Is Moodle Running Slow? Here’s What to Do


Moodle is one of the greatest, most widely used learning management systems (LMS). On Moodle, educators and students can interact in a robust virtual learning environment – as long as it’s running accordingly. There are a few things that can slow down your Moodle processing speed, so you must know how to troubleshoot them to get it back to peak performance.

What to do if Moodle is running slow? There are five different things you can do if your Moodle is running slowly:

  1. Review the Moodle hosting and switch providers if necessary.
  2. Check your operating system.
  3. Optimize hardware configuration.
  4. Adjust the browser settings.
  5. Optimize your training material

Moodle relies on several different components of your website to function properly. This means that your device’s hardware and software must be performing at top capacity, along with the browser you’re using and the host of your site. To keep your Moodle from running too slowly, here are a few options for fixing (and preventing) the potential problems.

Optimizing the Performance of Your Moodle

As your Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Learning Environment) grows in size, it is bound to attract more visitors. As other educators flock to your Moodle to collaborate and interact with your content, you may notice its performance declining in speed and quality. This is especially the case for those users who enjoy adding a wide variety of modules and extensions to their sites.

Large numbers of such installations, along with a curtailed hosting plan, can severely impact your site performance. This can harm your online reputation and authority as a virtual educator, so this issue must be fixed as soon as possible. To get this issue under control, below are some tips for troubleshooting your Moodle when it runs slowly.

1. Review Your Moodle Hosting

While many performance issues can have negative consequences, not all are complex in nature. Before you attempt to address these problems with more advanced optimization techniques, take a look at the basics, first. First up is the hosting plan you are on.

Review the terms and specifications of the hosting plan that currently supports your website. You need to be able to determine whether your current plan is right for you, or if it is the root of the problem. For instance, if your hosting is shared, this may be the direct cause of your Moodle’s slow performance. Such a hosting plan may result in the site being vulnerable to cybersecurity threats as well.

With compromised cybersecurity, your site is exposed to potential attacks from hackers or malware sourced from pop-up links, banners, and other phishing attempts. Apart from these details, review the following factors of your hosting plan to determine whether it is still appropriate for your site:

  • Control Panel (or Compression): Your control panel should be able to handle compression of files that are 20MB or more. Not only is this essential for excellent site performance, but it will also ease the transition between hosts if it ever turns out to be necessary.
    • You must also avoid storing your Moodledata folder as a public folder.
  • Compatibility: Regardless of the version you’re using, Moodle can give its peak performance in a standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PUP) infrastructure. You’ll need to check for a few more things once you’ve established compatibility:
    • Your host updates the infrastructure regularly.
    • The host will allow customization of MySQL and PHP configurations. (Not all hosts will allow this, but it is key that these customizations are made to accommodate Moodle.)

Choosing a Good Moodle Host

If you’re sure that the slowed functionality of your Moodle is due to the hosting, then it’s time for you to purchase a new plan. There are several factors to consider when deciding on what host to use for your Moodle. The most important ones to consider are:

  • LAMP Infrastructure: For this, you must first determine the version of Moodle that you will need hosting for. Each version comes with its own infrastructure and hosting requirements (you can find these specifications in the technical direction documents). As mentioned above in the “Compatibility” point, this infrastructure needs to be updated regularly.
    • It is highly recommended that your Moodle be hosted on a Linux server. This will ensure excellent performance, especially when compared to a Windows server.
    • There are several PHP libraries that must be activated for your Moodle to run as intended. This is what is being referred to above regarding PHP configurations since these libraries need to be modified in the php.ini file for them to be activated. If your host does not allow this, your libraries cannot be activated, and your Moodle will not run properly.
  • Capacity: This is an incredibly important factor to consider when choosing a host. First, determine how large your class(es) will be. Then, check your host’s capacity to determine whether this plan will suit your Moodle. (There’s no use in all the advantageous features if you can’t accommodate your entire class!)
    • Occasionally, you’ll find a Moodle host that can only accommodate as few as 10 users at a time. If the Moodle is overcapacity, the site will then slow down significantly, leading to frustration for you, other educators, and the students.
  • File Compression: Check that the control panel will allow files larger than 20MB to be compressed. This is a preventative measure. If you ever had to transfer to a new hosting provider, the change would have to be done by Secure Shell (SSH), something you can only do with expertise in Linux.
  • Moodledata Folder Location: Again, the public folder is never the appropriate location to store the Moodledata folder. It should only be stored outside of this folder. This will be of significant importance if ever you decided to migrate to a different server at some point – having the Moodledata in the public folder is likely to pose serious problems for such a change.
  • Exclusivity: Although it’s not a make-or-break factor, you’ll want to check whether your host is dedicated to Moodle or offer their services to other platform types. It is not necessarily a negative thing for your host not to be dedicated to Moodle, but if they are, you will have the extra assurance of knowing all software and hardware will be configured to the requirements of Moodle. This is virtually a guarantee that everything will run as intended.
    • When using a dedicated Moodle host, you will also face significantly less competition in the use of server resources. With greater availability of resources, your Moodle will function at peak performance.

2. Check Your Operating System

Just like all other computer programs, the operating system is of great importance in the performance of your Moodle. You have a long list of operating systems (OS) to choose from when operating your Moodle, the most common of which are:

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Mac OS
  • Unix

Though there are many options to choose from, it is highly recommended that Linux be the core OS for your Moodle servers. This will guarantee the best performance, although it will not have severely negative impacts if you choose to opt for another OS. Linux is by far the most popular OS for larger classes, especially those used for corporate purposes and universities.

(Many servers that function with numerous processors use OSs that are highly tuned, like Solaris, for example. These will work just fine, too.)

Recommendations directly from the Moodle site note that Linux is the best choice, namely because *nix OSs do not require as much memory as Windows or Mac OS X servers. This means that, when performing the same task, your Moodle will operate more efficiently since the server configuration is just a shell interface. Finally, Linux does not have attached licensing fees, either, making it the best economic choice as well.

3. Optimize Hardware Configuration

When it comes to managing your learning management system (LMS), the hardware is just as important as the software. You’ll need to ensure that your hardware is configured appropriately for hosting the Moodle to optimize performance and eliminate slow processing speeds. To do this, your system administrator needs to increase the amount of available RAM.

With more available RAM, your server will be able to accommodate more users at once, giving everyone an equally positive experience on the Moodle site. The RAM plays a central role here because it is connected to both the general performance of the Moodle and the site speed. For example, Moodle may take up to 50MB to process (at times, even more!).

If you only have this much available, you will constantly be pushing the site to its maximum limitations. If it ever necessitated any more RAM than that, the site will simply not function to capacity and leave your users without all the necessary server resources. This may also reduce the number of people able to concurrently access and use your site.

If you find your Moodle in need of more RAM, you can opt to purchase a cheap web server while investing more money into additional RAM. (You should choose to use RAM that utilizes Small Computer System Interface disks, or SCSI, rather than Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, or SATA.) Here are a few more recommendations for optimizing your hardware:

  • For every 50 users you intend to engage with your Moodle simultaneously, you need to allocate a minimum of 1GB RAM and 500MB of free disk space for the storage of teaching materials.
  • Form a deeper understanding of what it means for users to engage with your Moodle, though, as different types of uses will put varying levels of strain on the RAM. For instance, users who are simply reading content on the site will not present as much of a burden as those who are participating in the eLearning courses.
    • For this reason, it is a good idea to integrate the use of a mobile app to use offline with your Moodle. This allows for a larger number of people to make use of the site while reducing the demand on the server.

Using a RAID Controller for Hardware Optimization

A RAID (redundant array of independent disks) controller can take different forms. It can be either a software program or a type of hardware, such as a RAID card. This controller is primarily responsible for managing one of these two types of storage devices:

  • Hard Disk Drives (HDDs): An older type of storage device which makes use of a moving read/write head and mechanical platters for allowing access to data. This device works in a similar way as a vinyl record: a head moves quickly from one side of the disk to the other to read the stored data. Since the functioning is entirely mechanical, this type of storage device is almost guaranteed to be the slowest, most fragile component of your computer.
  • Solid State Drives (SSDs): This is the more modern of the two storage devices. It is known to perform at much faster speeds and can store data on memory chips that allow for instant user access. This data is stored on flash memory, requiring much less work from the device to recall information. This allows for a much faster, more efficient performance than what you would get with any HDD.

Why does any of this matter? If you are running a Moodle and your computer has an HDD rather than an SSD, your Moodle will run significantly slower than if you had the latter. This effect will be compounded if you happen to experience limited RAM capacity at the same time. This is where the RAID controller comes in. (Check what drive your computer has before installing a RAID.)

The RAID controller (assuming you’ve chosen to use hardware over software) would be installed between the OS and storage drives. For HDDs, you can count on the controller to improve the performance of the drive. (Unfortunately, there will be no significant performance enhancements for SSDs with general RAID controllers, since they are already better optimized than HDDs.)

How a RAID Controller Will Boost Moodle Performance

Although it will provide different benefits to your RAM and storage devices depending on the type, the RAID controller will provide redundancy to both HDDs and SSDs. Note that you can purchase a RAID controller specifically for improving the performance of SSDs, however, so all is not lost. For most controllers, though, you can expect it to function like this:

  1. Storage drives are virtualized into distinct groups that are given unique characteristics of redundancy and specific data protection protocols.
  2. The front-end interface will then initiate communications with the server. This is done through a host-based adapter, or HBA.
  3. Communication is then sent from the back-end, resulting in the management of storage media.

The different levels of RAID controllers influence the extent to which they will boost the performance of your drives, thereby improving your Moodle performance. The various levels are:

  • Striping (RAID 0): While this does enhance the performance of your hard drive, it is, unfortunately, the only RAID level that doesn’t offer redundancy. This is only recommended for use with HDDs.
  • Mirroring (RAID 1): This provides greater read performance of your drives (how long the drive takes to open a file on your device) and provides data redundancy.
  • Striping with either Parity or Double Parity (RAID 5/6): This is closer to what you might want to optimize the performance of your Moodle since it is recommended for the following applications:
    • Web servers
    • Application servers
    • Environments that require intensive reads
    • Environments that require large amounts of storage
  • Mirroring and Striping (RAID 10): Although this is the best level you can buy for the strongest Moodle performance, it comes with a hefty price tag. Again, due to its high functionality (especially for HDDs), this is ideal for Moodle servers. It offers incredible read and write (how long it takes for your computer to save a file) speeds, along with incomparable data redundancy. This level is particularly recommended for high performance, high-security environments.

4. Adjusting Browser Settings on PCs

There are a few things, in particular, to be attended to concerning the performance of Moodle on PCs. To improve the speed at which your Moodle is running, you’ll need to check the browser you’re using and add the necessary extensions to tweak the performance to your liking.

For example, it is recommended that, if you have Firefox installed, you should make some changes to learn the time necessary for loading the pages of your Moodle site. Add the firebug and YSlow extension to your Firefox browser. The YSlow will specifically evaluate the page loading times in comparison to the rules for quickly loading websites, according to Yahoo.

This will alert you to the most prevalent complications that are contributing to the slow performance of your Moodle site. Not only will those problems be identified, but the metrics for their impact will be provided as well. In general, the recommended browsers for running a Moodle include:

  • Firefox
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Safari
  • Internet Explorer

All these are sure to provide the best experience for both educators and students on Moodle. For each of the browsers, you must set certain browser settings ahead of time. For optimal performance, you must select the following:

  • Enable Javascript
    • Note: If you attempt to enable Javascript on certain devices – most likely tablets, touchscreen PCs, and smartboards – you may run into problems when using the drag-and-drop features in Moodle. For this reason, it is recommended that you do either of the following:
      • Use a desktop computer when using these features.
      • Turn off Javascript in the browser you’re using and, instead of using the drag-and-drop features, you opt for the alternative interface.
  • Enable Cookies

There are a few more additions to the browser setup once these settings have been activated. To keep your Moodle running smoothly and efficiently, you’ll need to install the following add-ons:

  • Adobe Flash Player: It’s not guaranteed that you run into Adobe Flash content on a Moodle, but it is a common form of interactive video or other media with some instructors. Not having this installed on your browser will result in you potentially missing out on a lot of crucial information.
    • Note: Check that your browser still supports Flash Player, as there have been many complications arising with the program in the last year. It may not be available for mobile devices.
  • PDF Reader: It does not have to be the Adobe PDF reader; however, this is the best, most widely available program for this purpose. You will need a PDF reader installed on your computer. However, it would also be beneficial to have a PDF browser plugin as well. This will allow you to open a PDF in an additional tab in your browser instead of opening an entirely new program for a single file.

How to Troubleshoot Your Browser to Improve Moodle Performance

If you’ve already activated these settings in your browser and have downloaded the appropriate programs and you are still faced with slow Moodle performance, there may further issues. There are a few more steps you can take to determine if there are greater problems with your browser:

  • Clear the cache. This might resolve small-scale problems such as complications in viewing the grade book or difficulty using drag-and-drop and other interactive features. Clearing your browser’s cache means that you’re deleting the information stored in the browser’s memory. This includes cookies, browsing history, and files. To clear your cache, follow the guidelines below:
    • Close any other browser tabs and windows you may have open. You will proceed differently according to your browser and OS.
    • For instructions on how to clear the cache according to your browser, see the section below.
    • Ensure a thorough exit and closing of all browsers and tabs.
  • Check the supported versions of the browser you’re using. This will alert you to whether your Moodle problems are due to the browser, your operating system, or more. The latest versions of the browsers listed above in “4. Tweaking Performance Elements for PCs” are recommended for supported browsers.
    • Note: When performing this step, do a quick search online as well to identify any existing, known problems with a given browser and Moodle. For example, one well-known example is the conflict between Turnitin and Safari. Knowing such information will help you to avoid sluggish or otherwise suboptimal performance of your Moodle.
  • Change the browser and/or computer you’re using. If you have been unsuccessful with the last two, your last resort before having to contact IT is to simply switch browsers. Most people have at least two browsers installed on their computer for performance issues such as this, fortunately. If the problem persists, change computers entirely if possible. This is a quick way of identifying whether the problem was Moodle or the computer.

How to Clear Your Cache According to Your Browser

For Windows operating systems, follow the guidelines below.

  • Mozilla Firefox. Press [CTRL] + [Shift] + [Delete]. A pop-up window for “Clear All History” will open up. When asked what time range you wish to clear, choose “Everything.” All boxes should be checked except for “Site Preferences,” then you can select “Clear Now.”
  • Internet Explorer 11. Press [CTRL] + [Shift] + [Delete]. A pop-up window with the designation “Delete Browsing History” will open up. Choose all options except “Do Not Track Data,” “Tracking Protection,” and “ActiveX Filtering.” Keep “Preserve Favorites Website Data” clear as well.
  • Microsoft Edge. Press [CTRL] + [Shift] + [Delete]. This browser will also have the selection, “Clear Browsing Data,” however, there will be no pop-up window for it. Under this selection, you will click “Choose What to Clear.” You will have to choose the following elements, then click “Clear.”
    • Cookies and saved website data
    • Form data
    • Download history
    • Passwords
    • Browsing history
    • Cached data and files
  • Google Chrome. Press [CTRL] + [Shift] + [Delete]. When the pop-up window for “Clear Browsing Data” opens up, select “Advanced.” When asked for a time range, choose “All Time.” You will then select all boxes with the exception of “Media licenses” and “Content settings.” Once all the appropriate boxes are selected, select “Clear Data.”

For Mac OS X systems, follow these instructions to clear your cache.

  • Safari 10+. Press [Cmd] + [Alt] + [e]. This will open up your preferences. In the Safari browser, select “Clear History.” From the dropdown list, you will then select “All History,” followed by “Clear History.”
    • Note: If you cannot do it this way, you can choose “Preferences” in the Safari browser. In the Privacy tab, choose “Manage Website Data.” Then, you will select “Remove All,” followed by “Remove Now.”

No matter which method you choose to optimize your Moodle performance, you must realize that there is no single solution to resolving the complex challenges that may arise on your site. As you have seen, Moodle interacts with a wide range of components in your computer, so keep all components in top shape at all times for the best educator and student experience.

5. Optimize Your Training Content

With most of the developed world on broadband internet connections it is easy to forget that 3/4 of the world is not. Plus your host has a network bandwidth connection speed as well. This means that your connection speed to the internet from your host and how many students and where they are still makes a difference to user experience.

So what can you do to fix this by looking at your training content?

  • Reduce File Sizes
  • Third Party Video Hosting
  • Website Caching

Reduce File Sizes

Here are the file types of the files you can optimize quite easily:

  • Images
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Microsoft Office Files
  • Other Files

Images

When you take a photo with your phone, tablet or camera the file size will normally be between 1mb and 4mb. If the image is a full screen size at HD resolution the file size should not be bigger than 100kb to 150kb.

Audio

When you are recording Audio you don’t need to have a high bit rate and unless you have two people in a studio you only need mono. Standard bit rate for MP3 music is 128kbps but with eLearning you can lower it to 64kps without much noticeable difference.

Video

Depending on what you are trying to show you can vary your video quality to match but if you want some standard video settings they would be:

1366 px x 768 px
This is for full screen casting so you can get the detail without the extra
useless real estate you don’t need.
22 fps (frames per second)

NOTE: There is a bigger discussion to be had here for less or more resolution depending on what training you are producing but you can make that decision as long as you are aware of file sizes.

Microsoft Office Files

If you do a File > Save As with your office files. There is a Tools option at the bottom of the save dialog box and inside there is a Compress Pictures option. You should do this will all of your Microsoft office files after adding lots of image files already. If not it is a nice trick to know about.

Other Files

If any other files don’t need to be opened in a web browser then compress them into zip files and this for text based files will make them 1/10th of their size. For binary files the reduction size will depend on the type of binary file. It is ok if you don’t know what that it. Just zip any other file types for assessments.

TIP: There is a tool called format factory that will convert whole folders of audio, video and images for you to compress them all at once. It will also do the same for many other file types.

LINK : Format Factory

Third Party Video Hosting

If your host is slow with video you can host the video on a third party like Vimeo. They will host your video and provide protected links for your students to view them and provide HD high speed streaming for you.

If you would like to find some competitors to Vimeo simply search “Vimeo vs” in google and you will get reviews on alternative services.

Website Caching

If you are serving your content to students all over the world then it may be worth investing in Website Caching services. This means that invisibly to you your website is cached all over the world on servers local your students.

This takes load of your web host and provides a quick user experience for your students. These services are also called Content Delivery Networks (CDN). For a list of these you can check out the article below.

LINK: Content Delivery Networks


Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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