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Online courses are an increasingly profitable business, especially as remote work and online learning have accelerated in the last few years. And creating a LMS site is a great way to capitalize on this growing trend.
If you’re creating a LMS site, the first question to ask is “What should I teach?” You can create courses for virtually any topic imaginable, ranging from web design to gardening – or maybe a course on designing websites for gardeners!
Next, you’ll need to figure out which LMS platform to use. WordPress is an awesome choice, as there are dozens of high-quality LMS plugins like LifterLMS, TutorLMS, and LearnDash. These make it super easy to create a LMS site.
The final question to ask yourself is “Which host should I use”? With so many options, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you! But don’t worry: it’s not as complex as it seems.
In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know about choosing a host for your LMS WordPress site. We’ll cover everything from types of hosting, why you should use WordPress for your LMS site, and the most important factors to consider when choosing a host.
Let’s get started!
What is a LMS, anyway? Is it any type of website that relates to education? Not quite.
LMS stands for Learning Management System. The key word here is system: a LMS is a specific type of software program that helps organizations or individuals offer educational services. These can include online courses, grading systems, user feedback, analytics, videos, curriculum management, and many other things that are required for educating students.
There are many different LMS programs available, both as standalone options and as WordPress plugins. Some of the most popular standalone LMS are Canvas, BlackBoard, and Moodle, while LearnDash, Lifter LMS, Tutor LMS and LearnPress are the top picks for WordPress.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online learning and it’s likely that e-learning will continue to grow in popularity, especially as more and more people in the world come online. As such, it’s a really good time to start a LMS site, no matter which type you choose to use.
Before we jump into selecting a host for your LMS site, it helps to first understand your options. These days, there are a wide variety of different hosting solutions, each with its own positives and negatives. Let’s look at each one.
Hosted or cloud-based LMS solutions aren’t exactly a type of hosting. Instead, they are LMS providers that host everything on their own servers. You navigate to their website, log into their system, and then access everything through this interface. Nothing is installed on your own web server.
On the one hand, this does make everything a bit easier, as the provider will manage everything for you. You only need to worry about your content.
On the other hand, it limits your ability to control your data, make customizations, or use your site as you see fit. You’ll always be limited by the provider’s restrictions. Perhaps most importantly, hosted LMS solutions tend to be significantly more expensive than any other option.
As a quick side note: it’s almost important to understand the difference between managed and unmanaged hosting services. This is a separate concept from the shared/dedicated/containers mentioned above.
Put simply, managed hosts help you manage your server, while unmanaged hosts leave it all up to you. Convesio, for example, is a managed host – our expert team is always on-hand to help you with every aspect of server management. We help you scale your WordPress site, maintain high performance, and do a million other things that require deep technical expertise.
Unmanaged hosts, on the other hand, are typically for users that already have technical know-how or don’t anticipate getting much traffic. That said, technical users also often use managed hosts, as maintaining a server can be a time-consuming process. It is often easier to just rely on the technical expertise of a managed host.
Shared hosting is the entry-level hosting plan for most websites. The word shared simply means that your website “shares” space on a server in the host’s data center. This makes them cheaper, however, it also means that you’ll have less available resources.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. A VPS is essentially an intermediary stage between a shared server and a dedicated server. It is more powerful than a shared server, but not as powerful as a dedicated one.
VPSs are useful because they give you more control over your site without needing to purchase an entirely dedicated server.
A dedicated server is a server designated purely for your website. Unlike shared hosting, you don’t have to give up space on the server for other (unrelated) websites. This means you have significantly more power available.
When it comes to scaling: dedicated servers can scale vertically. This means that you can add more capability to the server by increasing its memory, adding a more powerful processor, and so on. However, you’re still constrained by the limits of this single server.
Finally, we’ve reached the top of the pyramid! For sites that have a ton of traffic at the same time, dedicated servers are often not enough. Sometimes, even increasing the power of the server won’t provide enough resources to keep your site running smoothly.
In this scenario, you’ll want to use horizontal scaling. Horizontal simply means that your site will load from multiple servers, rather than a single one, as in vertical scaling.
With Convesio, your site is loaded in “containers”, which are then scaled horizontally across different servers. The more traffic you get, the more servers will be utilized. This process happens automatically, so we call it “auto-scaling.” This means that there are no hardware limits to the scaling process.
So, now we know what the hosting options are. Let’s now talk about WordPress and using it for a LMS site.
The education space is quite popular, so it should come as no surprise that there are many LMS options available. Some of these are separate, independent services, while others are built upon CMS (Content Management Systems) like WordPress.
You might wonder – why is WordPress a better choice than a standalone LMS? There are plenty of reasons!
WordPress is extremely scalable, in the sense that it can easily grow with your e-learning business as you gain more students, add more courses, and expand your site. As your site grows, WordPress makes it very easy to add new features, pages, functionality, and other items in a matter of clicks. With WordPress, you can create pretty much any kind of website – or extend the current functions of your current one.
Most other LMS options don’t have this ability, as they are locked into their specific platforms. If you decide to change the focus of the site in the future or want to add a feature not included by your standalone LMS, you’re out of luck! You’ll have to start from scratch on a different platform.
WordPress has dozens of different plugins specifically aimed at creating a LMS site. These include WordPress, Tutor LMS, LearnDash, Sensei, Lifter LMS, and many more. Each of these products has its own strengths and weaknesses, features, and other things that make it unique.
The important thing to realize is that WordPress allows you to use any of them. Unlike standalone LMS services, these LMS plugins go on top of the WordPress structure. This means that you can easily switch between them without needing to find a completely new host.
The true strength of WordPress is its flexibility: with thousands of plugins, themes, and other add-ons, you can truly add just about anything. This makes changing the design of your site a breeze. It also means you can change the appearance of your LMS site without affecting the content.
Finally, WordPress is the natural choice for any LMS sites that need a more customized or unique solution that is more complex than the standard options. Whether you’re a developer or not, WordPress offers a variety of ways to create customized layouts, workflows, product pages, and other elements of a LMS site.
The WordPress Customizer allows you to modify the appearance of your site simply by clicking a few buttons, while more experienced developers can create their own themes – or modify existing ones. This ability to customize is a key strength of WordPress – and something that standalone solutions usually lack.
So, now we know what kinds of hosts are available and why you should probably use WordPress to create your LMS site.
But which host should you use? There are hundreds of different WordPress hosts available and it can be difficult to differentiate one from another. Trying to navigate through them can make your head spin! How do you pick the right one?
As with everything in life, it depends on what you need. Let’s cover some of the most important topics to keep in mind when selecting a LMS host.
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One of the most pressing issues for LMS sites is having hundreds or thousands of students log in at the exact same time. This is a common scenario for e-learning websites of all types.
If you have a live course, for example, you may have thousands of people accessing your website exactly at 6:00 p.m. every Tuesday evening. Or, you may have a huge influx of hundreds of new students that want to buy your new course.
As such, it’s very important to make sure that your host can handle it! Convesio, for example, can host sites that perform flawlessly under strenuous loads. This means that you can have hundreds or even thousands of students using your site at once, all without any lag or slowdown. Other hosts are generally not designed for a huge amount of traffic coming at a single time.
Ultimately, every site is unique. Images, content, video, host location, and innumerable other variables affect how your LMS site will perform.
So, the only true way to figure out how many concurrent users a site can support is to run a load test. A load test is simply a simulation of tons of users visiting your site at one time.
Some hosts allow you to perform load testing, while others have some restrictions (or will assume you’re under actual attack.) As such, it really helps to pick a host that understands load testing and how to use it to optimize your site. Here at Convesio, we work with all of our customers to perform stress tests and then fine-tune it so that everything runs smoothly, no matter how heavy the traffic.
Security is a must for any site, but it’s extra important for sites that handle personal information, like students’ names, payment details, and other related items. This is even more true for high traffic sites, as putting your site under stress will increase the likelihood for security breaches or other issues to occur.
So, be sure to pick a host that has robust security features. At Convesio, for instance, we protect all of our customers 24/7 from malware, bots, DDoS attacks, and other unpleasant events!
The type of content you plan on producing has a significant effect on your hosting choice, especially when it comes to storage. Content that is primarily text takes up much less space (and subsequently requires less server resources) than video images.
Most modern courses tend to be video-focused, so that means you’ll need to take storage into account, too. Cheaper hosting plans and shared hosting plans tend to have limitations on storage space. So, if you anticipate having a lot of video content (and don’t want to use an external host like Vimeo or YouTube) then be sure to select a hosting plan with sufficient storage space.
If you experience a huge influx of traffic, will your host be around to help? Some hosts have a hands-off approach, which can be an issue if you have an urgent problem and need help immediately.
As such, you should always make sure that your host has good ratings for customer support. It also helps to see what types of support they offer: chat, email, phone, remote access, and so on. The more methods of support available, the better.
At Convesio, we pride ourselves on our support engineers, which are available around-the-clock to assist with any scaling issues. This means that if you have a high-traffic event, we’ll be ready to keep your website running smoothly under heavy traffic loads, letting you focus on teaching your students!
Additionally, some hosts offer an extra on-call host monitoring service to help you with specific planned scaling events. For example, flash sales, Black Friday / Cyber Monday annual discounts, and other events that you can prepare for ahead of time. This is a very helpful way to ensure that you’re absolutely prepared and won’t have any scaling issues, as the host’s scaling experts can monitor and adjust any issues as they arise.
Finally, you should always keep an eye on the future. If everything goes well, you’ll continue to get new students, sell more courses, and grow your e-learning business. For that reason, it’s really important to choose a host that can grow with you.
Some smaller hosts simply aren’t capable of handling high amounts of traffic, especially when hundreds or thousands of users are hitting your servers at once. As such, it really pays to investigate the higher-end options of a host, even if you don’t anticipate needing them for some time.
Otherwise, you may end up in a disastrous situation, losing potential customers as you scramble to transfer your site to a host that can handle it!
Creating online courses has become a great way to build a business and make money online, particularly as remote work and distance learning have become so widespread. But it can be difficult to find the right host for your project, especially as the needs of an e-learning site are unique compared to other types of websites.
There are many different things to consider when choosing a host, but we hope our tips in this post are a good starting point! Naturally, we recommend using Convesio, as it’s in our DNA to be the best at scaling WordPress sites – something very important for any LMS site.
Ready to get started? Convesio offers high-quality scalable hosting for any kind of LMS site. Book a free 30 minute consultation and we’ll help you figure out the best solution for your particular site.