Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting: Which Is Best for You?

Managed hosting and unmanaged hosting are two different sides of the same coin. A web host may offer identical hosting technology – same CPU and number of cores, identical RAM memory, the same fast internet connection, etc. – but in the first instance, they manage the software and in the second, you or team does.

We now go into some detail about the differences and why one or other will be best for you.

Managed Hosting

Managed hosting means that the web host sets up and maintains the server. They check the performance, replace any hardware as needed, and deal with security aspects too. If a website gets a malware infection, they’ll often help to remove the infection and find out how and why it happened. This both informs their team and avoids the same customer experiencing the problem again.

For non-technical people, managed hosting is the right option. No question at all. There’re just too many technical things to learn and know, details to keep abreast of, and software to manage for a novice who’s just starting out. The web hosting and technical jargon alone will take time to learn. And should the hosting have a problem, there’s a highly knowledgeable technical support member there to help get you (and your site) get out of trouble.

Unmanaged Hosting

Unmanaged hosting is like it sounds. You get access to server hardware over the internet. You may (or may not) have Windows or a distribution of Linux pre-installed; it’s best if you do. You may (or may not) have a web server software package like Apache installed for you. This will give you a root folder for your website and root access control.

Usually, unmanaged hosting also means you can make changes to the underlying operating system. With root or superuser access, you can change or configure the web server how you choose. It could be something like Apache or NGINX, which includes a web server, load balancer, reverse proxy, caching and a proxy for mail. Everything from HTTPS secure access to email to web caching you’ll have to set up yourself. No backups are performed either. Sorry.

The biggest risk with unmanaged hosting is that while an intermediate-level hosting customer could potentially set up an unmanaged hosting system, they don’t get technical support for almost everything other than outright hardware component failure. They break it, they have to fix it. What if they mess up the web server and it won’t serve pages for the site? Figure it out or pull in outside help at your own cost. Or, reinstall & reconfigure the web server again because you don’t know how to fix it when it goes wrong.

Unmanaged hosting provides far greater control over the hardware, hosting platform, speed, and capacity. However, the hosting product is targeting highly technical people who prefer to manage everything themselves except the physical data centre. They still need web servers, cabling, database systems, connection to the internet backbone, sophisticated cooling systems, and backup diesel power generators. They don’t want that headache.

Managed Hosting: What Extras Do You Get?

There’re a few additional things that you get as a customer of managed hosting that for most people makes it worth the extra cost.

Technical Support – Access to a technical support team is vital for anyone using managed hosting. The hosting customer relies on being able to get in touch when or if something goes wrong. They’re responsible for ensuring the hosting continues to work, the email is sent/received correctly, and connection to the site via FTP/SFTP is possible; basically, that it all works as it should.

cPanel Most hosts include cPanel which is the control panel of choice for hosting companies. It’s useful when a host uses this control panel because long-term hosting customers are usually familiar with it and if they’re not, once they’ve learned the ins and outs, they’re good. Through cPanel, it’s possible to install WordPress on a domain within a few minutes rather than do it manually on an unmanaged host. Installing an SSL certificate is also substantially easier too. Other control panels like WHM and Plesk are fine alternatives too. Just so you’re not doing it all manually.

Backups – There will usually be regular backups with any hosting account. Their frequency is the main difference between hosts and hosting plans. Some hosts will perform only an incremental backup, not a full backup each time, which is faster. They’ll need to restore the original backup and then the sequential backups to get back what was lost; a full backup each time is quicker to restore.

Software Updates – The operating system and web server will usually get updated by the host without the end customer having to do anything. This makes it less likely that the website will get hacked because the operating system or web server wasn’t patched for a security hole that’s been a problem for a year already.

Improved Security – Given that a single web server on a shared hosting platform might host hundreds of websites, a problem with security triggers is not only a technical issue to resolve, but a hoard of upset hosting customers might get in touch and write bad reviews of the service. Measures are put in place to provide improved security because the host is incentivised to do so.

Resource and Performance Monitoring – The amount of resources (CPU cycles, CPU cores, RAM memory, etc.) being used and the performance of the web server and relational databases is monitored for overcapacity. Managers can adjust the load balancing to send more traffic elsewhere if using cloud hosting solutions or increase available resources to manage a surge in traffic.

The choice and suitability of managed hosting or unmanaged hosting are easy to clarify. People who are new to hosting or non-technical require managed hosting at all times. Knowledgeable people who have a solid understanding of software, Linux, coding languages and digesting technical instructions quickly might find unmanaged hosting preferable for the direct control it gives them.


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