So we’re onto the next stage of our VLE decision making. The last year with Rickypedia has, as I’ve said before, been a pilot project to experiment and learn. Now we are planning a larger and I hope more stable system. The first step was deciding which system to go with. We decided on Moodle for a number of reasons but mostly cost and the fact that none of the other systems we saw impressed us. (Maybe I’ll expand on this in another post though I’m a little bit worried about saying too much after Doug Belshaw’s recent experiences!) The next step which this post is about is whether to host the VLE in the school or out of the school.

I’m quite looking forward to writing a bit of a technical post but I’ll try not to make it too techie. Although the powers that be say that teachers should be teaching and not doing non-teaching tasks, an attitude that I do largely agree with, I do enjoy doing a bit of techie stuff. I’m ever grateful of our network manager and have no desire to do all of the hard work that he does, nor the knowledge to do it. But when it comes to websites and working on the VLE I’ve enjoyed installing it, playing with it and customising it. It has given me a lot of ownership, understanding and pride in the project. But it does take a lot of time and next year I’m looking forward to sharing the load with one of our network assistants/technicians.

Every VLE like any website needs hosting somewhere. In non-techie terms this means that the VLE (which is made up of webpages, resources and a database that links it all together) needs to sit on a computer somewhere so it can be accessed by everyone. This can either be done on a computer in the school, internally hosted, or on a computer outside the school, external hosting. Many VLEs have this option though some will require internal hosting. Our pilot VLE was hosted via siteground who provide cheap hosting on a shared server for about £40 a year. It’s a good place to start and experiment but it’s not a stable solution. The server it sits on at siteground is shared with maybe 50 or more other websites and if you have too many people accessing it at once things can start going wrong. I have read about some people getting locked out of their site and having to pay hundreds of pounds to upgrade before they can get back in. Fortunately we’ve not had these problems yet.

Our meeting to decide what to go with was held during the day a couple of weeks ago. At the meeting we had in attendance the headmaster, deputy head in charge of ICT, ICTAC coordinator, network manager, two network technicians, librarian, bursar and myself. I prepared a document for the discussion looking at the advantages and disadvantages of hosting internally and externally. The table showing this is below. The table wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but was everything I could think of in the hour before the meeting!

Internal

External

Advantage

Disadvantage

Advantage

Disadvantage

Single-Sign on

Security

Easy to set up

Users need to remember an extra set of passwords

Faster connection in school

Rely on school server and internet connection out of school

Likely to have less downtime than on school server.

School use depends on school internet connection

Future scalability

Tied in with 1 solution

Better security as no access to school server

Pupil data stored on a server outside the school

May be harder to administer upgrades/enhancements

Upgrades extra modules can be done for us.

May be additional costs for installing extra features in the future.

Develop in house skills so not reliant on one person

need the skills for maintenance

Maintenance and backups taken care of

Problems solved at the mercy of the hosting company.

Cheaper long term

Probably more expensive short term

Cheaper to set up

Yearly cost

space

Takes no physical space on school premises

The other point that I added was the option of hosting externally to start with and then moving it internally later on. According to advice I was given by some helpful moodle experts this is not difficult as long as you are using the same database (eg if you have mysql databases on both servers then it doesn’t matter if you use Windows/Linux etc). But if this is wrong please do correct me.

Thanks to those who helped me come up with the list, especially all those on Twitter who responded to my questions and Andrew Field who put a post up on effectiveict.co.uk that I still haven’t got round to responding to.

The discussion and meeting was very good. I went in with the preference of hosting internally as I believed this would be easier for staff and students to use. I knew though that there was a good chance we would decide on external hosting. At the meeting we discussed all the possibilities but at the end of the day it came down to two points from our network manager. He already has his whole Summer filled up with the installation of new servers and completely upgrading two computer rooms (as well as many other tasks I’m sure). He also pointed out that our room/cupboard that holds the servers is already at its limit with the amount of equipment that is there and there isn’t really room for a new server or adequate cooling and ventilation facilities. After those points we had no option but to go with external hosting and we will be reviewing this again next year. After all the reasons above the final decision came down to practicalities. I’m not disappointed as it was the correct decision to make and we can now move on to the next steps of choosing who to host for us and how we want to set everything up. We are pretty much starting again from scratch and have a blank slate for our new moodle. There is still a lot of work to do!

3 Responses to “Hosting your VLE – internal hosting vs external hosting”

[…] – long time lurker first time poster Two links that may be useful 1. nstoneit.com E-learning Experiences Blog Archive Hosting your VLE – internal hosting vs external hos… a blog post I wrote describing our school decision making process. 2. A discussion on the same […]

[…] So now we’re moving on and up in the world and are moving to a specialist moodle hoster. If you want to know why we’re not hosting internally see the previous post on hosting internally or externally. […]

I liked read your block, im be back 😉

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