Your organization has decided to purchase online training for its many benefits. You’ve chosen your vendor and training topics and feel the program is ready to go. Then the question comes: “Would you like to host your software or would you like us to host?”

Before you get to that point, it would be wise to examine the pros and cons of hosting your own online training software. You should also know what to look for in a vendor if you choose to host off-site.

The hosting option comes up mostly with online training programs, or online software. If your organization has an existing LMS (Learning Management System), then you will most likely host your own training. When looking for training courses to use with a current LMS, look for those that are SCORM (Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model) and AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee) compliant.

AICC and its subpart SCORM is a suite of technical standards that enable Web-based learning systems to find, import, share, reuse and export learning content in a standardized way. With an industry standard for computer-based training, companies can use multiple vendors for different subject matter and training courses, from safety training to soft skills training. If your LMS is not SCORM or AICC compliant, then you do not need to be concerned with courseware that is.

Where to host

Hosting refers to where your software is going to be located. There are usually three hosting options: your internal servers, your outsourced servers or your vendor’s servers. Some vendors may not offer the option to host, but most do. There are pros and cons to all options, and in some cases the location may already be established by your organization.

By hosting your software yourself the software is at your location, or a main company location, which some people may be more comfortable with. Intra-company bandwidth can be quicker, but you have to establish your internal bandwidth. To optimize your online training, you should have no less than a T1 line between sites. If you host your own software you’ll need to include your IT Department during the initial phase of purchase.

Online training software uses space on computer servers, and your IT Department will have to ensure you have the internal capabilities to host the training courses and training records. They will also be able to assist you with implementation and will be responsible for maintenance and security.

What to look for

If you choose to host with an external source, you receive many benefits. You save room on your server and do not need to include your IT Department with implementation and use. The responsibility is on the vendor, therefore you need to ensure that the vendor is able to keep your training records and courseware safe. Each company and safety professional may have different priorities, but the following checklist will help you establish a reliable vendor for hosting.

Security — How will your vendor protect your product from threats such as viruses and hackers? Firewalls and virus protection software is critical.

Redundancy — Power outages, server crashes, Hurricane Ivan…there are many unexpected things that can cause a computer to come down. Your vendor should have the proper technology to back-up your training records.

24/7 hosting capabilities — Even if your vendor is closed for the day, your online training shouldn’t be.

Downtime for maintenance — Every so often, your vendor will have to shut down the server for scheduled maintenance. This can benefit you, the end-user, as most maintenance is to upgrade the system itself. Maintenance may include course material updates, operating system updates and server updates. Your vendor should communicate a scheduled downtime with you in advance.

Workload — Ensure your vendor has the proper equipment and capabilities to handle the workload, including bandwidth so your courses run at optimal speed.

Hidden fees — You should address hosting fees during the purchase cycle. Any fees should be included in your contract. Hosting fees help your vendor maintain the equipment and ensure security and back-up for your training records, but know what the fees are up-front.