Moodle vs MoodleCloud

Moodle™ vs MoodleCloud: Which is Better for Your e-learning Site?

We’re back with another comparison article. This time, it’s – Moodle™ vs MoodleCloud

There’s no denial in the fact that Moodle™ is the most popular LMS platform ever created. With more than 270 million users, it’s the undisputed king of the eLearning market.

However, Moodle™ comes in two different versions. One is open-source Moodle™, which is the original Moodle™ that powers most of the self-hosted eLearning sites. 

The other is MoodleCloud, or cloud-based Moodle™, which Moodle™ HQ started offering for the last few years.  In such a situation, it’s easy to get confused while making a choice.

Concerned about which of them is a better option??? 

We’re going to compare both these platforms for you in full detail.

This article can help you make the right choice for your eLearning site. Let’s begin!

#1. Installation and deployment

The first major difference between Moodle™ and MoodleCloud is, of course, in the way of installation and deployment. While Moodle™ is downloaded and installed by you on your own server, 

MoodleCloud remains installed on the company’s cloud server. 

You can control your website’s functionality on it through a web-based UI, but you can’t have full control over it just as you would with a local server installation.

Now, if you’re a first-time Moodle™ user, modifying your LMS features within the first few days of use could be difficult. 

In this case, MoodleCloud is the perfect solution. But for anyone who needs more control on their website than just basic tweaks here and there to the UI of the admin dashboard, MoodleCloud might be a bit too restrictive. 

Winner: Moodle™

#2. Pricing

The pricing of Moodle™ and MoodleCloud is one of the biggest points of difference between them. While Moodle™ is completely free of cost and available to download for any kind of website, Moodle™Cloud is a freemium solution. 

With MoodleCloud free plan, you get to create unlimited courses for up to 50 users and 250 MB of storage.

Once you reach this limit of 50 active users or 250 MB of storage space, you must upgrade to one of their premium plans, which starts from $150 per year and go all the way up to $1,510 per year. 

Here’s a quick look at what MoodleCloud pricing plans look like:

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MoodleCloud plan comparison

By comparison, free Moodle™ provides you with all of this plus much more without costing a single penny. So if you look from the perspective of pricing, Moodle™ is a clear winner.

Winner: Moodle™

#3. Tech Support

Due to their different nature, the type of support that you get for Moodle™ and MoodleCloud is also quite different.

For Moodle™, you mostly rely on its vibrant developer community, users, and forums to get help when you get stuck with something. Of course, there is extensive documentation too at your disposal, but if you can’t find the help you’re looking for from the documentation then you can dive into the Moodle™ community to get what you want. 

Other support options are generally not available or very responsive, mainly because it’s a free offering.

However, that equation changes when it comes to Moodle™Cloud. It’s a paid solution, so it becomes necessary for Moodle™ HQ to provide professional support to its users. And it actually does that – MoodleCloud customers can write to the support team with their queries, and the team is quite responsive. 

In short, with Moodle™ you either look for help from the user community or find the solution yourself. With MoodleCloud, on the other hand, you can get prompt help from the company’s support team too.  

Winner: Moodle™Cloud

#4. Level of technical expertise

Since MoodleCloud is a cloud-based solution, that significantly reduces the amount of technical expertise you should have in order to get started. If you know how to use a web browser, you can get started with Moodle™Cloud – that’s it! 

On the other hand, Moodle™ requires its users to have a certain level of technical knowledge and expertise in order to get started. You should know how a functioning web server is put in place, how files are uploaded via FTP, how scripts are installed, how error logs are analyzed, etc. 

Then if you want to have total control over the functionality of your LMS, you should also know some coding. 

These things collectively make MoodleCloud a much better solution for someone who is not a very technical person. 

Winner: Moodle™Cloud

#5. Control over access permissions

Both Moodle™ and MoodleCloud provide the same level of access control for user authentication and authority management, essentially because they’re built on the top of the same code. 

However, if you want to control who accesses your Moodle™ server and who doesn’t, then that’s another situation. 

With Moodle™ you can have complete control over who accesses your server and who doesn’t – because it’s just your site that is hosted on the server.

On the other hand, with MoodleCloud you can’t have that level of control over access permissions because it’s not your server alone. It’s a cloud server, managed by someone else, and it hosts hundreds of websites just like yours!

So basically, Moodle™ is a better option when it comes to managing and controlling access permissions. 

Winner: Moodle™

#6. Data security

Depending on how well you know the skills and resources to protect your server, both Moodle™ and MoodleCloud can be better than each other when it comes to data security. 

If you are not a networking and cybersecurity expert then definitely MoodleCloud will offer you much better security than you can have on your own. Because it’s managed by a team of professionals, which include cybersecurity experts too. 

On the other hand, if you know how to manage server security or have someone in your organization for this purpose, you’ll be in a much better position by using self-hosted Moodle™, because you’ll have total control over its code and where it’s installed. 

You and your team of cybersecurity experts can take care of data security better than Moodle™’s team in that case, because everything is tightly under your control. 

Overall, there is no clear winner on this criteria. Both can be a better choice depending on your organization’s talent pool. 

Winner: No clear winner

#7. Budget

You may be wondering why we are talking about the financial angle again when we have already covered the pricing aspect, right

Well, because there’s not just price to the budget equation of a technology. There’s also one more part of the equation, and that is continuous maintenance cost. 

So, the maintenance cost of Moodle™ is a bit higher in comparison to the maintenance cost of MoodleCloud. With Moodle™, you need to purchase a server of your own and pay for it, which can easily cost up to $50 per month for a good hosting that’s reliable and scalable.

With MoodleCloud, on the other hand, $120 is the cost of a full year – everything else is included in it, including MoodleCloud hosting. So that becomes significantly more cost-effective, as you can see.

Winner: Moodle™Cloud

#8. Ease of use and customization

When it comes to ease of use and customization, things are very same yet different between both these platforms. 

They’re the same because both Moodle™ and MoodleCloud are built on top of the same code.

They’re a mirror image of each other, so you get the same ease (or unease – depending on your perspective) of use while using any of them. 

However, they’re also very different because of one major restriction in MoodleCloud – the restriction to use third-party themes and plugins.

While in Moodle™ you can use themes and plugins to customize any part of the UI or core functionality, that’s just not possible in MoodleCloud. You can see above in the plan comparison table that even their costliest plan doesn’t allow the installation of themes and plugins.

The impact of this restriction is huge. First of all, you can’t improve the UI with a custom theme even if you want to. You must live with the UI, themes, and customization capabilities that are offered in-built by MoodleCloud.

Then, you can also not improve/change certain features that you don’t like with the help of plugins or coding. Because you don’t own the code, and plugin installation is also not allowed.

These things collectively make MoodleCloud far less customizable and user-friendly than Moodle™.

Winner: Moodle™

#9. Server requirements

Moodle™ and MoodleCloud are hosted in two very different environments, so their system requirements also vary widely.

Moodle™ is installed on your own server, so you need to ensure that you get one with at least 200 MB of free disk space, 1Ghz CPU, and 512 MB of RAM. These are the minimum requirements, and for best performance, you should have more than double of this. 

Besides that, your server also needs to have PHP support and one of the supported databases (i.e. MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, etc). 

In the case of MoodleCloud, however, things are much simpler. All the server requirements are taken care of by the Moodle™ HQ team, so you can get started just with a free admin account and nothing else. 

Winner: MoodleCloud

All Things Considered

We have done all the heavy analysis, so now finally it makes sense to arrive at a conclusion now. But before we do that, let’s take a quick glance at how Moodle™ compares with Moodle™Cloud:

Installation and deploymentMoodle™
Tech supportMoodleCloud
Level of technical expertise requiredMoodleCloud
Control over access permissionsMoodle™
Data securityNo clear winner
Ease of use and customizabilityMoodle™
Server requirementsMoodleCloud

Finally, we would like to say that which one of them is best for you depends on your technical expertise and e-learning needs. 

If you’re new to Moodle™ and just want to create a functional eLearning website as quickly as possible, MoodleCloud will be the best solution for you. 

On the other hand, if you have the technical knowledge needed to operate a server. And also have the flexibility to implement and manage functionality from scratch, Moodle™ will be a much better solution than MoodleCloud.

What do you think about both of them? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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