If you have been looking for a hosting plan, you’ll no doubt have seen some packages described as ‘managed hosting’. If you are unsure what managed hosting is, how it differs from unmanaged hosting and whether it’s the right choice for you, this post will hopefully provide the answers you need.
The difference between managed and unmanaged hosting
Web hosting is the act of installing your website software and content on a web server so that it can be found and accessed over the internet. The web servers belong to your web host and are housed in a datacentre. Keeping your website or applications online is, therefore, a joint venture between the host and the website owner. The host takes care of the physical hardware and infrastructure and the website owner looks after the website software and content.
There is, however, a middle ground that can either be undertaken by the host or the site owner. This includes actions such as making backups, monitoring and optimising the performance of the server, installing and updating the server’s operating system and setting up and maintaining server security software, such as firewalls and malware and intrusion detection.
Managed hosting is when these things are carried out by the web host. Unmanaged hosting is when they are carried out by the customer.
It needs to be understood, however, that not all managed services are the same. Web hosts can offer different managed hosting solutions to each other and provide different managed services for different types of hosting. At the same time, some of these managed services are included in the basic price of a package while others can be purchased as an add-on service. Some enterprises even choose to work with their hosts to create bespoke managed services that are tailored around their specific needs.
When to choose unmanaged hosting
Choosing unmanaged hosting can be less expensive than managed hosting, but its biggest attraction for businesses is that it gives them far more control over their hosting. Apart from keeping the machines running, they take responsibility for everything else. Companies that have very complex IT infrastructures and which often rely on legacy software can find it easier to manage their applications when they have this level of oversight and control.
Of course, to do this, these companies need to have the extensive IT expertise to undertake all these management tasks themselves. This is usually achieved through a combination of employing experts and buying in third-party technical support.
When to choose managed hosting
The vast majority of companies choose managed hosting because it is more convenient and because they lack specific server management skills. While running a website has got easier, thanks to the development of user-friendly admin panels in platforms like WordPress and through the wide range of functions offered in control panels like cPanel and Plesk, the workings of a web server have, for many companies, remained an area over which they have little knowledge. If you have never had an in-house server and employed someone who can run it, unmanaged hosting can cause real problems.
With managed hosting, you can forget all about the more complex issues, such as installing PHP modules, load balancing, database optimisation or troubleshooting a server issue when something goes awry.
Indeed, today, even companies that have the in-house expertise in place to manage their own hosting choose to opt for a managed hosting solution. With a shortage of IT expertise available in the recruitment market and those that work in the sector demanding high salaries, it is far more cost-effective, productive and convenient to hand server management to the web host so that IT staff are freed up to work on more business-focused projects.
What to look for in a managed hosting plan
What you need to look for depends upon the type of hosting you choose. If you have shared hosting, for example, the simple fact that multiple customers share space on a single server means no individual customer could be responsible for server management – it’s always carried out by the web host. However, even with shared hosting, you should look for other server management solutions being included in a managed package – these include website backups and 24/7 technical support.
For more advanced forms of hosting where users have their own operating system, you’ll need to look for automated backup solutions, real-time performance monitoring, updating of OS, control panel and other server software and security software management.
Today, the advantages and convenience of managed hosting make it the number one choice for businesses. It removes all the burdens of managing your server and the calamities that can happen when a lack of know-how causes issues. At the same time, it allows smaller companies to get on with running their websites and larger organisations to put their IT expertise to more productive use.