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Approaches to publishing services

ArcGIS offers multiple approaches for sharing your information with others through GIS services. Your publishing workflows depend on the authoring software you prefer to use, the content you are creating and sharing, and the ArcGIS Enterprise deployment your organization has set up. This gives you the flexibility to share your content in a way that fits your organization's resources and intentions.

Most services are published to ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online from ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap. These desktop applications offer complete workstations for you to author powerful and intuitive GIS resources and share them to your web GIS. The sharing models and workflows of ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap differ, but both center around the publishing of web services to an ArcGIS Server site. These services power enriched GIS content such as web maps and apps—often more than one at a time.

Various types of hosted layers and services can also be created in ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online. These layers and services offer convenience and scalability.

Once a service is published, you can use it in web, desktop, and mobile applications. Services have web addresses, or URLs, that client applications can use to access them. The ArcGIS Enterprise portal and ArcGIS Online are designed to work with services in ArcGIS Server sites. You can also include services in your own applications. When you use or develop an application, you'll provide the URLs of the services you want to use. Your application goes to the URLs and begins working with the services to bring in the maps or other GIS functionality that you request.

This topic introduces the sources and destinations of content sharing in ArcGIS Enterprise.

Publishing from ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is the professional desktop GIS application from Esri. With ArcGIS Pro, you can explore, visualize, and analyze data using 2D maps and 3D scenes. When your work is ready, you can share it to ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online.

There are two fundamental sharing models in ArcGIS Pro. In the primary model, you connect to an active portal, either ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online, then share enriched GIS content—web layers, web maps, or packages—with the portal. As part of the sharing process, web services are published to an ArcGIS Server site that's federated with the portal.

Learn about the types of web layers you can share from ArcGIS Pro

If you are working with an ArcGIS Server site that isn't federated with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal, you can also publish services directly to that stand-alone server site when publishing to ArcGIS Server 10.6 and later. To do so, you first make a publisher or administrator connection from ArcGIS Pro to the server site. You can publish map services, geocode services, and image services to stand-alone server sites.


You cannot publish services directly from ArcGIS Pro to server sites that are federated with a portal. Instead, you share web maps and web layers to the portal, which also publishes services to a federated server.

Learn more about publishing services to stand-alone server sites

Publishing from ArcGIS Desktop

ArcGIS Desktop can help you author and share your GIS resources.

Its ArcMap component is where you display, explore, and edit GIS datasets; perform cartographic work; and prepare map layouts for export. ArcMap guides you through the process of analyzing your map for performance bottlenecks and publishing the map.

For other types of resources that aren't created in ArcMap, such as locators, you can right-click the item in the Catalog tree, then choose the option to share it as a service. A geoprocessing model can be published by right-clicking a result in the Results window and choosing the option to share it as a service.

The following types of services can be published from ArcGIS Desktop to ArcGIS Server sites based on the GIS resource you're publishing:

Learn more about publishing services in ArcGIS Desktop

Publishing hosted layers

When a service or layer uses data that's hosted in an ArcGIS-managed database, the service or layer is called hosted. Hosted services and layers can use data managed by ArcGIS Data Store or in a folder on an ArcGIS Server site. Some, though not all, hosted layers and services are created in ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online, such as when you upload a CSV file into the portal.

Since ArcGIS natively manages data, you do not need a dedicated database to directly manage the data. Instead, the data is copied to ArcGIS Enterprise and the system manages the data on your behalf. This enables your users to make their data available to others without having to go through a centralized process, and without the need for someone in the organization to manage their data. It also allows the system to store data that is generated as part of analysis workflows and other operations performed by ArcGIS Enterprise users.

ArcGIS Enterprise

ArcGIS Enterprise comprises a central GIS portal, one or more ArcGIS Server sites, and ArcGIS Data Store for self-service mapping. ArcGIS Server serves as the web service hosting engine. All components are deployed on infrastructure you manage, be it physical machines, virtual machines, or cloud infrastructure.

Using ArcGIS Enterprise, you have complete control over who can view and work with your GIS content.

You can add ArcGIS Server web services to your ArcGIS Enterprise portal to use them in apps throughout ArcGIS. How you add a service depends on how you need to use it.

Learn more about working with services in the portal

ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online allows you to publish GIS web services to a cloud environment administered by Esri. You don't have to install anything; you just sign in to your ArcGIS Online account.

ArcGIS Online hosted services are available through organizational subscriptions to ArcGIS Online. An advantage of using ArcGIS Online is that you don't have to install any server software or tune the services.

As with the ArcGIS Enterprise portal, you can add ArcGIS Server web services to ArcGIS Online in two ways:

  • If you want to create a reference to an ArcGIS Server web service to make it easier for others to access and discover the service, add the web service as an item. When an ArcGIS Server web service is added as a layer item, you can store layer configurations such as customized pop-ups and styling with the layer item. The layer configuration is used when you add the layer item to a map or scene.
  • You can also add ArcGIS Server web services directly to Map Viewer Classic or Scene Viewer and configure the service layer within a specific map or scene. The maps and scenes you save with those layer configurations can be used in apps.

Learn more about working with services in ArcGIS Online