Bottom Line in the Land of Oz -- Pricing Spatial Web Site Architectures This article originally appeared in Geospatial Solutions Magazine's Net Results column of May 1, 2003. Other Net Results articles about the role of emerging technologies in the exchange of spatial information are also online.

1. Introduction and Glossary   2. First ruby slippered steps   3. Scarecrow, tinman, lion   4. And Toto, too

And Toto, too. At first glance, it would be easy to mistake the shockingly inexpensive, enthusiastic Toto of spatial Web hosting for a too-good-to-be-true prank. But to dismiss pgHoster (, a consulting and Web hosting company employing three full-time people in Austin, Texas, would be like ending the Wizard of Oz as Elvira Gulch bicycles away with Toto trapped in her basket. No way, the story’s just beginning! In fact, pgHoster may be the spatial community’s very first glimpse of an affordable, analytic, online spatial database.

For a one-time setup fee of $45 plus a $10 per month hosting charge, pgHoster’s spatial customers get an unlimited number of PostgreSQL databases, 300 MB of storage, and 8 GB of data-exchange per month. Included in the setup fee is installation of PostGIS, a free, open-source spatial extension to the PostgreSQL database from Refractions Research (, as well as UMN’s Mapserver and both PHP and Perl Mapscript, for customization. New users will find working templates with sample data ready for substitution with their own data (see Figure 4), which can be loaded from shapefile format directly into the database. As detailed in the Geospatial Solutions June, 2002, Net Results column, "Spatial on a Shoestring," the PostGIS-enabled database supports many analytic functions for use within SQL statements. Supported functions include aggregation, querying data for intersection, nearest neighbors, and distance between multiple features.

Figure 4: pgHoster’s sample online mapping application, demonstrated at, is included free with every new account requesting spatial support.
pgHoster derives its name from the free, open-source database, PostgreSQL ( One year after opening its doors to customers requiring online access to an industrial-strength database, pgHoster has acquired close to 1000 accounts that generate a support load of 35 requests per day on average. Thanks to the fact that its operating system (Linux), database, Web server, and map server software are free, pgHoster can focus on system administration and security, while passing along 100 Mb Internet connectivity at substantial savings to their customers. Though not exclusively oriented toward spatial Web hosting, pgHoster gives traditional GIS vendors a tough act to follow in our increasingly IT-centric spatial industry.

No place like home?

Who knows why Dorothy Gale went home to Kansas instead bringing Auntie Em and Uncle Henry to Oz -- after all, that Kansas farm was poverty stricken and the Emerald City was booming! Psychologically, hosting your interactive spatial Web site "from home" may feel right. It may even be company policy. But the monetary bottom line, ultimate ruler of most companies, increasingly favors Web hosting solutions. As this article went to press in April, Intergraph announced their acquisition of Terra Map (, effectively extending their offering to include spatial Web hosting. Autodesk referred to California CAD Solutions ( as an emerging Web hosting provider with MapGuide. ESRI and MapInfo declined public comment. Clearly, nobody really knows just yet how Web services and spatial Web hosting will change our industry, but interesting options continue to emerge.

1. Introduction and Glossary   2. First ruby slippered steps   3. Scarecrow, tinman, lion   4. And Toto, too