Data Storage

The geodatabase supports all the different elements of GIS data that can be used by ArcGIS. By storing data within a geodatabase, you can take advantage of its data management capabilities to leverage spatial information. ArcGIS has a comprehensive suite of data conversion tools to easily migrate existing data into the geodatabase.

The geodatabase is a more robust and extendable data model compared to shapefiles and coverages. It is designed to make full use of the capabilities of ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS for Server.

Read an ArcNews article to find out more about data storage in the geodatabase.

GIS Data in a Geodatabase

The geodatabase supports all the different elements of GIS data used by ArcGIS. The structural elements of a geodatabase, listed below, are some of the elements used to develop a rich GIS, such as

  • Attribute data
  • Geographic features
  • Satellite and aerial images (raster data)
  • CAD data
  • Surface modelling or 3D data
  • Utility and transportation systems
  • GPS coordinates
  • Survey measurements

Geodatabases can represent these types of data as the following data objects:


icon representing annotationA specialized feature class that stores text or graphics that provide information about features or general areas of a map. An annotation feature class may be linked to another feature class so that edits to the features are reflected in the corresponding annotation (i.e., feature-linked annotation).


icon representing DimensionA special type of geodatabase annotation that shows specific lengths or distances on a map. A dimension feature may indicate the length of a side of a building or land parcel, or it may indicate the distance between two features such as a fire hydrant and the corner of a building.

Feature Class

icon representing Feature ClassA collection of geographic features with the same geometry type (i.e., point, line, or polygon), the same attributes, and the same spatial reference. Feature classes allow homogeneous features to be grouped into a single unit for data storage purposes, for example, highways, primary roads, and secondary roads can be grouped into a line feature class named "roads." Feature classes can also store annotation and dimensions.

Feature Dataset

icon representing Feature DatasetA collection of feature classes stored together that share the same spatial reference. Feature classes in a feature dataset share a coordinate system, and their features fall within a common geographic area. Feature datasets are used to help model spatial relationships between feature classes.

Geometric Network

icon representing Geometric NetworkEdge and junction features that represent a directed-flow system network, such as a utility or hydrologic system, in which the connectivity of features is based on their geometric coincidence. A geometric network does not contain information about the connectivity of features; this information is stored within a logical network. Geometric networks are typically used to model directed-flow systems.


icon representing LocatorA dataset that manages address information for features to enable geocoding, which is a process to transform addresses to a geographic location to display on a map.

Mosaic Dataset

icon representing Mosaic DatasetA new data model within the geodatabase that enables collections of images and rasters to be stored as a catalogue with the option to associate metadata, dynamic mosiacking, and on-the-fly image processing. It is accessible as a raster dataset (with all required processing done on the fly) or as a catalogue of footprints and metadata.

Network Dataset

icon representing Network DatasetA collection of topologically connected network elements (e.g., edges, junctions, and turns) that are derived from network sources, typically used to represent an undirected-flow system network such as a road or subway system. Each network element is associated with a collection of network attributes. Network datasets are typically used to model undirected-flow systems.

Parcel Fabric

icon representing Parcel FabricA dataset for the storage, maintenance, and editing of parcels. It is a continuous surface of connected polygon features, line features, and point features. Parcel Fabric replaces the Cadastral Fabric and Survey Dataset.

Raster Catalog

icon representing Raster CatalogA collection of raster datasets defined in a table of any format, in which the records define the individual raster datasets that are included in the catalogue. Raster catalogues can be used to display adjacent or overlapping raster datasets without having to mosaic them together in one large file.

Raster Dataset

icon representing Raster DatabaseAny valid raster format organized into one or more bands. Each band consists of an array of pixels (cells), and each pixel has a value (e.g., a Landsat satellite image). Raster datasets can be stored in many formats, including TIFF, ERDAS Imagine, Esri Grid, and MrSID.

Relationship Class

icon representing Relationship ClassA class similar to relationships that exist within an RDBMS. Relationship classes manage the associations between objects in one class (e.g., table or feature class) and objects in another. Objects at either end of the relationship can be features with geometry or records in a table.

Schematic Dataset

icon representing Schematic DatasetA dataset used for graphically representing network connectivity. It also represents sets of relationships.


icon representing TableA set of data elements arranged in rows and columns. Each row represents a single record. Each column represents a field of the record. Rows and columns intersect to form cells, which contain a specific value for one field in a record. Tables typically store stand-alone attribute information or information associated with a spatial location such as addresses.


icon representing TerrainA triangulated irregular network (TIN)-based dataset that uses feature classes as data sources to model multiple resolution surfaces using z-values.


icon representing ToolboxA collection of dataflow and workflow processes. These are used for performing data management, analysis, and modelling.


icon representing TopologyThe arrangement that constrains how point, line, and polygon features share geometry within a geodatabase. For example, street centerlines and census blocks share geometry, and adjacent soil polygons share geometry. Topology defines and enforces data integrity rules, topological relationship queries and navigation, and sophisticated editing tools. It also allows feature construction from unstructured geometry.

geodatabases store diverse data types