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ArcGIS Server web services

An ArcGIS Server web service represents a GIS resource—such as a map, locator, or image—that is located on an ArcGIS Server site and is made available to client apps.

Work with ArcGIS Server web services

You don't need any specialized GIS software to work with a service; you can consume the service in a web browser or custom app. However, ArcGIS applications, such as ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro, can also act as clients to web services, and you can write your own apps to consume web services.

When you work with a service that is running on an ArcGIS Server site, you have, in most cases, the same level of access to the resource that you would have if the resource were located on your machine. A map service, for example, allows client apps to access the contents of a map on the server in much the same way they would if the map was stored locally.

Publishing a GIS resource as a service is the key to making that resource available to other people. When you deploy ArcGIS Server, you create resources in ArcGIS Desktop and publish the resources as services so that client apps can use them.

In ArcGIS Online, you use ArcGIS Server web services as layers for maps, or you can add them as items to be shared with members of your organization or the public. If you need to access your services over HTTPS, you should add your layers with HTTPS.

Secure services

ArcGIS Online supports ArcGIS Server authentication, including web-tier authentication such as Integrated Windows Authentication (IWA) and a public key infrastructure (PKI), for adding and accessing secure services. When you add a token-based secure ArcGIS Server service to a map, ArcGIS Online prompts you for credentials every time you access the service. Credentials are not stored in the map. ArcGIS Online obtains a token for authentication; there is nothing additional you need to do. You should not attempt to append a token to the URL when you add a service to a map.

Map Viewer, Web AppBuilder, and the configurable apps support editing feature services secured with web-tier authentication. To take advantage of this support, administrators must configure trusted servers that allow ArcGIS Online to automatically pass through credentials.


If you do not see the user name and password fields, the options to store or not store credentials, or if you see an error when attempting to add the secure service, there may be an issue with your HTTPS configuration. The ArcGIS Server site providing the service for which you are attempting to store credentials must support HTTPS and have a valid certificate signed from a well-known certificate authority. For additional troubleshooting, contact Esri Support.

Share secure services

When you add a secure ArcGIS Server service as an item in ArcGIS Online, you choose whether or not to store the credentials necessary to access the service with the layer item. If the credentials are not stored, ArcGIS Online will prompt you for credentials every time you access the service. If the credentials are stored with the layer item, you won't be prompted. If you want to change credentials after adding the item, you can edit the item details and enter a different user name or password. Storing credentials with the item is only supported for token-based services.

If you use Internet Explorer to access secure services, you may need to add the domains of your organization’s trusted servers to your browser’s trusted sites list. Check with you organization administrator for the trusted servers configured for your organization.

User names might be case sensitive depending on how your identity systems are managed.


When you store your credentials for a secure service, the layer item behaves like a proxy in that all requests to the service go through ArcGIS Online. This proxy adds some delay when accessing the service and is slower than going directly to the service.

Limit usage of your shared service item

If you want to share your secure service item with the public, for example, as part of a public web app, store the credentials with the item so the public is not required to log in to get to your app. You may also want to limit usage to control how many times and by whom the service is accessed. You can specify the rate limit, and to further restrict usage, designate the specific referrer URLs or IPs that can access your service, for example, the URL of your organization.

To limit usage, follow these steps:

  1. Add your secure service as an item to the My Content tab of the content page.
  2. When adding your item, choose Store credentials with service item in the Add Item pop-up.
  3. On the item page, click the Settings tab and scroll down to the Limit Usage section. Click Limit Usage.
  4. Check Enable rate limiting and set up the limits—a maximum number of requests allowed for a specific period of time or the referrer URLs and IPs that can access your service, for example, the URL to your organization (for example, ). You can also limit both the rate and the referrer.

    Your referrer URLs and IPs can be fully qualified URLs (, wildcards to include all subdomains (http://*, or the IP address ( You need to specify ports and add both http and https if you want to allow access to both. For sharing services in apps hosted in your organization, you can provide either the URL to your app, or if you plan to have multiple apps that use the service, specify the URL to the organization's app directory instead (for example,

  5. Click OK.
  6. Share the item with others intended to have access to it: everyone (public), your organization, or specific groups you belong to.

Share Esri premium content in your public apps

When you want to share Esri premium content in apps that support anonymous access, for example, a public site locator app that includes the Esri World Route Service, you can follow a similar workflow to sharing your own secure services. Add the Esri service item as a new item to My Content and follow the rest of the steps above. Be sure to share the item with everyone (public).

Be aware that your organization will consume credits for the premium content usage in your public apps.

Layers and services in your organization

You can add the following ArcGIS Server web services to your organization as layer items in My Content. Share the items to make them easier for members of your organization or the public to find and use in client apps.

  • Feature services (map services with feature access enabled)
  • Locator (geocoding) services
  • Geodatabase services
  • Geometry services
  • Geoprocessing services
  • Image services
  • Map services (including map services with WMS enabled)
  • Network analysis services

You can add certain ArcGIS Server web services to Map Viewer on ArcGIS Online. Because they can be used in maps, these services are classified as layers in ArcGIS Online. The following table shows ArcGIS Online layers and their corresponding ArcGIS Server web service types. For an explanation of each layer type, see the sections below the table.

ArcGIS Online layerArcGIS Server web service

Feature layer

Feature service (map service with feature access enabled)

Stream service

Imagery layer

Image service (cached and dynamic)

Elevation layer

Image service (cached, type LERC)

Map image layer

Map service

Scene layer

Scene service


Scene services cannot be published directly to ArcGIS Server; they are hosted layers only.

WFS layer

WFS service (map service with WFS enabled)

WMTS layer

WMTS service (map service with WMTS enabled)

Feature layers

A feature layer is a collection of geographic features. Each feature in the collection has a location, set of properties, map symbology, and pop-up. Feature layers allow you to execute queries on the features and perform live edits on the features using templates for an enhanced editing experience. A feature layer can be managed as a part of your content or referenced in a map or app. The contents of some feature layers can be downloaded.

Streaming features

If you have ArcGIS GeoEvent Server, you can create stream services from ArcGIS GeoEvent Manager. Stream services allow you to connect to data sensors to display real-time, streaming data in your GIS clients.

You can add stream services to your ArcGIS Online content as feature layers and use these real-time data feeds as layers in maps or apps. A feature layer created from an ArcGIS Server stream service makes a persistent connection to the service, and data updates are pushed to the layer as they occur. They are useful for visualizing real-time data feeds that have high volumes of data or that have data that changes at unknown intervals. For example, weather warnings can be issued or updated at any time, and seeing new ones or updates as quickly as possible is important.

Streaming feature layers connect to an ArcGIS Server stream service using HTML5 WebSockets. WebSockets are a new feature of HTML5. Most modern browsers support WebSockets. To get more information about WebSockets and to test if a browser supports WebSockets, visit

Map image, elevation, and imagery layers

Map image, imagery, and elevation layers are prerendered collections of map cartography organized by location and scale. Imagery and map image layers can be displayed dynamically or as cached image tiles. Elevation layers use cached services.

Dynamic layers generate images when requested by the client viewing the layer. As you browse the map, new map images are generated and displayed. Dynamic map layers include map services and image services. Map services are based on vector data, which are typically a combination of points, lines, and polygons of geographic features. One common use of a map service is to show business data on top of a basemap tileset. Image services are based on raster data, which is essentially a grid of cells. Rasters are commonly used to store imagery and other information captured by satellite sensors.

Cached layers are organized collections of image tiles for specific geographic extents, projections, and levels of detail that are pregenerated on a server. Cached map layers include map services and image services. Cached layers support fast visualization of complex maps, since the server distributes the images whenever someone asks for a map. These map layers are created and stored on the server after you upload your data. They are appropriate for basemaps that give your maps geographic context.

Scene layers

Scene layers are cached web layers that are optimized for displaying a large amount of 2D and 3D features and can be viewed in the scene viewer. Scene layers include point layers, 3D object layers, and integrated mesh layers. Scene layers can be shared to ArcGIS Online using a scene layer package generated from ArcGIS Pro or published from a hosted feature layer.