Types of geodatabases

A geodatabase is a container used to hold a collection of datasets. There are different types of geodatabases:

  • File geodatabases—A file geodatabase is stored as multiple files in a folder. Each dataset is contained in a single file. By default, files can grow to 1 TB, but this can be changed to 4 or 256 TB using a configuration keyword.
  • Mobile geodatabases—A mobile geodatabase is an implementation of the geodatabase using an SQLite database and is stored as a single file in a folder.
  • Enterprise geodatabases—Also known as multiuser geodatabases, enterprise geodatabases are stored in relational databases. They can be virtually unlimited in size and number of users; the limits differ depending on the database management system (DBMS) vendor.

Comparing types of geodatabases

Key characteristicsEnterprise geodatabaseMobile geodatabaseFile geodatabase


A collection of various types of GIS datasets held as tables in a relational database.

A collection of various types of GIS datasets contained within a relational database.

A collection of various types of GIS datasets held in a file system folder.

Number of users

Multiuser: many readers and many writers.

Single editor and can support multiple readers.

Single editor and can support multiple readers.

Storage format

  • Oracle
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • IBM Db2
  • PostgreSQL

All the datasets that belong to one mobile geodatabase are contained in an SQLite database that is stored in a single file.

Each dataset is a separate file on disk. All the datasets that belong to one geodatabase are contained in a single folder.

Size limits

Size is controlled by the DBMS.

The size limit for a mobile geodatabase is 2 TB.

By default, each dataset can grow to 1 TB. The 1 TB limit can be raised to 4 or 256 TB for extremely large image datasets. Each feature class can scale up to hundreds of millions of vector features per dataset.

Versioning support

Supported across all database management systems.


Geodatabases in SAP HANA do not support the traditional versioning type.

Does not support versioning workflows.

Does not support versioning workflows.


Operating system support depends on the DBMS you use. Most support multiple operating systems. Consult the documentation for your DBMS for the full list.



Security and permissions

Managed through the DBMS.

Managed through the operating system.

Managed through the operating system.

A comparison of the types of geodatabases

File geodatabases

File geodatabases are freely available to all users of ArcGIS Pro and are designed to support the full information model of the geodatabase, which comprises network datasets, terrain datasets, relationship classes, and so on. File geodatabases are designed to be edited by a single user and do not support geodatabase versioning. With a file geodatabase, it is possible to have more than one editor editing at the same time provided they are editing in different feature datasets, stand-alone feature classes, or tables.

The file geodatabase provides the following:

  • A widely available, simple, and scalable geodatabase solution for all users.
  • A portable geodatabase that works across operating systems.
  • Scales up to handle large datasets.
  • High performance and scalability, for example, to support individual datasets containing more than 300 million features and datasets that can scale up to 1 TB, and if needed, can further scale up to 4 and 256 TB per file.
  • Uses an efficient data structure that is optimized for performance and storage. File geodatabases use about one-third of the feature geometry storage required by shapefiles and personal geodatabases. File geodatabases also allow users to compress vector data to a read-only format to further reduce storage requirements.
  • Outperforms shapefiles for operations involving attributes and scales the data size limits beyond shapefile limits.

The file geodatabase is ideal for GIS projects, personal use, and in small organizations. It has strong performance and scales well to hold extremely large data volumes without requiring the use of a DBMS. Additionally, it is portable across operating systems.

You can employ multiple file geodatabases for your data collections and access these simultaneously for your GIS work.

Mobile geodatabases

Mobile geodatabases are automatically available to all users of ArcGIS Pro and expose the geodatabase functionality required to work with simple data using domains, subtypes, and relationship classes. Functionality available within a mobile geodatabase includes contingent values, relationship classes, editor tracking and use of attachments. Mobile geodatabases are designed to be edited by a single user and do not support geodatabase versioning.

The mobile geodatabase provides the following:

  • A widely available and simple geodatabase solution for all users.
  • Ability to create, display, and query GIS data.
  • Ability to edit simple data such as point, multipoint, line geometries, polygons, and true curves.
  • A portable geodatabase that works across operating systems.
  • Uses an efficient data structure that is optimized for performance and reduced cost, complexity, and administration.

A mobile geodatabase (.geodatabase) is built on top of SQLite. SQLite is a self-contained database file format that stores the entire database in a single file on disk. This single file can hold up to 2 TB of data, is easily portable, is supported across platforms, and can be emailed or written to a USB device to facilitate a more efficient data exchange.

Further, you can use SQL in third-party software to access the contents of a mobile geodatabase. Accessing the data in a mobile geodatabase via SQL does not require a license because the underlying software—SQLite—does not require a software license. To learn more, see Mobile geodatabases or Create a mobile geodatabase to get started.

Enterprise geodatabases

When you need a large, multiuser geodatabase that can be edited and used simultaneously by many users, the enterprise geodatabase provides a good solution. It adds the ability to manage a shared, multiuser geodatabase as well as support for a number of critical version-based GIS workflows. The ability to leverage your organization's enterprise relational databases is a key advantage of the enterprise geodatabase.

Enterprise geodatabases work with a variety of DBMS storage models (see the Comparing geodatabase types table). They take full advantage of underlying DBMS architectures to support the following:

  • Extremely large, continuous GIS datasets
  • Many simultaneous users
  • Long transactions and versioned workflows
  • Relational database support for GIS data management, providing the benefits of a relational database for scalability, reliability, security, backup, and data integrity
  • Native SQL spatial types for all supported database management systems
  • High performance that can scale to accommodate a large number of users

For information about the enterprise geodatabase architecture and how enterprise geodatabases leverage relational database technology, see Architecture of the geodatabase.

Workgroup geodatabases

The workgroup geodatabase is a variant of enterprise geodatabase that uses SQL Server Express and is designed for small teams. ArcGIS Pro is able to connect to workgroup geodatabases in order to create and edit datasets similarly to how enterprise geodatabases are used. For information about how to connect to a workgroup geodatabase from ArcGIS Pro, see this technical article.

There are some limitations to working with workgroup geodatabases from ArcGIS Pro:

  • A workgroup geodatabase can only be created and fully managed using ArcGIS Desktop.
  • Branch versioning and datasets that rely on it for version management in web feature services are not supported in workgroup geodatabases. Datasets that require branch versioning in a web feature service include utility networks, trace networks, parcel fabrics, data with batch calculation or validation attribute rules, and topologies when you publish them as part of a web feature layer. To use branch versioning and version management in feature services, you must use an enterprise geodatabase instead. Learn more about sharing data as a feature service with the Version Management capability.