Where do you start with hosting Moodle?
Moodle is clearly the largest Virtual Learning Environment currently due to its ease of access, potentially low cost and the fact that it is relatively easy to use. I say potentially low cost as it is open source and therefore costs ‘nothing’ to use, but the cost comes from the technical expertise required to run and customise it, and you have to pay for a server to run it on. It is possible to do this with little of this experience ‘out of the box’, but that can lead to problems later on.
To start with Moodle you have 5 common options
- You can try http://www.mdl2.com/ to start with. Free sign up and unlimited students and courses on this ad supported system. It costs 120 euros a year to remove the ads.
- Any host that offers a service like Fantastico or Softaculous to install Open Source systems from a simple click. They also often come with cpanel which allows for comprehensive server management. These hosts can be quite affordable on a shared server, realistic from $100 a year.
- Any standard host with PHP and MYSQL can be used and your preferred version of Moodle can be ftpd to the site. Again this is realistic from $100 a year for a shared server.
- You can try Bitnami which uses the Amazon Web Service platform. This is effectively a one-click-install system but on a completely flexible server that can grow with your needs. Also, you only pay for the capacity you are using.
NB: You can get a small Virtual Machine for free for one year, but the cheapest it is after this is $15 a month (info from moodlenews.com)
- Use a Moodle partner for a full service package with guaranteed uptime and support. This is more expensive, but obviously much more reliable for essential services. In the UK this can cost from £850 (http://www.howtomoodle.com-/moodle-hosting)
Important considerations when running Moodle
- These days with Moodle 2+ if you don’t want to mess around with Moodle config files and ftp, you will need to set up a Drop box or other repository if you want to upload large files
- To set up statistical logging or automatic course backups you will need to set up a scheduled ‘cron’ job. Your server may not have this (CPanel servers often do have it though), and you will need to use a third-party service to do this.
- CPanel allows you to manually backup your database, and you can manually backup courses in Moodle if you don’t have a cron job. By default Bitnami has scheduled backups of the entire system and these can easily be set up to run daily.
- You can download course backups as special zip files, and if need be they can be restored onto other Moodle sites.
- These days some Moodle themes allow easy customisation of basic features such as logos and colour schemes through the admin panel. You can also easily add Google analytics or similar code on every page.