roles. Role-based access control provides the ability to enforce, manage, and audit an organization's access control policies efficiently and effectively. Permissions are managed internally by ArcGIS Server.

Available security models

ArcGIS Server is a primary component of the ArcGIS Enterprise platform, which provides your organization with a comprehensive Web GIS system. ArcGIS Server can be deployed as a stand-alone system, or it can be integrated with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal by federation.

Base ArcGIS Enterprise deployment pattern

The security model of a stand-alone ArcGIS Server site is determined by the server administrator. In a federated ArcGIS Enterprise deployment, sharing and security models are determined by the portal administrator, superseding those of the server site.

Both ArcGIS Server and the ArcGIS Enterprise portal offer robust and effective built-in authentication and identity stores that are enforced by default. ArcGIS Enterprise and stand-alone ArcGIS Server sites also support web-tier authentication and external identity providers. When such a provider is configured, user authentication is done through its identity store.

Stand-alone ArcGIS Server sites

ArcGIS Server uses a role-based access model. Users are assigned one or more roles, to which certain permissions have been granted.

To manage these users and roles, ArcGIS Server sites in a stand-alone configuration can use the built-in identity store, as well as several types of third-party identity providers. You can change these settings using the Security Configuration Wizard in ArcGIS Server Manager.

Authentication to a stand-alone ArcGIS Server site can be done at the server tier or at the web tier.

The table below describes the identity store configurations that are supported for the type of authentication chosen:

Authentication mechanismSupported identity store configurations

ArcGIS Server authentication

  • Built-in users and roles
  • Users in Active Directory and roles in either Active Directory or the built-in store
  • Users in LDAP and roles in either LDAP or the built-in store
  • Users in a custom store and roles in the custom or the built-in store

Web-tier authentication

Any user store for which the web server has built-in or extensible support

For example, if your web server has built-in support for Active Directory, LDAP, and custom identity stores, you may use one of the following configurations:

  • Users in Active Directory and roles in either Active Directory or the built-in store
  • Users in LDAP and roles in either LDAP or the built-in store
  • Users in a custom store and roles in the custom or built-in store

As the below diagram illustrates, server-tier authentication takes place entirely within the server site, while web-tier authentication relies on the external identity store to validate the user's credentials.

Stand-alone ArcGIS Server authentication models

The built-in identity store is managed in ArcGIS Server Manager when it is configured. Information about users and roles is kept in the server's configuration store, and only ArcGIS Server has access to that information. Users authenticate to the identity store using tokens—strings of encrypted information that contain the user's name, the token expiration time, and other proprietary information.

Many types of web-tier authentication systems can be configured with stand-alone ArcGIS Server sites. These include Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directories, public key infrastructure (PKI) implementations, and Integrated Windows Authentication (IWA).

If your ArcGIS Server site will remain a stand-alone site, and you are not configuring web-tier authentication, see Configure server-tier authentication.

If you are configuring web-tier authentication (as through an LDAP directory, IWA, or PKI) with your stand-alone ArcGIS Serversite, see Configure web-tier authentication.

Federated ArcGIS Server sites

If you are federating your ArcGIS Server site with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal, there are several possible security models for the ArcGIS Enterprise deployment. Regardless of which security model your portal carries, once you have federated your ArcGIS Server site with the portal, that security model will replace the server's identity store, including all users and roles you have configured in ArcGIS Server Manager.

The portal has a built-in identity store of its own, and it can be configured with web-tier authentication through IWA, PKI, or LDAP-based identity providers, as a stand-alone ArcGIS Server site can be. In addition, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML)-compliant external identity providers can be configured with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal.

If your ArcGIS Server site is federated, or if you plan to federate it, with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal, see Federate an ArcGIS Server site with your portal. You can learn more about the portal's security model options there, as well as in the Portal for ArcGIS documentation.