The past year has shown us the valuable role learning management systems (LMSs) can play in enabling online, hybrid, and even in-person teaching.
Of course, choosing the right LMS can be challenging. You need to compare vendors, reviews, and features. But before you can even get there, there’s a fundamental question you need to answer: cloud or on premise? Both options can have their advantages and challenges. Determining which is right for you ultimately comes down to understanding your needs and how you plan on deploying your LMS.
In this blog, we’ll look at the top reason institutions choose a cloud LMS—but you’ll have to keep reading to find out what it is.
What Is a Cloud LMS vs. an On-Premise LMS?
To make sure we’re all on the same page, we’ll briefly define what we mean by each term:
- A cloud-based LMS is often run off as a software as a service or (SaaS) model, in which a third-party provider hosts the system and makes it available to users via a subscription.
- An on-premise LMS is offered as a product and is hosted on the servers the academic institution generally owns or manages.
So, Why Do People Choose a Cloud LMS Over an On-Premise One? Reliability.
There are four factors that can help make an LMS reliable: security, maintenance, scalability, and disaster recovery.
With a cloud-based LMS, the vendor is responsible for the security of your system. They can include a variety of built-in safety measures—from secure transmission and network protection to single sign-on (SSO), vulnerability management, and endpoint threat and protection—that give you peace of mind knowing your platform and its data will be secure.
With an on-premise LMS, that ownership would fall to you and your internal teams.
The reliability and availability of an LMS can be affected by factors such as system maintenance, upgrades, and service interruptions. Two terms you may be familiar with include:
- Downtime: The amount of time that a system or application isn’t operating. This can be both unplanned (e.g., software or hardware malfunctions) or planned (e.g., scheduled maintenance).
- Uptime: The measure of time that a system or application is available. In other words, how reliable is it?
With a cloud LMS, the vendor typically delivers system updates on a routine basis and handles any maintenance issues that arise. They may even use a continuous delivery model, which can release fixes and upgrades without resulting in downtime. On-premise solutions, on the other hand, usually require that you keep on top of maintenance and take care of upgrades.
When selecting an LMS, it’s important to not only consider your needs right now. You also want to look to future plans and goals to help you find technology that’s ready to grow and scale with you.
One benefit of a cloud-based LMS is how well its infrastructure can adapt to shifting, evolving changes in use. You can forecast increases in the years to come, and you can also respond quickly to unexpected needs brought on by crises. On-premise solutions tend to be less agile because you can’t ramp up unless you first procure the necessary hardware to support more bandwidth and storage space.
A disaster—whether caused by software error, hardware failure, or a malicious incident—can seriously affect the availability of your LMS. Even a brief outage could prevent students from being able to access class content or submit assignments. That’s why it’s important to have an effective disaster recovery (DR) plan (the procedures, policies, and processes in place to respond to and recover after disruptions) to protect your system from downtime and data loss.
With a cloud-based solution, the vendor is responsible for managing and responding to any incidents that occur. Data is backed up on a regular basis using asynchronous, encrypted transfers to offsite centers, helping to take that potential burden away from your own staff and allowing them to focus on other projects. With an on-premise solution, DR is the responsibility of your own IT team.
Get Your Learning Management System Evaluation Guide
Whether you’re evaluating LMS solutions for the first time or reevaluating your current LMS, it’s critical to listen to the specific needs of your organization’s faculty and students. We’ve created this evaluation guide to assist you in the evaluation process to select a vendor that best meets everyone’s requirements.
This guide includes the following resources to help you choose a learning management system:
- A step-by-step approach to the evaluation process, with helpful reminders and tips for each phase
- Answers to common questions such as how to evaluate an LMS and what makes one great
- A sample project timeline, evaluation criteria, a demonstration rubric, and instrument templates
- Interactive worksheets, activities, lists, and more!