When it comes to hosting, the word “management” only appears regarding VPS, dedicated or semi-dedicated servers. You don’t come across managed hosting when you upload your site to shared servers. You can also come across the term “managed hosting” when acquiring cloud hosting. What you will notice at first, is the great pricing difference between managed and unmanaged hosting. But cost is not the only reason you should take into account when choosing a hosting plan. Going with the wrong option will surely become an extra spender in the long run.
Managed Vs. Unmanaged Hosting
A managed hosting package features tech support for any problem you may stumble into. This troubleshooting might not include your website’s content (ie. a coding error on your blog), but you will be getting all the pre installed applications and features, such as operating system, server configuration and control panel managed from the host’s end. In many cases, managed hosting plans includes automated monitoring and backup of your information.
On the other hand, unmanaged hosting is more affordable, due to the fact that the plans does not include any support. This means that the provider will reboot servers, replace broken components and keep the power flow running, but will not troubleshoot neither support any software or guide you through any installation process. This option will suit better the experienced users. It will be up to the user to install security patches, fix bugs and every other malfunction. In other words, you are totally in charge of your computer and server and whatever happens in them. Some hosts may not provide a control panel. In that case, it is up to the user to install one. Unmanaged hosting plans offer (some of them) some basic tech support billed by the hour. But beware: hourly rate is really high, and you may lose the savings you made when you chose an unmanaged plan rather than a managed when paying the tech support hours.
Unmanaged Hosting Strengths and Weaknesses
When dealing with an Unmanaged hosting plan, you get total control over your site and server: individual access and absolute freedom, as if your server was your own desktop computer. Cost wise, if you are familiar with the actions required by the maintenance of a website, unmanaged hosting is a very smart way to go.
But if you happen to struggle with server downtimes and security patches installations from the start, you may need a managed hosting plan. This option is better for users with IT expertise or less time to invest in the problems that could arise from managing a server. Although cost is higher, you get peace of mind. If something goes wrong, you can always get some tech support from your host, there is always someone to give you a hand.
Which option should I Choose?
There is infinite kind of customers and needs, so that is not a fair question. But what you need to do is to ask yourself the following questions:
What would the impact of a downtime be if there was a software issue?
Do you feel confident enough to apply security patches from a remote location?
Do you really need unregulated, individual only access?
Does the cost difference justify the extra work or tech issues?
Besides managed and unmanaged hosting, there are some companies that offer hybrid solutions. These options will provide you root access to your server, but will still provide a pre-fixed amount of tech support. If making up your mind is too hard for you, go with this middle ground, it may stand for the best of both options.
What about my budget?
You must decide what’s more important for you: cost or tech support activities.
If you don’t feel comfortable dealing with server issues, you should go with a managed solution. If your provider doesn’t offer this option, ask about a hybrid plan.
Unmanaged hosting is only intended for users who can handle all the workload from the server (maintenance, tech support, etc) by themselves, with high IT experience. Remember cost is not the only factor to look at.