Hosted vs. Behind-the-firewall LMS – How To Decide?

To effectively operate your business, purchasing and implementing an LMS is vital. But, which one? TalentLMS, Paycom app, Blackboard, or any other? There are so many options available today that it’s hard to decide what’s right for your needs and budget. Another level of decision makes this dilemma even more challenging – whether to opt for a cloud-based or behind the firewall for an LMS.

To make this decision easier and more ideal, we have broken it down into a few factors.

Owning a system – what are the long-term costs?

An LMS implementation involves many cost factors.

  • LMS installation and setup cost – Hosted models are far less expensive because these are most often run by an external team. When it comes to behind-the-firewall implementations, the team usually works in the client’s location. In some cases, these costs can be quite expensive, leading to a high ownership cost. Getting a clear picture of these costs from the vendor is essential.
  • License costs – When using hosted services, there are no license costs since they are included in the per-user fee. A single customer is not overburdened by the servers because the servers are shared across many customers. Besides, this cost is tangible for behind-the-firewall solutions and varies according to usage, failover procedures, the need for data backup, etc. Moreover, there are cost-related expenses associated with maintenance and upgrades. Additionally, replacement costs could be necessary for the future. If you plan on deploying behind-the-firewall, be sure you prepare and understand these costs.
  • IT management and support costs – This includes the costs associated with managing the hardware, as well as IT support. It may include critical factors like performance, security, capacity. The setup can either be part of a larger setup or a separate setup. The cost of managing IT behind the firewall is included in addition to the above costs and contributes to the total cost of ownership. In general, the recurring costs of running IT systems increase with the number of users. LMS hosted services do not include these costs, which are incorporated into the per-user fees (shared). It is also much less stressful in this case to use a hosted model instead of buying your servers.
  • Going Live – Depending on the modifications made to the Learning Management System, the hosted solution could be up and running in a few weeks. This is because it’s always ready to go, and you only need a domain name and a URL. In this way, you could make a few customizations behind the scenes and start using the system right away. As logistics take time to coordinate in a behind-the-firewall setup, this may not be possible. Taking too long to execute the initiative is also a big cost. 

The impact of internet speed

Hosted LMS services may have a problem if the Internet access speed is too slow. But, this doesn’t happen very often. In most cases, the leading LMS use low bandwidth and still deliver a good experience. Yet, video and audio-based content can be challenging to deliver over low bandwidth. The problem is somewhat solved by a behind-the-firewall setup but with a distributed organization and many users using either the Internet or VPNs. 

LMS support and user experience

An overall positive experience for the end-user is essential. There is also a lot of reliance on the level of support users receive while using the product, versus its features.

If you ultimately choose to install a behind-the-firewall system, either hire a well-trained LMS support team to manage the system or ensure the LMS provider offers good back-office support. Hosted services are no different – generally speaking, a support team already exists to assist users and they are well-trained.

To conclude

Does this technique help you reach a decision more easily? It would be a good idea to list out the costs for both models, then compare them to determine whether to choose a hosted and a behind-the-firewall solution. 

As soon as you calculate the total ownership costs for both options, you will be in a much better position to make an informed decision. You can use it if you are starting an eLearning project or making the move from another LMS, and it is appropriate for organizations of various sizes and readiness levels.

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