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Koha: Local vs. Cloud-based Setup

So, you’ve decided that Koha Integrated Library System is the best software for your library. The next logical question you should ask is, “what’s the best way to implement it?”. There are two ways to setup Koha, either locally on a server/computer that is physically located somewhere at your premises, or on a cloud-based environment (either your own, or via a Koha hosting company such as BiblioTech Libraries). There are pros and cons to both approaches, and in this article, we will list some of the major ones.

Local, self-hosted Koha setup: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fewer on-going costs –  You generally only need to purchase/upgrade hardware once every few years
  • Faster system access over a LAN – cloud-based installations necessarily require a fast and reliable connection to the internet. If your LAN is setup properly, access to your system will generally be faster

Cons

  • High setup costs – you will need to purchase or acquire new, dedicated (highly recommended) hardware and possibly reconfigure your LAN. You will also need to find space for the server(s)
  • Costs accumulate overtime – hardware will eventually need to be replaced or upgraded. This cost may be very high in the event of a catastrophe, such as theft/physical, fire or water damage
  • Low Reliability – your system is subject to power-outages, internet cuts and of-course, hardware failure.
  • Time cost – Your server hardware will require regular maintenance and upgrades, which will prove costly
  • Data loss is a constant danger– even with regular backups, if your server packs up (or is stolen or damaged), you will need to reinstall and reconfigure your base (Linux) system and Koha environment, which will result in days/weeks/months of downtime, depending on how quickly you can secure a replacement.
  • No remote access – unless you have a dedicated IP/remote access software that allows for your system to be accessed off-site, you will likely need to be physically present at your server in order to do any problem-solving or regular maintenance. If you have outside technical support, this may take a fairly long time. A cloud-server on the other hand, allows you to access your system at any time, from anywhere
  • Limited access to your software – locally installed systems generally only allow for access if you are connected to the LAN network. This means your students/patrons will only be able to access your library resources when they are physically on the premises. This will hamper your patrons’ learning experience.

Cloud-based Koha setup: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Generally costs less to setup – no new hardware is required since you will be using your hosting companies servers, and hosting is often very cheap.
  • Offers Best, fastest hardware – cloud-hosting companies will make sure that you have the best hardware (RAM, processors, storage such as fast Solid State Drives) available.
  • Easy hardware upgrades – with cloud-servers, increasing your RAM, storage and computing power is very easy. It literally takes the click of a button.
  • Great Up-time, High reliability – most cloud server providers offer up-time guarantees of over 99.99%, which means your system will always be online and ready to be accessed
  • Rapid resolution to tech issues – even if you are not on your school or library premises, if anything goes wrong, you can access your cloud server at any time from anywhere as long as you have access to the internet. If you are using external support, such as BiblioTech Libraries, their technicians can do maintenance and updates during the “graveyard” hours, which will result in far less downtime.
  • Plug and play – you will not need to make any changes to your LAN network to accommodate a new server(s). All you need is an internet connection to access your Koha system on the cloud-server from any device and from anywhere.
  • Remote, global access to your Koha system – your patrons can access your library’s resources from anywhere, at any time via the internet. This will make your library a far more attractive, exciting and useful learning experience.
  • Easy backups – many cloud-hosting providers come with easy backup solutions, including entire system image backups and multiple geo-redundant servers.

Cons

  • Ongoing costs – you will have to pay a monthly/yearly subscription to the hosting provider, although even this will turn out to be cheaper when you factor in hardware and time costs
  • Security – because your Koha system is accessible via the internet, you are more susceptible to hacking/data leaks. Measures such as firewalls, port security etc. are crucial
  • Internet access is required – unlike the local system which is access via the LAN network, you need a reliable internet connection to access your cloud-based Koha system. Koha, however, comes with a number of offline tools that will help you to continue functioning if your internet connection goes down.

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