Hosting Moodle - Shared Hosting Considerations


Shared hosting provider comes with different features, characteristics and resource allocations towards individual accounts. Things to consider could be web space, bandwidth, web server running, PHP versions and extensions, databases, provider's updates, up-time, upgrade paths and so on. In this post I will be discussing the things that will best suit when considering a shared hosting to start Moodle.
While it is discussed already HERE about considering a shared host for Moodle installation, there are however few more factors that I would like to be considered before choosing a shared hosting provider for starting a Moodle site. Though the things I am mentioning below can be applicable to getting web host for any purpose, but I have mentioned Moodle specifically for it is a resource heavy script therefore if a hosting provider can run Moodle effectively they will be able to run other CMS scripts without hassle.

Service Provider Reputation

While every service provider tends to show the best about themselves on their website, its always good to look around ask people, many of my chosen hosting providers were not searched for, but were bought by word of mouth reputation. While I still am running two of shared hosting accounts with high promises on the provider's website and they fail to meet even the basics, eventually money lost.

Up-Time

Every hosting provider will write 99.9% up time on their website, and in actual I have experienced 99% with many. Adding a nine after decimal required  million of dollars investment to keep things running without interruption, that includes redundant server hardware, redundant electricity and network. Hosting companies giving 30 or more days money back guarantee gets you a good chance to test their up time in first month, better off with companies who give more than 30 days.

Web Server Software

Your site eventually will be served by web server software, where Apache is free choice and is used by most of the websites around the world, Apache is not the only option. There are commercial grade servers that are actually paid for to get server software like Microsoft IIS, Nginx (Spelled as Engine-X) and LiteSpeed. Where I have experienced good stable performance of Apache on many web hosting companies, getting site hosted on commercial web servers gives added boost to site's performance. For that reason, I prefer choosing servers based on LiteSpeed for I have experienced significant performance upgrade using Moodle. There are hosting companies offering LiteSpeed hosting, as LiteSpeed is comparatively new, so will take time getting on the market share charts but it is definitely not hard to get hosting based on LiteSpeed servers. You can view few of my recommendations regarding choosing hosting on LiteSpeed servers HERE.
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PHP/Database versions and extensions

Moodle requires specific PHP versions to be used to run Moodle effectively, though most the companies do update the PHP to newest versions, but I have experienced plenty still who does not, besides the PHP itself, there are certain extensions that will boost performance of Moodle (Like opcache), to date, I have seldom seen providers supporting that extension even when asked they refused to offer as opcache does takes some extra part of overall server memory. Though I am not saying the opcache does actually brings significant performance boost over not using it, but it does reduces the memory requirements on the server, while this extension would have been more  useful if you are running a VPS or dedicated as less memory requirement means you don't have to get server with higher memory.

Upgrade Paths

This is a very important factor in choosing a web host for setting up Moodle, as you site grows, you don't want to get in hassle of transferring sites to another host. As with most of the web hosting companies, when you upgrade to higher package (PRO/Business, VPS or Dedicated) they will be transferring over your site to new server without you even knowing it actually happened. It happened to me with one of the recommended hosting providers as their shared hosting went brilliant but that time when I was with them they were only offering shared  hosts and no higher packages, turned out was I had to shift to another server with other hosting provider.

Money Back Guarantee

In order to test a web host weather it meets your needs, it takes time. The money back guarantee does gives confidence to the user if the service is not meeting the standards then one can always jump out without losing the initial investment. 30 days money back guarantee is industry standard but some hosts do provide 60 or more days to get satisfied. So getting a good time money back guarantee definitely adds to my confidence with them that they are providing the service level that seldom will be case if someone has to ask for money back. Do look out the money back guarantee before paying for hosting.

Dedicated IP Availability

When you are hosting on a Shared environment, you never know who your neighbors are, at least not before you actually get a hosting account. Bad neighbors (sharing the server resources) will bring a significant effect on your site's reputation and up time and your site's IP could end up getting black listed. Most of the hosting providers do offer as an added extra for Dedicated IP, but few does give it as part of package. Dedicated IP ensures that no matter your neighbors are sending out spam from same server, at least you will be protected against getting IP blacklisted.

Keeping the above things in mind, and you wont be getting a bad host to start with. I have mentioned a few web hosting companies HERE that I use and will recommend for start-ups Moodle on a shared environment with options to upgrade in future without any hassle.

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AcademicTools(Blog): Hosting Moodle - Shared Hosting Considerations
Hosting Moodle - Shared Hosting Considerations
In this post, I have discussed considerations before setting up moodle on shared hosting environment.
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AcademicTools(Blog)
http://blog.academictools.org/2014/10/hosting-moodle-shared-hosting.html
http://blog.academictools.org/
http://blog.academictools.org/
http://blog.academictools.org/2014/10/hosting-moodle-shared-hosting.html
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