Types of geodatabases

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

  • 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 1TB, but this can be changed to 4 or 256 TB using a configuration keyword
  • Enterprise geodatabases — Also known as multiuser geodatabases, they can be virtually unlimited in size and numbers of users (The limits differ depending on the DBMS vendor). They are stored in a relational database such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, PostgreSQL, or SAP HANA.

Comparing types of geodatabases

Key characteristicsEnterprise 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 held in a file system folder.

Number of users

Multiuser: many readers and many writers

Single editor and can support multiple readers.

Storage format

  • Oracle
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • IBM DB2
  • PostgreSQL

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

By default, each dataset can grow to one 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

Fully supported across all DBMSs


SAP HANA geodatabases do not support the traditional versioning type.

Does not support versioning workflows


The DBMS are supported on multiple operating systems. Consult the system requirements for the full list.


Security and permissions

Managed by the DBMS.

Managed by 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 at the same time provided they are editing in different feature datasets, stand-alone feature classes, or tables.

The file geodatabase type goals are to do the following:

  • Provide a widely available, simple, and scalable geodatabase solution for all users.
  • Provide a portable geodatabase that works across operating systems.
  • Scale up to handle very large datasets.
  • Provide excellent performance and scalability, for example, to support individual datasets containing well over 300 million features and datasets that starts at 1 TB and can scale to 4 and 256 TB per file with very fast performance.
  • Use 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 reduce storage requirements even further.
  • Outperform shapefiles for operations involving attributes and scale the data size limits way 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. Plus, it is portable across operating systems.

Users can employ multiple file geodatabases for their data collections and access these simultaneously for their GIS work.

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 (IBM DB2, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SAP HANA, and SQL Server). 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 DBMSs (Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, DB2, and SAP HANA)
  • High performance that can scale to a very large number of users

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