Managed hosting is an Internet hosting service where the hosting company not only provides you with a server for your website, but they also take over many of the day-to-day administration, optimization, troubleshooting, and system maintenance tasks. As a result, managed hosting allows you to focus on your business or hobby instead of spending countless hours managing and maintaining your server.
In the past, managed hosting used to only be available on hosting packages that were based on the single tenant hosting model, namely dedicated server hosting. Consequently, for a long time, dedicated servers were used as the foundation for managed hosting. Being the sole tenant of a server was essential since it meant that the entire server would be used to power only your website. As a result, the hosting company would be able to make adjustments and modifications to suit your site’s specific requirements.
Nowadays, managed hosting is considered to be an add-on to your existing hosting plan. As such, you should be able to convert your unmanaged hosting plan into a managed one, as long as your hosting provider offers managed services. Such conversions are possible on most hosting packages such as private cloud hosting, a dedicated server, and even VPS hosting.
If you think of buying regular hosting like renting a house, then getting managed hosting would be like renting the house and also hiring a butler to look after it. The butler will perform all of the mundane but necessary household chores for you, thus freeing you from this responsibility. Moreover, the butler will be at your service 24/7, giving you the peace of mind that your house is looked after at all times.
As we mentioned earlier, nearly all web hosting plans can be converted to managed hosting. This is because any plan that comes with a suite of additional benefits and services can be considered managed hosting. These management perks often go beyond the server’s operation and maintenance. In fact, most managed service providers (MSPs) will be able to assist you if you encounter an issue with your site’s frond-end or back-end.
The thing that you need to keep in mind is that the suite of management services can differ substantially between hosting providers. As such, it is important to find out exactly what benefits each managed service provider can offer you and pick the MSP that best suits your needs. Broadly speaking, you will come across four levels of server management:
- Unmanaged servers offer the lowest degree of support from the hosting provider. If you get a hosting plan that is unmanaged, the hosting provider will likely supply you with a server that has only an operating system installed. You are then supposed to set up, configure, and monitor your hosting environment manually.
- Self-managed hosting services are slightly better than unmanaged hosting in terms of management support. With a self-managed hosting plan, you are still expected to perform most server operations yourself, however you can rely on your hosting company to monitor your server for issues and provide assistance if any serious problems arise.
- Managed hosting provides you with a considerable amount of assistance from the hosting provider. You are free to perform any action on your server, however tasks such as server monitoring, software and operating system updates, as well as regular maintenance and optimization will be carried out by the hosting company.
- Fully-managed hosting is the most comprehensive managed hosting package available. It offers complete server management that includes setup, maintenance, monitoring, optimizations, troubleshooting, and installing updates. You will receive support not only for the system applications installed on the server, but for your website software as well. Fully-managed hosting most closely resembles the butler analogy from earlier. You are still allowed to perform any action that you want on the server, but when you have a team of professionals who are at your disposal 24/7, you wouldn’t need to.
Fully-managed hosting has given birth to a new type of managed hosting service called application-specific managed hosting. With this type of managed hosting, you are limited to running one specific website application on the server. Other applications, even if they use the same underlying frameworks and libraries, will be rejected. Moreover, you will not be able to run arbitrary code on the server. On the bright side, the hosting company will go out of its way to optimize the server for the one website application that they have opted to support. Thanks to these optimizations, application-specific managed hosting can offer you substantially better performance when compared to a generic hosting plan that has the same server specifications.
Without a doubt, the most popular type of application-specific managed hosting is managed WordPress hosting. When you get a WordPress hosting plan you will receive a hosting package that is specifically tuned to run WordPress as efficiently and securely as possible. Some popular optimizations include advanced server-side caching solutions, custom firewalls, and automatic updates for the core WordPress installation along with all installed themes and plugins.
Managed hosting is well-suited for individuals and organizations that do not have a lot of experience in server maintenance. So instead of hiring expensive IT consultants or spending days going through Linux administration courses, you can just opt to get a managed hosting plan and let the hosting company handle all technical aspects of running a website.
That said, you might still opt to get a managed hosting plan even if you have the necessary experience in server administration. The most compelling reason to do so would be to save time. Making sure that a server always runs optimally is a time-consuming task. As such, it makes financial sense for companies to offload server management to the hosting provider, thus freeing their IT department to perform other business-related tasks.
Yet another reason to go with managed hosting is if your enterprise uses multiple servers to power a single website. The higher the number of servers that are in operation, the more difficult it is to make sure that they are all working properly. As such, hosting providers who are able to assist you in the management of multiple interconnected servers are said to be offering a complex managed hosting solution. Unsurprisingly, complex managed hosting is considerably more expensive than regular managed hosting.
As we have outlined so far, managed hosting can entail many different tasks and services from the hosting provider. However, not all hosting providers offer the full range of management services. This is why it is important to check the Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA is a document that outlines the specific services that each hosting provider is able to offer.
Managed service providers typically offer the best Service Level Agreements due to their enhanced support capabilities. While most hosting providers may only offer support for the server hardware and operating system, managed service providers often include performance monitoring, system updates, and even comprehensive technical support for your website.
The thing that you need to keep in mind when going through a hosting company’s SLA is to note whether their enhanced support services come bundled in with their hosting plans. It is common for hosting providers to offer basic support on all of their hosting plans while leaving enhanced support as an optional add-on that you need to purchase on top of your hosting plan.
Speaking of cost, it should come as no surprise that managed hosting is more expensive when compared to an unmanaged service. The difference in price is the result of managed hosting’s enhanced support capabilities. After all, these perks and additional services are all enabled by a team of professional support personnel and system administrators.
That said, you may find that different managed service providers price their hosting plans differently. The variation in pricing can often be traced to differences in the number of support tasks that each hosting provider is able to offer. As you might imagine, the price increases as more and more support services and perks are added to the managed hosting plan.