In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between managed and unmanaged hosting plans, and try to simplify everything down so it’s easy to understand. But, more importantly, how it affects you and your website, and ultimately your business.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the definitions and see exactly what they mean.
Why ‘Managed’ Hosting?
A hosting company always bundles together a number of services and components to make your website run just as you want it to. Underlying all the bells and whistles that different hosting plans offer, you have the thing that actually allows you to have a website in the first place, the server.
Without this, nothing will work anyway! Along with the server we have the operating system and other software designed to run websites.
On top of this, we have the software that looks after security, automated backups, and status monitoring. These services and others are generally called ‘management services’.
Notice the similarity between the two words ‘management’ and ‘managed’. This is the essence behind a Managed Hosting plan. In a nutshell, a managed hosting plan gives you hosting along with some additional benefits and services, including automatic software updates. All of which you eventually pay for, no matter what the adverts say.
So Unmanaged Hosting is the opposite?
Yes, you guessed it. Unmanaged hosting means that you have a server, usually the basic operating system, and perhaps the absolute minimum software to allow your website to run.
For the sake of argument let’s assume your unmanaged hosting plan just supplies the server and operating system (the basic minimum). You’ll then have to install all the other software to run the website. This could include base system software such as Apache and PHP, as well as software like Drupal, WordPress or similar.
So, we can now see that unmanaged hosting provides the basics and expects you to supply everything else including software updates. Looking at it from a different aspect, you have complete control over what you do on the server.
That sounds like hard work
The obvious conclusion that jumps out at you is that to make an unmanaged hosting plan work, you have to know what you’re doing, and be very skilled at it too. You also need to know when software updates are released and how to install them. In effect, only use this if you want a customized system and have a full IT staff to operate and monitor it.
Let’s have a quick look at some of the management services on offer in a managed hosting plan.
Automated website backups
Taking regular backups is one of the most important services a hosting provider can do for you. However, for backups to be truly effective they need to be done properly and to a strict procedure.
- Make sure the backups aren’t held on the same server as the website. Storing backups on separate servers ensures the files don’t get lost if one of the servers sustains physical damage or becomes infected by malware.
- Make sure your databases are also backed up. Databases are probably more important than the website itself. You can always rebuild the website, but your databases hold your posts, comments, customer financial and contact details and other irreplaceable data.
- Make sure you have regular backups, either daily or weekly, depending on how busy the site is.
If you want your data to be really secure, there’s no harm in also making your own backups and storing them locally.
Automatic software updates
Most software houses have a system of continually updating their products to remove bugs and add new features. It obviously makes sense that you have the most up-to-date software version in your plan. This is where automated updates come into their own. Otherwise, it’s up to you to keep an eye out for new versions.
If your website is built around older applications, it may not be compatible with the modern core software. Something like WordPress shouldn’t be a problem because they update all the time. A custom application, however, may not. Ask the provider what safeguards they have to counter this potential problem.
This aspect is vitally important for any website. It isn’t just downtime that’s the problem. In fact, it’s trivial compared to harvesting bank account details and other private data. Make sure you have the most up-to-date security versions available.
One of these is vital in any Managed plan. It allows you to manipulate your email options, create databases, view performance statistics, etc. without having a degree in computer science. Don’t forget, you can install one of these, say cPanel, even if you have an unmanaged plan. It just won’t be there by default.
A company that strives to help out its customers obviously has their best interests in mind. All companies should supply basic support, but depending on what your plan costs, you might have to pay extra for additional support.
So, why use unmanaged hosting at all?
After reading about these extra services available (and there are more too) why would anyone ever choose an unmanaged hosting plan?
There are three main reasons
- The user has the aptitude and time to do the job thoroughly.
- Saving money.
- A piece of software needs individual tweaking for a specific server.
To sum up
If you’re like the majority of people without a dedicated IT team, managed hosting will always be the favorite way to move forward. Only use an unmanaged plan if you have the resources or knowledge to run it properly. Even if you are offered a cheap unmanaged plan, don’t be tempted to use it unless you really know what you’re doing.
The choice is yours to make, but all things being equal, I would always advise someone to pay for a managed hosting plan. You know it makes sense!
Whether you are searching for a managed or unmanaged hosting solution, I suggest you try our Hosting Finder tool. It will narrow your choices according to your specific needs.