I work for a school district and we are going to bring Moodle into it. The amount of teachers in the next few years that will be using it will be about 250 (75 teachers will use it the first year at most).
I am looking for hosting options to buy a bit of server space to install Moodle on it. I have found a few options (including the Moodle Partners) but the problem with these "Moodle Host Servers" are that, I along with a few others want to install it ourselves, maintain it ourselves, change the web design ourselves. We don't need these web hosts to do this for us! All we want is some server space with the proper applications (PHP, MySQL), space and bandwidth. A lot of the ones I have looked at that are strictly for the use of Moodle are very expensive because they do everything for you - well we don't need that!
I have looked at "regular" hosting companies that are not strictly for Moodle (LunarPages.com for instance) and they give more space, bandwidth, the things Moodle needs to run for much much cheaper! (ie. if a person were to just buy space to put a website up).
I have searched all around to find what we need. Can ANYONE please point me in the right direction, give me feedback, options, problems? Like I said before, I have looked at Web Hosts that specifically are made for Moodle but honestly, we don't need that because we don't need them to help that much, for that much money!
To make a long story short we just want a web host to give us some space to install Moodle ourselves and take care of it ourselves - please any comments
oh yeah, Moodle rocks!
EDIT: Another thing I forgot to ask about is the option of purchasing an actual physical server instead of going offsite with one? Thank you.
We are using a dedicated server that we rent from theplanet.com. They have a first rate service with plenty of disk space, bandwidth and memory... Very satisfied till now
Glad you like Moodle, it is a wonderful tool. I think you are right to do a lot of research first.
Moodle Partners are more expensive, but they usually have very extensive server-farm infrastructures that support high availability, staff for support and if memory serves me right they dedicate a portion (10% or so???) to Moodle.com for professional Moodle development and programming. So you are paying for all that good stuff if you use them and that why all hosts cost some .
Also, beware! Many sites that now say you get a "dedicated" server now mean you get a "virtual" server. NOT the same thing... I called one of these hosting companies the other day (the one with Famous super bowl commercial a few years back....) and found out that the virtual dedicated Moodle server I would get from them ONLY had 256MB of RAM. I don't know virtual servers well, but that skimpy RAM made me worry what performance Moodle would have, so ask questions....)
So if you decide hosting is too expensive and many schools don't have that hosting budget or want to keep their data in-house (or as close to home) as possible or with people they know. That's certainly understandable too... If you decide against hosting, here are some more things to consider before you pick host/inhouse/other Moodle solution
1. First: What server OS does your team have experience with?...this is important, I don't want to start WWIII here but Moodle has Linux OS options and windows OS options. Most (not all) larger sites and universities are linux/Apache and MySQL because it costs less, is open, gets bug fixes faster, and if setup properly is incredibly STABLE and performs-scales well. (we had a Debian/Apache/MySQL server that ran multiple Moodles for 3.5 Years w/o an OS system crash) We have also run Moodle on Windows 2003 with Apache and IIS, PHP and MySQL. Windows is a very "picky" environment and has not been fun for us... Hint: We have since learned that the exact VERSIONS of PHP and Apache you pick are critical to Win/Moodle-success. Now if you MUST (or choose to) be a windows Moodle shop then I suggest Windows 2003 and IIS6 with PHP as FastCGI or if want Apache on Windows be EXTREMELY careful to put combos of PHP/Apache together that OTHER successful sites use (One I saw is Apache v 2.2.4 and PHP 5.2.0 or 5.2.1 other combos can be found if you search hard in forums with keywords Apache and PHP) Pick carefully here you will have to live with your choices, bad combos of Apache/PHP can mean a memory leak issue that will drive you nuts!
2. Whats your server budget if buy/use your own?: this is critical if you plan to scale fast, (e.g. 5 users is a "pilot" and maybe or maybe NOT critical for uptime. 20 to 75 staff on means 1000's of hours of staff time invested in Moodle and is NOT a pilot). You need a real server... 4GB RAM Fast 2.GHz dual core CPU, Fastest speed Hard drives you can afford (with at least Mirrored RAID) and hopefully redundant power/NIC cards, etc. that's gonna cost some bucks. however there are some nice smaller name companies now that sell server grade systems with Linux for prices equal to Dell, HP, etc. On a real lean budget you can recycle decent, older servers. Caveats here... these tend to run Windows well but Linux support can be very shaky... Case in Point older Dell PowerEdge servers have great hardware specs for Moodle servers, but if you try to run Ubuntu Linux on them you find horrible problems with Ubuntu and the critical RAID controller cards (No RAID support now, and NONE planned in future says DELL as of last week) So Dell PowerEdge means Windows, or Linux like Susie or RedHat FROM Dell.
3. whats your bandwidth if you locate server inside school? It costs to co-locate your server with a hoster because they charge for bandwidth. So if you don't Host, you provide the bandwidth. If your moodle use takes off it can definitely impact your bandwidth especially if you expect use during busy schools days. We are now seeing teachers TEACH with Moodle if they have digital projectors in class, so you may see spikes in your need for OUTSIDE bandwidth, as well as increases in internal. this is a real two edged sword... Locate Moodle outside may help parents, community, student at home in the evening, but during the busy school day, if you have slow-downs from inside district to outside, then of course any teachers using Moodle in classes will only make the slowdowns worse... look this area over carefully.
So hope some of our experience (Moodle in about 40+ schools) helps you make at least a better informed choice. It can be done, and you will find an affordable solution!!! don't give up!!
Have you *asked* one of your local Moodle Partners about your requirements. Most advertise fully supported hosting, but it doesn't mean that they won't provide you with a deal to do it all yourselves.
They will still have access (and experience of) the most suitable hosting arrangement and will be there for you if does all go horribly wrong.
Does anyone have any knowledge or experience with compromising a deal with a Moodle Partner? Thanks!
Something else to look into would be hosting it with your ISP. A few internet service providers may allow you to host Moodle with them either with your own server or piggyback on one of theirs. I have good relations with Bulleri Networks and they seem to always be willing to help out. At one time they told me they would host Moodle for me in their building. I could use one of their servers or I could purchase a server myself and keep in it their building. The upside to using their server is they are responsible for the updates and hardware and the upside to using your own server is that you can have full control of the server.
If you ISP allows you to host from their site then this can help to save on your school’s bandwidth by keeping outside internet traffic off your schools bandwidth. Instead of parents and students at home using up your bandwidth at the school the can connect to Moodle through the ISP’s bandwidth leaving your school alone. However if your teachers or students access Moodle from school they will have to access it through the internet which may not be as fast as if your were hosting it within your local LAN.
Matt makes an excellent point about bandwidth advantages of hosting off-campus.
You could lease a dedicated server yourself or, depending on your projected usage, get a high quality VPS with a quality provider and then pay a consultant to be "on call" if you run into problems. Moodle partners "may" be willing to help you with this, but if not you may find others willing to help if you provided contact informaiton. I've had dedicated servers with Liquidweb for three yeas now and if I've had any downtime I'm not aware of it.
A dedicated server is all yours. A VPS is still shared with other users.
Most cheap hosting providers (the $10 a month type) will put hundreds and sometimes thousands of accounts on a single server and then kick anyone off who uses too much of the server resources...that's one end of the spectrum.
The other end of the spectrum is having a dedicated server where you have complete control of the server and are the only user. All the processing power, bandwidth, storage space, etc. is yours.
In the middle is the VPS. It's like a dedicated server because you can install and/or upgrade your version of server software (like php and mysql), which you typically can't do on a shared account and you are generally guaranteed a certain amount of the server resources...processing power. It's like a shared account since there are others on the server, but not hundreds. Whereas, a cheap shared server may have 900 accounts hosted on it...same server being used as a VPS may have 10--20.
Bottom line...if you have the money, go dedicated.
Good question on internal Moodle server, to get a good answer you need to look at two common types of Bandwidth. i.e. you have a local area network (LAN) for you school and maybe a WAN (wide area network) for your whole district that goes between schools and of course "out" to the Internet.
These connections are usually VERY different due to expense and what is connecting what. So inside your school LAN it might be very common to have 10MBPS, 1000MBPS, or even higher bandwidth because you use fiber or v. high speed cable/wireless networks. But if your district connects schools many miles apart or links to the "outside" world you may be purchasing expensive, annual T1 connection(s) type phone or cable connections. Due to annual price these are often much smaller in bandwidth 2,3,6 or 10MBPS. The key is to know your SMALLEST pipe for bandwidth as it will be the future limiting factor.
The next questions to ask are who needs to get to access Moodle Now and in the near future and what activities will Moodle be used for?
You may start using Moodle inside your LAN, but to be honest the real power of Moodle is when student/parents/community start using it from HOME and from SCHOOL. If this is the case (hopefully... ) then Moodle use WILL impact your outside Internet access pipes.
Inside your school, if you have 100MBPS you may not see much impact from Moodle (depending on how much it is used during school...) If however you see a large spike (from "outside" of school LAN) you will need to remember that this type of use, (if going INTO your school LAN/WAN) will use the more limited type of bandwidth.
The good news for most schools is that during the day teachers can use Moodle INSIDE school using your high bandwidth LAN, and if parents/students start using Moodle AFTER school (in evening say) your smaller Internet pipes will be used when they are least busy (all your staff/kids are gone).
A Caveat: What files you have Moodle serve to staff/kids is also critical, if you use well designed PDF's, Images, Text, etc. that is "web ready" (e.g. small in file size) your Moodle bandwidth will be quite small. If however, you decide to include mulitmedia, and images, documents that are NOT web optimized (e.g. BIG files) you will have a much greater impact on whatever pipes you use.
Bottom line: Find your slowest link (usually your connection to "outside") if it is small or you already notice slow-downs during peak use then Moodle will take more of this limited bandwidth. For districts that have very limited connectivity to outside, putting your Moodle server outside the district (typical hosting) is great for Home users during day/night, BUT... if your teachers start to teach with Moodle (very common these days) then during the day staff/students will need to compete for limited outside bandwidth to "reach" Moodle to teach with during day. No simple solution, but these are issues we see most common with K-12 schools.
A good place to start is to discuss how you want to use Moodle first. the simplest, cheapest, least bandwidth intensive way to use Moodle that helps the most people, is to use Moodle as a 24/7 homework/assignment support center. Parents/kids like it, teachers do the least amount of work and can make a huge positive impact on student achievement. If this is your first Moodle strategy you can probably safely put Moodle almost anywhere.
The teachers who will be using Moodle all have projectors. I am a part of a TICT program where teachers get equipment and in return are trained on it. Our purpose is to integrate technology into the classroom.
Teacher uses during the day will be to pull up Moodle, using their projectors, so the kids can see it. They of course will need to be introduced to Moodle and learn how it works. Teachers can show and explain assignments, daily agendas, pull up resources, links, etc for that day or for that lesson (examples). In the next couple of years we could have around 250 teachers using Moodle. But for our first year our maximum teacher users will be 75 (around 35 for the first couple of months - on the high end).
We at Aspiringkidz.com have integrated Moodle with Online Collaborative Suites to help improve Student Learning utlizing the Web 2.0 initiatives.
All of these options are possibilities... very good advise. A Moodle partner however can bring a lot more than hosting to the table for your organization, and that might be a consideration. If you would like to know a few more options contact me or one of the other US Moodle partners offline. By working with a Moodle partner you are contributing to the financial stability of the Moodle project.
In addition to all the general advice you've received in this thread about hosting, here are links to some previous posts about specific hosts I have accumulated over the centuries:
http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=80523#p357343 (former 1and1 cust.)
http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-11743 (on Unicode problem at bluehost & hostmonster)
Sorry, I don't have anything on purchasing or renting your own server.