For businesses procuring servers from hosting providers, one of the primary distinctions they need to be aware of is the difference between managed and unmanaged servers. The choice will have a significant impact on a variety of business factors, including staffing, IT budgets, and time-to-deployment. Which option a business should decide on depends on the level of IT expertise they have in-house and the extent to which they are prepared to invest their employees’ time to managing their hosting infrastructure.
To help businesses make the right choice, were going to take a look at what they can expect from both unmanaged and managed server hosting and under which circumstances they should choose managed server hosting. The following applies to both virtualized servers like Virtual Private Servers and hybrid servers, and to dedicated hardware or server clusters.
What Is Managed Server Hosting?
As the name suggests, managed servers entail a much higher involvement in server configuration and ongoing management and support by the hosting provider than do unmanaged servers.
With an unmanaged server hosting package, a business can expect to be given access to a minimally configured server with an operating system; the hosting company’s staff will ensure that the hardware functions as it should and that vital resources like power and bandwidth are maintained. However, all management of the server, including configuration of software, including the web server and its associated software stack, are the responsibility of the client, who will need to have some experience in the system administration of Linux servers.
Managed servers provide a much more complete solution. There are a range of different levels of managed hosting, but at a minimum, managed server packages should include:
Software management – this generally includes configuration and installation of the operating system, system services like the web server, database software, and a control panel. Software management may also extend to application software management: installation and configuration of a content management system like WordPress, for example.
Monitoring – Managed servers are monitored at the hardware and software level by the hosting company, and hosting company staff will troubleshoot issues as they arise.
Security – unmanaged server clients are expected to be responsible for their own server security, including firewall configuration, installation of security updates, and anti-spam and anti-malware systems. Managed server packages take care of much of the burden on ensuring that servers remain secure.
Support – Managed server packages generally include a much more comprehensive support provision, with uptime service level agreements (SLAs) and round-the-clock telephone and email support.
Managed servers are best for businesses that want to outsource much of the overhead of server configuration and maintenance to their hosting company. They are appropriate for developers and and web designers with minimal Linux server experience, who may find system administration a time consuming and unproductive task.