How to choose a… Moodle Hosting Provider

March 23, 2016

If you want to choose the best Moodle hosting provider for your needs, you need to make sure you do your homework. In the second of a series of guides to finding the right Moodle services for you, we’re taking a look at hosting.

Choosing the right hosting company may be way down on your list of considerations – but get it wrong and it’s far harder to move to another provider than, say, changing your theme design.

Here are the five things to consider when choosing your Moodle hosting provider. Ask these five questions of any potential provider – and you’ll get a much better idea of whether what they can offer you is actually fit for purpose.

Are they a dedicated Moodle hosting provider?

A hosting provider dedicated to Moodle should always be a priority, because that way the environment in which your Moodle will live will actually be configured to your specific requirements.

If your provider hosts other systems on the same infrastructure, you could find that your Moodle is competing for things like video streaming and large image repositories – in fact, anything that could seriously drain your platform of its speed.

Take away: Ask your potential Moodle hosting provider if their servers are Moodle-only. If not, and you still want to consider them, make sure they can guarantee your platform will only share server space with other Moodle systems.

What is the capacity of the server(s)?

You may find some Moodle hosting providers are great value for money. However, there could be a rather large catch that, without checking, could leave you with a system that’s annoyingly slow at best – and unusable for your students at worst.

The capacity you’ll need from a hosting provider depends on how many users you’re likely to have at any one time – the smaller the capacity, the slower your Moodle will run when multiple users are logged in and using the system.

Take away: Check with your potential Moodle hosting provider how many concurrent users it will allow. Think about how many students and staff (and, possibly, parents) may be using your system at any one time. It’s always best to over-estimate – used to its full potential, your Moodle system will surely only get busier!

Will my Moodle run on LAMP infrastructure?

Your Moodle system will always run best on Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP – otherwise known as LAMP infrastructure.

Not only should it be high on your list of requirements, but having your Moodle run on LAMP infrastructure will give you a much better experience. Particularly, if the hosting provider will update correct versions of LAMP, to meet the needs of any future software updates.

Take away: Ask the potential hosting provider to detail the infrastructure your Moodle will run on, making it clear to them that LAMP infrastructure is essential. It is also worth asking if MySQL and PHP can be configured to the requirements of the version of Moodle that you will be running. Again, that way, your platform’s performance will be better.

Where will my Moodledata folder be located?

The Moodledata folder is where files are uploaded or created by the Moodle interface. It is strongly recommended that this is located outside of the public folder, rather than in it – this will avoid any problems if your system ever migrates to another server.

Take away: Ask your potential Moodle hosting provider where the Moodledata folder will be located. If it is not going to be outside of the public folder, ask them why.

Is there adequate Moodle security and support if things go wrong?

Last, but certainly not least, is the question of security – will your Moodle be safe? What is in place should a server fail?

Any Moodle hosting provider should be able to provide you with details of their service level agreement – i.e. how quickly they can guarantee they will respond to and fix any interruptions to your service. In emergencies, you must be able to contact your hosting provider 24/7 – for example if there are any issues with accessing your Moodle or any of its features. They should be able to solve the problem within a reasonable time frame.

Take away: Check that passwords will be encrypted. Ask if you will have a secure connection between you and your files on their server. Ask them for details of their SLA, and check the small print for security and down-time.

Check all the above key points we’ve mentioned – and you are on your way to finding a Moodle hosting provider that will help you get the most out of your Moodle system.

If you have any questions, or need any technical advice about hosting, get in touch with the Titus Learning team.

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