Things To Consider When Making Your Choice.
There are many different kinds of LMS out there on the market (we should know, we make quite a few of them: http://seamslms.com/#products ), but when you sit down to choose a learning management system how do you know exactly which option is right for you? There’s no easy answer, but here’s a few of the main factors to consider when making your decision.
1st- Startup Costs.
Very obvious question, this one: how much do you want to spend? On the surface a cloud LMS wins hands down here: you’re not paying for hardware or installation, you’re not paying anyone to design anything from scratch and most cloud systems run on the basis of a recurring subscription; you’re paying for a service, not a product. Many cloud systems even offer free trials before you commit. A dedicated LMS requires a much more significant investment up front; you’re not only paying for the design but probably also for the server to host the system. Ultimately, the value of a dedicated system depends on its use: how long will it be there for and how key a feature of your organisation will you make it? How many employees will be active on it, for example? Enough that it would drastically increase your subscription rates on a cloud system? That’s a key factor to consider.
Most cloud systems are designed to be adaptable, and they all make a point of drawing your attention to that fact. It makes sense; to capture the widest possible market they have to be able to adapt to many different organisation types. There will always be limits to the adaptability of any generic system, however. Regardless of how many potential layouts a cloud LMS can boast, none of them can claim a genuinely bespoke nature – that’s not the point, it’s not their market. A dedicated system is built for you, to your specifications, to suit every organisational quirk of your business. The question then becomes: “Is there something that makes my business model so unique that a generic system simply won’t do?” You might be operating in a high-compliance industry for example, or maybe you’ve got unusually high staff turnover in a very specialised field. If any factors like that are present, tinkering around with a cloud system may be a wasteful exercise when you can go to a designer and simply say “This is what I need. Build it for me.”
This is related to the last point, but a little more future-oriented. Every cloud LMS is sold as “scalable”, and most of them are. However there will inevitably be costs involved in scaling up. You may be expecting a lot of growth in the near future. If so well done, but you must factor that into your decision. A dedicated system on its own server will allow you all the space you need to grow with only minimal extra cost, a subscription cloud service may end up being more expensive. All cloud learner management systems are also sold as adaptable, and again, any good one will be. When you start out, you can set up the cloud system how it suits you best – there probably will be a configuration that suits your needs. Any decent cloud system by its nature will allow you to change things around, alter configurations as your business grows. A dedicated system may require you to go back to the drawing board, to speak to the designers all over again. It’s an important point to consider – will future company changes be purely a matter of size? If so, a cloud system may end up being an expensive proposition. Will you be expanding into other markets or product/service offerings? In that case a dedicated system might be more cumbersome and therefore expensive to adapt.
A more straightforward point, this one – data security is always important, and in some industries it can become THE crucial factor. If that’s the case, a dedicated system wins hands down. A cloud LMS by its nature requires you to store information on and send information to someone else’s servers, while a dedicated system doesn’t. Which is the most important to you, then? Does the security of a dedicated system outweigh the convenience of the cloud? Are you willing trust another company (admittedly a company who has made it their business to handle the information of others) with your data for the sake of the quick setup and relatively low startup costs?
Again, we’re in straightforward territory here. A cloud learner management system is essentially software-as-service. You’re handing over the day-to-day hosting and running of YOUR training materials to a third party. Many people do, and find that an effective cost-saving measure. In practical terms cloud learner management systems achieve excellent uptime – their businesses depend on it – but ultimately you are dependent on another company’s efficiency and dedication. On a dedicated server it’s largely yours to manage and maintain. That’s a double edged sword, of course, since if anything goes wrong it’s your problem. Do you have the expertise and resources to deal with that situation?