If you are looking for the best Moodle hosting services for your needs, this advice covers technical requirements, security considerations, low cost companies for easy, 1-click install, and providers of specialist support.
In order to understand the intricacies of Moodle hosting, a brief understanding of what Moodle actually is will help significantly. At its basic level, Moodle is an online learning platform. It’s designed to provide personalised learning environments, and in order to do so, it creates a single, secure, integrated system for educators, administrators and learners.
In the USA and several other countries, this type of software is often referred to as a learning management system or LMS. In the UK and some other countries, the term VLE (virtual learning environment) in an educational setting, while other sector tend to use LMS.
Also sometimes referred to as a course management system (CMS), Moodle is establishing a global presence, and is used by small institutions all over the world, as well as large, well-known organisations such as Shell, Microsoft, and the London School of Economics, among others. Moodle achieves its success through a simple, easy to use interface, as well as its status as free, Open Source software.
Moodle software is extremely flexible, customisable, and secure. It is a modular system based on plugins that can be put together however you like. Moodle can be used on all kinds of devices, from anywhere in the world. It is also backed by a strong international community, a team of full time, dedicated developers, plus a network of Moodle Partners – companies endorsed by the creators of Moodle as having demonstrated the skill and experience to manage the platform (including its hosting) for a range of clients and needs.
Unless you have a great deal of technical expertise when it comes to managing both hosting and security processes, then it may be wise to engage the services of a Moodle Partner – especially if you are managing a learning platform for young students, large numbers of learners or an environment where personal / sensitive information is stored.
Notable Partners who can advise on and / or provide on-site or cloud based Moodle hosting solutions include:
Titus Learning – for UK, mainland Europe and Asia, but with clients across the globe.
HumanLogic – highly experienced in providing Moodle services for the Middle East / Arabic-speaking countries.
eLearning Experts – based in Vancouver, so a good choice for the USA or Canada.
If you’re looking to set up and manage Moodle hosting yourself however, here are some technical specifications…
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MOODLE HOSTING
In terms of the requirements that you’ll need in order to accommodate Moodle hosting, there are a few things to keep in mind. Staying ahead of the game technically will always make things easier in the long run.
Moodle is primarily developed within Linux, using Apache, PostgreSQL/MySQL/MariaDB and PHP, which is sometimes known as the LAMP platform. It’s usually run this way, too, but there are other options, as long as the specific software requirements of the release are met. Installing in a Windows server, for example, will require the installation of Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2012.
There are a number of specific hardware requirements for the installation of Moodle. The code itself will require 200MB of disk space, as well as, of course, space to store content. Normally, 5GB is a realistic minimum for storage. A minimum processor of 1GHz is required, but more is better, naturally. In terms of memory, 512MB is the minimum, but again, more is better. Over 1GB is definitely recommended.
Setting up your server for Moodle hosting is also critical. Depending on the specific case, a Moodle server can be anything from a desktop PC, such as for testing or evaluating, to a rackmounted or clustered solution. No matter what your deployment choices are, however, it’s going to make a huge difference to understand how to properly configure the different parts of your software stack – HTTP daemon, database, PHP, and so on. As one example, you need to ensure that the HTTP daemon is set up to support slash arguments.
If you’re using a hosting provider, you need to make sure that all of Moodle’s requirements, including the PHP version, are met by the hosting platform. If you can learn how to change the settings within the hosting provider’s platform, it will be a significant benefit to you as the options and tools provided can vary a fair bit between hosting providers.
Above all, when you’re downloading the Moodle code, it’s highly recommended that you obtain it from moodle.org. Even though there are a number of other places where you can access the code now, support will be a lot easier to obtain if you download directly from that source.
SECURITY ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER WITH MOODLE HOSTING
When you’re installing Moodle, as with anything else, you’re going to want to keep security at the top of your mind. Ensuring that the appropriate security measures are in place from the beginning will ensure that things go properly throughout the process and will prevent problems down the road.
Of course, there are some simple security measures that can be your first steps. A good backup, for example, is obvious and effective. Make sure that you’ve got the best restoration procedures in place, and that they actually work. Also, simplify things by making sure you only load software or services that you’re actually going to use. Always perform regular updates, and think about security in terms of layers. Your security should mirror the way you’d dress for a day out on the ski hill – several thin layers will work a lot better than one big, heavy coat.
When it comes to Moodle, there are a few specific recommendations that will be a huge help for your security as well. Keep Moodle updated with every release, ensure that you’re using strong passwords for both administrators and teachers, make sure you trust the users that you give teacher accounts to, and keep your systems separate as much as possible.
Moodle allows you to set up a specific password policy that can help with your overall security. You can decide if you want to enforce password complexity or not, if you want to set a minimum password length, a number of numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, non-alphanumeric characters, or any other combination thereof. Passwords are more complicated and secure than ever, and Moodle gives you the flexibility to make your own rules.
Also, never forget firewalls. Of course, these aren’t guarantees of protection, but they’re certainly not going to hurt. People who work in the security field know how important a dual firewall can be. A neat trick is also to disable unused services, which can be almost as effective as an actual firewall. Also, make sure that you allow ports: 80 and 443 for SSL, and 9111 for chats. The remote administrator ports are ssh 22, or rdp 3389.
Moodle provides you the opportunity to register with their moodle.org site, which means that you can receive e-mail security alerts, ensuring that you stay on top of the latest happenings and events in the security world.
LEADING MOODLE HOSTING PROVIDERS
If you are looking to install, develop and manage Moodle yourself, then you may want the simplicity of 1-Click Install of Moodle, which may help minimise the chance of error when configuring your server and set up.
If you are based in the United Kingdom and want or need UK-based servers, then the Moodle Hosting from Squirrel has a number of packages for different levels of size, traffic and user base, which look like good value.
For those based in the USA and Canada, or even worldwide, Bluehost is one of our favourite web hosting companies, as in addition to great value hosting, they offer the best in 24/7 customer service, with highly knowledgeable staff. They have technical support based in North America, with English as their first language – which I often find leads to quicker and better communication.
Companies or education providers with mission critical learning platforms that need to be developed quickly, effectively and for a large user base may want to engage the services of an official Moodle Partner.
Moodle has a growing network of Certified Services Providers all over the world. Wherever you’re based, there are nearby partners that will serve your area and have the expertise to handle some or all of your Moodle LMS requirements.
For the UK, mainland Europe and Asia, leading Moodle providers include Titus Learning (they are Certified Partners for the UK and Hong Kong). For the United States and Canada, there are several Moodle Partners who are well-placed to offer support for these timezones, including eLearning Experts.
The Moodle website offers a comprehensive list of their Moodle Partners in every country where partners are located. As a growing platform, the number of partners is anticipated to continue to expand, making it easier and easier to use Moodle.