What's the difference between OSM, WMS, WFS and WCS servers?

Surfer supports four different types of servers from which to download data, and each server type provides a different type of data:

  1. WMS servers: These servers provide image files (e.g. TIF), and you can use them as base maps or as grid-files (although there are no real world Z values). It’s just an image. Many of the imagery provided are satellite or aerial photography, but it could also be an image of boundaries or locations. The default WMS servers are in the US Imagery and Worldwide Imagery categories.
  2. OSM servers: Like WMS servers, these servers provide image files and are best used for base maps. Many of the imagery provided are maps including roads, streets, and boundaries. The default OSM servers are in the OpenStreetMaps Imagery category.
  3. WFS servers: These servers provide vector files (e.g. GML), and you can use them to create base maps only. They’ll import points, polylines and polygons. The default WFS servers are in the US Vector Data and Worldwide Vector Data categories.
  4. WCS servers: These servers provide grid data, and you can use them to create any grid-based maps. They’re grid files, and so you can only create grid-based maps from them. The default WCS server is in the Terrain Data category.


WMS server image example:

OSM server image example:

WFS server data example:

WCS server data example:


Updated November 9, 2018

Was this article helpful?
2 out of 2 found this helpful
Have more questions? Submit a request


Please sign in to leave a comment.