One of the most important parts of any internet-based business is hosting. One of the many reasons it’s critical to choose the proper provider is to ensure that your website has robust foundations, such as the capacity to handle traffic surges and avoid downtime. This our guide on Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting.
Considerations such as supplementary services and the level of customer assistance offered by a host are just as significant as the technical prowess of their servers. It’s reasonable to say that a good host will relieve you of a significant amount of hosting stress, whereas a terrible host — or even a poor choice in hosting package — can wreak havoc on your site.
I’ll explain the differences between managed and unmanaged hosting in this article, as well as what each of these terminology implies to you, the user. By the end of this post, you should have a much better understanding of both of these services, as well as which one to utilize. Let’s get this party started…
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What Is Managed Hosting and How Does It Work?
A hosting package is made up of several different elements, the most basic of which is the server hardware. An operating system and several types of software for running websites are frequently installed on the server.
Additionally, hosting firms may provide services such as automated backups, virus screening and removal, status monitoring, security sweeps, and other similar services.
The’managed’ component of the term’managed hosting’ refers to these additional functions, which are management services. In essence, managed hosting is a hosting plan that includes a variety of additional features or services.
Rather than you needing to build these features/services yourself, the host will do it for you. This not only makes it easier to use (because less technical expertise is required), but it also saves you time and allows you to focus on running and expanding your website.
What Is Unmanaged Hosting and How Does It Work?
Unmanaged hosting refers to a hosting plan that includes no (or very few) extra services. You can, for example, get a server with merely an operating system installed with unmanaged hosting. As a result, you’ll have to install any required software on your own. (By’software,’ I don’t only mean WordPress, Drupal, or other content management systems; I also mean Apache or PHP.)
The term “unmanaged” refers to the fact that the hosting business does not provide any services or perform any management chores on your server. You’ll have to do it yourself if you want stuff done. Later in this essay, I’ll go into more detail about unmanaged hosting and what it lacks.
In One Analogy, Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting
If you’re still unsure about the distinctions between these two types of hosting, consider the following easy analogy. Let’s pretend that hosting is the same as buying a home.
Managed hosting is similar to purchasing a ready-to-move-in home; all you have to do is bring your own furnishings and begin living there. Some homes are even equipped, allowing you to move in right away!
Unmanaged hosting is like to purchasing an undeveloped plot of land and constructing your own home. It’s fantastic because you can customize every aspect of the house to match your requirements and preferences, but if you’ve never constructed a house before, you’ll find it difficult to construct anything that can withstand the elements. You don’t want your house to collapse or leak in the first storm, do you?
What Kinds of Services Are Included in Managed Hosting?
The specific services you get with managed hosting vary from business to company, but there are a few that are universal across the board. Let’s have a look at some of these to see what they mean.
BACKUPS THAT ARE AUTOMATED
This is crucial, because no one wants their data to vanish in the blink of an eye. Automated backups are a terrific solution since they give you piece of mind and, to some extent, relieve you of the burden of needing to backup your site on a regular basis. (Note: You should still make backups on a regular basis just to be cautious – it’s always better to be safe than sorry!)
It’s worth noting, though, that not all automated backups are made equal. You should inquire about two things in particular with the provider:
Is my backup on the same server as my website?
Do my databases appear in the backup?
It is critical to ensure that the backup is not kept on the same server as the original. If your hardware fails and needs to be changed, you’ll lose your backups as well if they’re stored on it!
The most crucial element of your website is usually your databases. WordPress may be reinstalled, and your theme can be re-downloaded or re-coded, for example. However, if your database is lost, you will lose all of your posts, comments, users, and more! In a nutshell, if you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you should always back up your database.
To make matters more complicated, different providers have varied backup and storage rules.
This, in my opinion, is the most challenging aspect of picking a host. You must do your homework since not all hosts provide the same things – and even if they do, they may vary between businesses. Furthermore, what’s offered may differ depending on the specific service package you select – and even if hosts improve or adjust their offerings. Always do your homework before selecting a new host.
Performance monitoring is critical because it may (and should) warn you before a problem occurs. For example, your host may inform you when your website is about to exhaust all of its available resources (such as memory, among other things). This alert may provide you with enough time to call a support technician and have the problem resolved before it becomes too late and your traffic suffers.
UPDATES TO SOFTWARE ON AUTOMATIC BASIS
If you wish to have the most recent versions of core software, such as PHP, Apache, MySQL, and others, automatic updates might be a godsend. Many hosts will do this for you, so you won’t have to worry about anything.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that this isn’t always a good thing; for example, some older apps may not be compatible with newer versions of these basic components of software. If you have a WordPress website, you probably don’t need to worry about this, but if you have a bespoke application, it’s something to consider.
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SCANNING FOR MALWARE, SECURITY, AND REMOVAL
For anyone with a website, server security should be a major consideration. When it comes to security, website downtime may seem insignificant when compared to the threat of a hostile effort to expose your users’ personal information.
Security and malware scanning can reveal a wide range of problems on your server, and removal/cleanup services can help you get rid of them if they do show up. These services may not be able to prevent everything, but they may surely serve as a good first line of protection.
A CONTROL PANEL FOR HOSTING THAT IS EASY TO USE
A managed server should include a control panel that allows you to configure specific features such as databases, email forwarders, DNS records, log access, performance statistics, and other activities.
Most’standard’ managed hosts will come with a pre-installed control panel like cPanel or Plesk. Most premium managed WordPress servers, on the other hand, have chosen to create unique dashboards that are dedicated to the WordPress experience.
You should be fine as long as it is functional and has the information you require.
You can, of course, install your own control panel (such as Plesk or cPanel) on an unmanaged server if you have the requisite skills; but, you won’t be able to do so unless you have the appropriate expertise.
GETTING ACCESS TO SSH
This is something that the vast majority of basic users will never want; nevertheless, if you request any more advanced development work from your developer, they will almost likely thank you for it. Furthermore, if you plan on learning more about servers and developing your own websites, you may find yourself using it.
SSH stands for ‘Secure Shell,’ and it’s a command-line interface that allows you to securely access your server. It not only does what your control panel does, but it also does a lot more, which is why developers love it!
Installing additional software, such as version control, developer tools, scripts, and other useful add-ons, is one of the most prevalent uses of SSH.
SERVICE OF ASSISTANCE
Basic help is always free, and the majority of top-rated hosting companies now include live chat support as well. Tech support can assist you with a variety of problems, or at the very least lead you in the right direction. You shouldn’t expect the most basic free services to install or update software for you (something they might not even be able to do), but they always offer general recommendations (or at least should).
Personally, I usually make it a point to speak with a host’s live support before electing to utilize any of their services, and I would suggest you to do the same, as I’ve found it to be a great indicator of a company’s overall objectives.
A solid support system does not always imply that a company has better gear, but it does imply that they care about their customers. This has frequently shown to be one of the most crucial variables.
SERVICES AVAILABLE ON DEMAND
Basically, you could call this paid customer support, and it might encompass anything from software updates or a requested virus scan to malware cleanup or a speed optimization analysis.
Some services, such as virus removal, may be available as both on-demand and automatic functions. Some hosts will bundle malware scanning as an automated service, but you’ll have to pay if you need a hand removing any malware the automated scan detects.
Managed WordPress Hosting
In general, servers must be prepared for anything. Users can install WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or all three – and run them all at the same time! This has no effect on the server, but it does mean that it can’t be properly optimized for a single system.
It’s here that managed WordPress hosting comes in handy. The following is an example of how to think about it:
If someone is simply going to run WordPress, why not build a server that is optimized for it?
As a result, managed WordPress hosting is typically quicker and more secure than its shared and/or VPS hosting equivalents. A host can optimize everything from the hardware to the software for running solely WordPress sites on a managed WordPress hosting plan.
Caching is an excellent example of WordPress-specific tweaking.
It’s a technique that can substantially enhance the speed of websites, and it can be accomplished using WordPress plugins — but it can also be done more quickly and efficiently using server-based tools. Because managed WordPress hosting are aware that each of their sites will be powered by WordPress, they can handle the caching for you. Because all of their users’ environments are the same, they can more simply automate analysis, scans, and upgrades and include them in the base price. As a result, managed WordPress hosting are slightly more expensive than their non-managed counterparts. However, they do contain a lot more management services.
Let’s go over the benefits again. Your web address will be:
- more dependable
- much more quickly
- more dependable
Furthermore, your hosting package will provide a broader choice of administration services at a lesser cost. However, there are also possible drawbacks to all of this.
The loss of flexibility is the biggest disadvantage of this form of managed hosting. To begin with, you can only run WordPress-based websites. However, this is more of a given than a disadvantage.
Furthermore, you may be limited to just using particular WordPress plugins. If your host uses server-level caching, you won’t be able to use any WordPress caching plugins (with a few exceptions). WP Engine, for example, a leader in managed WordPress hosting, blocks a number of plugins, which you can see in full here.
All of these limits are beneficial, with the exception of a tiny number of people who run highly specialized or slightly out-of-the-ordinary websites, who may find them overly restrictive.
Revisiting Unmanaged Hosting
Let’s have a look at unmanaged hosting now that you have a better understanding of what managed hosting includes. You might question why anyone would desire a server without management services after knowing about all of the extra features that come with managed hosting.
There are three key reasons why you should go with unmanaged hosting rather than managed hosting:
At the server level, your program requires additional customization and refining.
Unmanaged servers typically come with an operating system but little else. You’ll need to use the command line for whatever you wish to do.
It’s critical to recognize that the command line is the most powerful tool available. All of the administration services provided by hosts, as well as the functionality provided by control panels, rely on instructions delivered via the command line in some way. You may not be able to see it, but it is taking place.
As a result, you can accomplish whatever the host can do for you if you have the requisite expertise. You may download, install, and set up your own monitoring services; you can add malware detection and removal tools; and you can even construct your own control panel!
Unmanaged servers may be the way to go if you want to save money and have the know-how.
In other circumstances, server-side applications may necessitate such a specialized setup that the hosting firm simply does not provide. This could also result from the need to over-optimize a server.
It’s worth noting that working with an unmanaged server necessitates a significant level of server management expertise. You can’t run websites ‘out of the box’ with a basic, unmanaged hosting plan, and there’s no graphical interface for you to communicate with the server. In a nutshell, unmanaged servers and hosting plans are only for the tech-savvy!
You should generally go with managed hosting for now if you have no understanding what phrases like ‘SSH’ or ‘command line’ mean. Once you have gained the knowledge and skills to administer your own server, you may always move to unmanaged hosting.
Price Comparison of Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting
Let’s build on the ‘to save money’ justification from the previous part in this piece.
For the same resources, managed hosting will always be more expensive than unmanaged hosting. This makes sense: you’re getting more services (and the host is performing more labor), thus you should expect a higher price.
So, how significant is the disparity?
Managed hosting is normally around double the price of an equal unmanaged plan, however this clearly varies depending on the provider. As the price rises, this ratio usually decreases. For example, a low-end managed plan may cost twice as much as a low-end unmanaged plan, while a high-end managed plan may cost 1.5 times as much as the corresponding unmanaged plan. This makes sense because many managed features are priced the same whether your server has 2 GB or 8 GB of RAM.
Let’s look at two cases to demonstrate this…
Managed and unmanaged VPS plans from Media Temple are nearly identical
There are some slight changes in storage restrictions, but the resources are essentially the same.
The following are the monthly costs:
- Level One — unmanaged is $30, while managed is $55.
- Level Two – $50 for unmanaged and $100 for managed accounts.
- Level three — unmanaged is $100, while managed is $150.
- Level 4: $250 for unmanaged and $350 for managed.
- Level 5 — $500 for unmanaged and $750 for managed services.
As the price climbs, you can observe how the pricing discrepancies become closer. The cost of a managed server is 2X for the first three levels, but it reduces to 1.5X once you reach level three.
Cloudways is another good example of a hosting provider that converts unmanaged cloud VPS hosts like DigitalOcean or Vultr into managed hosting services. This clearly shows the cost difference between a managed VPS and an unmanaged VPS with the same resources.
Here are the price differences from DigitalOcean for the exact identical cloud VPS characteristics. The unmanaged pricing are what you’d pay DigitalOcean directly (price list), whereas the managed prices are what you’d pay Cloudways to manage your DigitalOcean VPS for you (price list):
- Level One: $5 for unmanaged accounts and $10 for managed accounts.
- Level Two – $10 unmanaged, $22 managed.
- Level Three – $20 unmanaged, $42 managed.
- Level Four is $40 unmanaged and $80 managed.
- Level Five — unmanaged is $80, while managed is $135.
- Level Six — unmanaged is $160, while managed is $230.
Again, you can see how the price for the first four tiers is essentially 2X (or more). However, if you get into the more expensive plans, the price difference becomes much minimal. The managed plan is only roughly 1.45X the uncontrolled plan by level six.
Hopefully, you now have a better knowledge of the differences between managed and unmanaged hosting, as well as the different specific services that managed hosting comprises.
If you’re asking this question (managed vs. unmanaged), it’s definitely a hint you should continue with managed hosting for the time being, at least until you gain the abilities you’ll need to use unmanaged hosting. Unmanaged hosting demands a high level of technical knowledge or the financial means to hire someone who does – it’s not for the faint of heart.
You won’t be able to choose your new host in the next 10 minutes, but you should now have a good idea of what questions to ask. Good luck, and do let us know if you have had a particularly positive or negative experience with a specific host!