5.1. COTS GIS - ArcGIS
One of the most well-established and popular GIS programs is ESRI’s ArcGIS suite. ArcGIS was established in 1969 originally as a research group focused on landuse planning initiatives (ESRI, 2013). Since then, ArcGIS has grown exponentially and is now the leading commercial GIS software which incorporates mobile, desktop, server, and online platforms. Until recently, the licence levels in ArcGIS were organized by the naming scheme ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo, which denoted the amount of access to tools and functionalities within the software. Now, the different levels are called Basic, Standard, and Advanced, respectively, to make the licence levels more intuitive. The Basic level allows access to mapping and interactive visualization functionalities, the Standard level offers those as well as multiuser editing and advanced data management, and the Advanced level offers all of the above, plus, advanced analysis, high-end cartography, and extensive database management possibilities (ESRI, 2013). These different levels allow the buyer to choose the package that fits their needs. Also, you can add extensions such as Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst, and Geostatistical Analyst, which are sets of tools for specific tasks (ESRI, 2013). Extensions allow the user to add more advanced functions without the need for upgrading to a different licence. However, one major problem with ArcGIS and other ESRI products are costs, which can often only be afforded by large corporations, universities, and government agencies. Students or research groups can often acquire versions for free, or at reduced costs, respectively. However, the price is often a deterrent when a company or individual is choosing which GIS software to purchase. Free trials are also available from http://www.ESRI.com/software/arcgis/arcgis-for-desktop/free-trial. Also, various online training courses (http://training.esri.com/), tutorials (http://resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#//00qn0000013t000000), and other resources (http://resources.arcgis.com/en/home/) are available online to help with specific tasks.