GIS and Google Maps are very diferent from each other.
What is the difference between Google maps and GIS? On the surface the two look similar; they both display maps that you can attach multiple layers to and you can do some minor editing with them. There are however some big differences between the two platforms. Basically Google maps provides a convenient way to display maps on a website, while GIS provides a way to combine map layers and analyze them in great detail allowing you to create new maps.
Comparing the two is sort of like comparing Windows generic paint program with Photoshop. They both can display pictures and do minor editing, but you can do a lot more with Photoshop then you can do with Paint. In a similar fashion, Geographical Information Systems has features and abilities that don’t come standard with Google maps free edition and would need to use the pro version to get these features if they are available at all.
With GIS you can analyze the relationship of things and places in the world and display the results on a map. Basically it is using computers to analyze questions about geography and displaying the results in the form of a map. For example, if you are taking a trip, both platforms can show you the shortest route to take and display where gas stations and restaurants are located on the map. However with Geographical Information Systems you can analyze the elevation angles of the roads, curves, and the number of stop signs to figure out which route will save the most fuel.
Google maps let you display maps that are mainly in KML format, while you GIS provides added functionality by allowing the user to add information from a variety of sources such as databases, shapefiles, raster images, WMS, WFS and of course KML files.
Another big difference between the two is that Google Earth is less efficient with large amounts of data and tends to slow down when you try to display lots of information at once. The amount of data that you can display at once with Geographical Information Systems is a lot larger and is generally faster because it is designed to process lots of data at a time. It would be almost impossible to display and analyze large volumes of data without the power and efficiency that GIS provides.
Let’s not forget about the price tag for the software. Google Earth is free to use with limited functionality as long as you don’t try to make money with it. However if you intend to use it for commercial reasons, or you need to use some of the more advanced features then you will need to get Google Earth Pro. That will set you back $400.00 per year to get the license. On the other hand, there are a lot open source software options available for Geographical Information Systems that you can use for free.
These are just some of the main differences between the two platforms. Basically Google maps is great for basic map viewing and doing some simple tasks, but if you want to dig down and do some advanced research you should use Geographical Information Systems with its more advanced analysis capabilities.