Just throwing in my 2 cents here having held the self-created title of Moodle Administrator at the same University for the past 15 years.
Wow what a fun learning curve it has been! Moodle gave me a niche job that I maintain a love-hate relationship with to this day.
I tend to disagree about just pushing newbies to the cloud. Not all cloud solutions mean you don't have to have the knowledge and expertise to be able to optimize your own instance. The sheer amount of Admin settings/options now requires a skill set/knowledge base in web server administration - a skill set you didn't necessarily need to have to run a basic moodle back in the day. With that said, the default settings on a vanilla install are usually good enough for one to get by with without too much trouble.
However, if you do have the budget to purchase a fully supported hosted solution in the cloud then by all means, it probably IS the best option for those that don't have the time nor care to get their hands dirty. Especially if they are looking for 24/7 reliability/service.
These are fabulously opposing viewpoints that I couldn't agree more with:
"For example, a local install, which you do not advocate, I see as a great way for someone to learn how to use Moodle. And it can even get a person into learning Linux."
While it takes a little time to learn linux and get Moodle installed, the benefits are definitely worthwhile.
IF you have time and willingness to learn and work for an organization that understands this.
"Simultaneously with the Moodle administration grasping the client-server architecture and be a junior server administrator, all that together is simply too much for a mere mortal"
OMG. I couldn't agree with this more. However, because I work in an environment that supported the learning curve of open source technology I was able to move beyond mere mortalness and become one with the lamp platform.
I think most challenging for me was the high turnover of web/linux administrators in our organization over the years and the various definitions of what their 'roles' entailed along with a general lack of understanding on the part of management of what it took to administer and support this fabulous new "free" open-source learning environment vs good old commercial-grade 1-800-Call-When-You-Have-A-Problem solutions.
I think Moodle docs really deserve a shout-out. They have come a LONG way in the past 15 years. In the beginning getting help was pretty much a figure-it-on-your-own approach with the ability to chat with Martin in the forums about problems you were having, to having built a pretty damn good repository of easy-to-use documentation and FAQs to get you going.
I often think - if I knew then what I know now. Having a Moodle Application Administrator certificate option would be IDEAL for newbies. I've posted about this in the past. The course creator certificate was fantastic but offering an Admin certificate offers newbies the core knowledge they need before being thrown in with the sharks.
I think this certificate should also include the BASICS for working with and optimizing databases and web server administration.
And possibly even offering a combination Moodle Application/Server Administrator certificate for those of us "junior server admins" who have learned on the fly.
But ideally, the 2 roles should clearly define the differences in skill sets needed to do the job, being Application Admin vs Server Admin and may I add if you have 2 different people in these roles, understanding and communication is KEY. I haven't even factored in DB Admin/optimization yet ...
In the end I think the decision where to host and how to administer depends largely on your organization, how it is set up architecturally and organizationally, what your learners require and what you are willing to put in in terms of time, money and commitment.
Your Friendly Local Canadian Moodle Evangelist ;)