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eLearning Security: Does Cloud Hosting Measure Up?

January 7, 2020

Full-Managed Cloud Hosting for Moodle Vs. Self-Hosting

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Are cloud hosted Learning Management Systems (LMS) the best option when it comes to the security of your learners and their data? This post compares the solutions offered by self and cloud hosted platforms in three different areas of eLearning security so you can make the right call for your LMS hosting solutions!

 

1.  IT eLearning Challenge- Data Privacy

The protection of user, client, and staff data must be the ultimate goal of any eLearning security solution. An organization’s LMS hosting choice is an integral part of how sensitive information is protected, where it is stored, and what processes are involved in maintaining its security.

 

Self Hosted LMS

Cloud Hosted LMS

The argument for protecting data privacy through a self-hosted LMS is all about control. Owning the hardware and system on which data is stored provides the ultimate level of assurance that security processes are as extensive as desired. Opting for total personal control does however also mean total responsibility for maintaining security. This not only includes protection against attacks, but data loss and systems errors. Because of this, a self-hosted LMS, especially in large organizations, requires a fully capable and responsive technical team.

Cloud-based LMS vendors often offer a variety of service levels, allowing users to select an appropriate level of security depending on the sensitivity of their data. This means that organizations can rely on the support of hosting experts to maintain encryption and connection-securing features, such as SSLs. Administrators and users are then free to enjoy their LMS without concerns about an internal team’s ability to recover data if it’s lost or stolen.

 

2. eLearning Security Issue - Account Security

The online landscape of today (and tomorrow) includes the threat of hacking technology. The latest hardware used by phishing agents can break thousands of passwords per second, resulting in a continually growing black market for stolen account details. Despite this sizeable security issue, eLearning systems and the teams who maintain them are often the only lines of defence between account hackers an organization's data.

 

Self Hosted LMS

Cloud Hosted LMS

The most effective way for self-hosted LMS platforms to avoid this security issue is to limit the amount of exposure a system has to the open internet. Because self-hosted systems don’t need to communicate with external servers, the entire eLearning program can be run on an internal intranet. External connectivity can then be closely monitored, ensuring security. But, this creates a restrictive environment in terms of an LMS’s function and potential.

While the nature of cloud-hosted platforms mean they cannot completely avoid the risks accompanying internet connectivity, open-source LMS such as Moodle and Totara Learn support industry-standard Single Sign-On (SSO) authentication methods. Authentication tools give tech teams the ability to secure data without relying on the best practices of learners and educators.

 

3. eLearning Security Issue - Managing Access

Especially for larger organizations, working out permissions to data across departments, client, and perhaps multiple locations, without compromising security, can be a perplexing task. Some administrators may need to see the activity of learners, whereas other users might pose a security threat if supplied access to sensitive information.

Self Hosted LMS

Cloud Hosted LMS

Taking on the challenge of designing and implementing a bespoke permissions architecture is no small feat, requiring sufficient technical expertise to ensure security at each permission level does not compromise the overall network. Additionally, a self hosted format across a user network may require installation and maintenance across multiple physical locations. If the large resources to install and maintain such an infrastructure are available, this solution is highly secure.

Cloud hosting allows teams to control permissions through a multi-tenant LMS structure. This gives administrators total oversight, as well as the ability to manage the access of subsites used by clients and individuals. A multi-tenant LMS can therefore be used to designate access among internal departments and offices, or across a client list. 


For more information on developing a multi-tenant structure with a cloud hosted LMS, read this whitepaper - Multitenancy with Totara and Moodle.

 

 

The verdict? For large organizations with extensive resources and capable technical teams, a self host LMS may provide the ultimate level of security. Self hosting means internal control over both data and hardware, giving the option of a totally private cloud and intranet network. However, the tradeoff for this level of security is a significant restriction in terms of the flexibility of an LMS, and the ability of users to remotely access resources.

Cloud hosted LMS, on the other hand, use industry-leading encryption and authentication methods to ensure protection, even while fully connected to the internet across multiple locations. With the right SaaS or managed cloud hosted platform, organizations can feel confident that their LMS secures learner data from both internal and external threats, leaving users free to access their platform’s full potential.

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