GIS System Requirements

Hardware (computers and peripherals to store the GIS data)

VCU has a license server running so that faculty, staff, and students can connect and run ESRI's ArcGIS suite.

  • This is restricted to On-campus use by VCU students, faculty, and staff.
  • The license server is running FlexLM software with codes to allow a user to retrieve a license and actually 'run' ArcGIS.
  • If the server or network goes down, so does the ability for anyone to run ArcGIS. The local user MUST be connected to the server at all times.

VCU also has an ArcIMS server that is managed by Technology Services.

  • This service allows users to perform GIS analyses and functions without installing software on a user's computer.
  • Currently, from this machine, GIS information is available on the Inger and Walter Rice Center for the Environmental Life Sciences.

Software (to access, query, manage, present and analyze GIS data)

All ArcGIS products (ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo) are comprised of the ArcMap, ArcCatalog, and ArcToolbox applications.

These products can be thought of at different levels:

  • ArcView level allows editing of personal geodatabases and shapefile, where you can:
    • Create high-quality maps, graphs, and reports.
    • Perform geographic queries and analysis.
    • Geocode addresses.
  • ArcEditor level allows a user to create, edit and manage ArcInfo coverages and ArcSDE geodatabases, where you can
    • Create and edit geometric networks.
    • Create and edit custom features.
  • ArcInfo level allows a user to create, edit and analyze coverages using ArcInfo Workstation. This is the most powerful level of ArcGIS. For this to run ArcInfo workstation must be loaded on the machine. This is the foundation of ArcGIS.
    • Run AML (Arc Macro Language) programs from ArcToolbox.
    • Convert from multiple GIS data formats into ArcInfo coverage formats.
    • Use the geoprocessing server to perform ArcToolbox operations on a designated computer (a remote server).

Note: A user can change the 'level' of the software by using the desktop administrator.

  • ArcMap is the primary ArcGIS application for displaying, querying, editing, creating and analyzing data.
    • This application provides tools for creating visual displays of your data, querying, and creating presentation-quality maps.
    • ArcMap makes it easy to lay out your maps for printing, embedding in other documents, or electronic publishing.
    • It also includes analysis, charting, and reporting functions and a comprehensive suite of editing tools for creating and editing geographic data.
    • When you save a map, all of your layout work, symbols, text, and graphics are automatically preserved.
  • ArcCatalog is a tool for accessing and managing your data.
    • This application helps you organize and manage all your GIS data.
    • It includes tools for browsing and finding geographic information, recording and viewing metadata, quickly viewing any dataset and defining the schema structure for your geographic data layers.
  • ArcToolbox contains tools for data conversion and management.
    • This application provides you with tools for data conversion, managing coordinate systems, and changing map projections.
    • It supports user-friendly drag-and-drop operations from ArcCatalog.
    • For ArcInfo users, ArcToolbox provides additional and more sophisticated data conversion and spatial analysis tools.


Data such as standard map and graphics file formats, images, CAD files, spreadsheets, relational databases, census data.

  • A GIS stores information about the world as a collection of themed layers that can be used together. A layer can be anything that contains similar features such as customers, buildings, streets, lakes, or postal codes.
  • This data contains either an explicit geographic reference, such as a latitude and longitude coordinate, or an implicit reference such as address, postal code, census tract name, forest stand identifier, or road name.
  • Data can be free or fee-based. The source of this data comes from a variety of places.
  • Link to potential data sources.
  • Data types supported in ArcGIS.

People (to collect, manage and analyze data)

Several VCU individuals are active in GIS projects. Some are in the system management role, keeping the GIS servers running; some collect data and create the layers to specific geographic areas; while others provide training on using GIS.


This article was updated: 12/7/2017