SaaS LMSs and Vendor Client Questions

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What is SAAS and why is hosted better than having it on your own servers.  Plus, what does being in the cloud actually mean?

SaaS: Software as a Service

The bottom line without getting technical or overly detailed, the solution is hosted on your vendor’s servers and not hosted on your internal servers. Hosting does offer very tight and safe security, and access is via the internet, even if you go through your VPN (Virtual Private Network).

So in the case of a LMS/LCMS, it is hosted on your vendor’s servers and can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection and a browser (that they support), anywhere in the world.

Benefits versus having it on my servers (behind my firewall)

Hosted solutions are the way to go in this day and age, for numerous reasons.

  • Reduces stress or resources on IS/IT at your primary location
  • Eliminates the need to purchase additional servers at your location OR use space on your servers for the LMS, when other data could be placed instead
  • Maintenance and changes happen in less than a few hours – via Online, versus having a resource receive the update from the vendor and then make the changes on your own servers, which depending on their schedule could take anywhere from x to xx hours, especially if the update happens on a Saturday
  • Technical issues that arise – resources from your location are now dedicated to solve them
  • Load balance of your servers needs to be able handle the number of employees or customers or both – if they hypothetically were to hit it at the same time – would your servers survive or crash?   With a hosted solution, the vendor’s servers are able to tested to withstand scenarios like this
  • Your servers crash during the business day for whatever reason, while end users are on the system;  hosted servers rarely if ever crash
  • Argument for security internally due to data or otherwise is out-dated:  Even before cloud computing, hosted LMS/LCMSs always had very tight security safeguards in place; in some cases stronger than some companies; I am unaware of one LMS/LCMS that has been hacked
  • Privacy data concerns also is outdated; again, I am unaware of a LMS/LCMS data integrity issue related to privacy or theft as such
  • If you are worried about security, have employees access via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) into your System and then to the hosted solution – be aware though that your speed and connectivity will be affected because your employees are using a VPN to access your system before connecting to the hosted solution – which BTW,
  • The argument that having it on your servers would eliminate this issue is erroneous – VPN often is slow, especially since it depends on various factors including where the person resides (density of population, say in downtown for example), actual speed of access hitting your system (and not the one advertised by their cable/dsl provider), etc.
  • The true premise of online learning is 24/7, anywhere access – via an internet connection and browser –  assuming you are not using or enabling end users to have VPN,  how can you truly state you are providing e-learning; since your employees cannot access from home – YOU CAN’T

With the exception of  my first LMS, which I built in 2000;  I have always used hosted LMS/LCMS without security/privacy incidents.

Hosted Server Question to Ask

Although I am 100% behind the believe that hosted LMS/LCMSs are the route to go, there is one question you should ask:

Find out where are they servers located.  At their main location?  At another location?  For example, if the company is based in California, I would want to make sure that their servers are not in the state, since an earthquake could damage them.

LMSs and their client list

LMS/LCMS vendors love to tell you who there clients are or better yet show you a list of clients, without really stating if they still use them.  To verify if they are actual clients, here is what I do:

  • Have them provide a list of five actual clients or pick ones from their list or PPT they love to show (I like the latter option)Ask for ones in your market, so if you are health care, you want ones in health care; vendors love to tell you the list cannot be provided – why not? You just told me you had all these clients – prove it.
  • Asking for references is a waste of time. Who do you think they are going to give you, someone who hates the system or has complaints? No way. So what can do?
  • Options 1) Go on Linkedin and post the question about the vendor and ask for feedback, good or bad. Place the question in numerous training groups – say ASTD National, eCube (excellent source for e-learning folks), etc. 2) Contact the person who runs the department via Linkedin. How do you know who they are? You have a client list, so type in the company name on the People search and filter. 3) Tweet for feedback 4)Check out social review sites, but ignore Yelp – you aren’t going to find anything; 5)Google the client name and titles – “Director of Training”, “Training Manager” etc. ; 6) Ask colleagues or others in the industry

One time I found a “client” who actually left and had no idea the company was listing them on their site. They were to say the least, unhappy.

Cloud Computing

Can be very confusing, but again in its very basic term – free or fee based services, products or solutions available only online and hosted by a vendor.  Is Google docs cloud computing? Yes. Is online storage – say for files or docs, whether free or subscriber based – cloud computing? Yes.

So what is the difference between hosted and in the cloud? Nothing. Another buzz word to add confusion to an already confusing net space.

M-Learning and a camp who believes…

M-Learning means mobile learning.  There is a camp out there who believe that the courses should be only available on your mobile device and not available on your desktop via the net or servers. They argue that if it is on the latter, it is not “mobile” learning.  I attended a seminar on this topic and frankly it was very convincing.

E-Learning 24/7