Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting: Your Options Explained


Web Design

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11 min


06 July, 2021

To set your website live and get it out there, you’ll need to host it somewhere. Hosting a website means to give a website some space on a web server so that it can be served to users when they try to access your site.

Hosting doesn’t affect your options for CMS and website builders. You can normally host them anywhere.

The world of hosting is ever developing, and there are a lot of different hosting options available. Shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting… the list goes on!

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If you’re researching managed and unmanaged hosting and found this page, then you’re probably looking to host or set up your website, right?

If you’re early on in the project, why not take a look at the web design services Canny Creative offer to help you build the most successful and profitable website possible.

In layman’s terms, managed hosting provides a much easier and simpler route into hosting, and you’ll receive a more consistent quality of support if anything was to go wrong with your website.

In a time of not too distant memory, some of the biggest sites in the world experienced outages because of a hosting error by hosting site Fastly. Although the outage only lasted around an hour, when you’re thinking about sites like reddit, Amazon, and the official UK government site, that’s actually a pretty major amount of time (and revenue)!

Sometimes, hosting issues like the Fastly error are pretty much unavoidable.

The core difference between managed and unmanaged hosting in that instance, is that people who were [hypothetically] hosting on Fastly via a managed service knew that the issue would be fixed and they could focus on running all of the other aspects of the business.

People hosting on Fastly via an unmanaged service probably had to focus on the outage, and trying to fix an issue that was essentially unfixable.

One of the core benefits of a managed hosting solution is that, as much as an outage of a website for someone like Amazon would be incredibly costly, if an outage of your website grinds your entire business to a halt and there is nothing anyone can do until it is fixed, and you have to devote all of your time to the technical issues rather than running your business it can be far more damaging.

That is the broad spec overview of the difference between managed and unmanaged hosting, but for more information and specifics keep reading!

If you’d like to discuss your hosting options with Canny Creative, get in touch and we can discuss your hosting options and how we provide support.

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An Introduction to Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting


What is a hosting plan?

A hosting plan is one of the first things you’ll look at when you’re deploying a website. Before you have a hosting plan in place, you literally can’t make your website available to the internet.

A hosting plan gives you space on an internet server. These servers then take care of serving all of the information you’ve plugged into your website to anyone visiting the particular website address.

As previously stated, there are a lot of hosting plans available, and each offer various upsides and downsides.

VPS hosting is a more expensive route than some options out there, but you get a little bit more for bang for your buck- usually extra resources, security, and dedicated servers that belong to your site and your site alone.

Shared hosting is a more cost friendly option that utilises one server shared amongst several websites, rather than having a singular dedicated server for just your website. This is usually totally fine, unless something comes along that causes that particular server to crash.

Things that cause this type of crash are normally one of two things:

  • A deliberate or malicious attack on your website, a particular website on that server, or the server itself (known as a Ddos attack)
  • A sudden influx of traffic to one website due to some sort of value add that has driven real, authentic traffic in such a volume that it overloads the servers (known as a hug of death)

Collectively, these are known as slashdotting, or the slashdot effect.

This can also happen on a dedicated server, but it is less likely due to the increased capacity.

Shared hosting options are typically unmanaged hosting services. This means that whoever you host with will fully manage everything server-side, but you will be in control of the technical management, speed, and security of the website.

Managed hosting services are more involved in the other technicalities, ensuring the security, backup automations, updating, and speed management of your website.

Colourful website code in a text editor

Managed Hosting vs Unmanaged Hosting: Which is Best?

Well…the difficulty in answering that question depends on your business. Here are the most noticeable and important differences between managed vs unmanaged hosting.

Benefits of Managed Hosting

Managed hosting is a fantastic option not just from a technical point of view, but from an entrepreneurial or business minded perspective. Like all services, you essentially end up trading money for time and effort put in- managed hosting takes away all of the responsibility of the hard, technical work from your business, but that comes at a proportional cost.

  • Managed hosting takes away a lot of the vital maintenance tasks that you would otherwise HAVE to do and monitor to keep your website functional
  • Website security management and website core updates are automated and monitored by tech professionals
  • Backups, CDN (content delivery network), and other key technical processes are handled by the host

Cons of Managed Hosting

As previously stated, managed hosting comes at an increased cost, but what are the other negative considerations of managed hosting?

Managed hosting cons may (depending on where the hosting is happening) include:

  • A slightly higher recurring cost
  • Less flexibility with regard to plugins and software versions
  • Limited access to account configuration options

Benefits of Unmanaged Hosting

If you aren’t not particularly technically adept, or not complete au fait with website management on a server level, managed server hosting is probably the best option for you.

If you feel well equipped to start sorting out your own website security and maintenance, and are prepared to commit to doing that long term, the unmanaged shared hosting options without any managed features will be a far more budget friendly option.

  • low cost
  • Full technical access to cPanel for account level personalisation and adjustment options
  • More flexibility for older version software integrations

These comparisons show that budget and level of control are the two main deciding factors for managed vs unmanaged hosting.

If you prefer to go for servers that you won’t be sharing server space on, you’ll probably be looking at dedicated servers or VPS servers.

What is VPS Hosting?

VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting is a combination of shared hosting features and dedicated hosting features. They are ideal for sites that have outgrown the shared hosting environment and require a little bit more dedicated server space.

Although with VPS you do still share a physical server with other sites, each site is partitioned into its own little space depending on how much of the server it requires. This is done digitally using virtualisation technology, which allows the site to run its own operating system, applications, add ons, and features.

In this way, VPS is akin to having a dedicated server without the expense of actually having a dedicated server. You still have to share the actual hardware technologies of the server with other sites, which means you are still likely to experience lag, slow server response times, or even outages if another site on the server experiences a massive spike in traffic.

This is somewhat mitigated by the partitioned virtual space allocating resources from a server, but if every site on a server is running at 95% of its capacity then you will be somewhat limited by the hardware.

The key difference between VPS hosting and shared server hosting is that VPS hosting allows for a much greater level of customisability at a server level. This means you have root level access and have far greater levels of control over your site, without the attached cost that usually comes with dedicated server hosting.

Pros of VPS Hosting

  • Greater control and customisation options
  • Less security and downtime issues compared to shared server hosting
  • Cheaper overhead costs than dedicated servers

Cons of VPS Hosting

  • More expensive than shared hosting
  • Still reliant on shared hosting to a degree
  • Higher barrier to entry unless you go with managed VPS hosting services

Man plugging cable into computer server

Managed vs. Unmanaged VPS Hosting

For VPS hosting, managed hosting tends to be the better option unless you have a lot of experience in website hosting and development. Managed hosting plans for VPS hosting are typically customisable, so that you can choose more features and functionality for your site as it grows and develops.

As customisation is a main feature of VPS hosting, many managed hosting platforms offer tech support and customer service to allow you to really tailor what it is your website requires.

If you decide to go it alone, and go unmanaged, then there may be a steep learning curve to VPS hosting.

Although it is closer to dedicated hosting than shared hosting, it is a hybridisation and as such comes with lots of the benefits, but also carries the frustrations, of both hosting methods.

Experienced website managers should be fine with handling unmanaged hosting options, as they will be relatively familiar with the challenges that managing your own hosting presents.

For everyone else, it’s probably better to go with managed hosting options to save yourself a load of hassle- if it’s within your budget.

Dedicated Hosting

What is Dedicated Hosting?

Dedicated hosting is, if you haven’t already gathered from the above, a hosting option which gives your site a server all to itself.

The simplest hosting service to explain, with dedicated hosting you get full control over your hosting end to end, and all of the wonderful customisability and add ons that comes along with that.

Pros of Dedicated Server Hosting

  • Private Server
  • Fully Customisable
  • Typically the most secure hosting option

Cons of Dedicated Server Hosting

  • Expensive

That’s it.

There’s really only one bad thing about dedicated hosting, but it is a major factor in contributing to the decision making process. Managed dedicated hosting is by far the most expensive option for hosting services, and usually way above what any normal b2b website would require.

It is the most secure, and the most customisable, but really unless you are running an incredible amount of traffic through your website, having a dedicated server is typically a nice to have rather than a need to have.

Photograph of a person working on a laptop

What is the Best Hosting Option For Me?

It honestly depends on how much traffic you get on your site, but for 99.9% of the sites out there shared hosting is more than enough power for your website.

VPS hosting is normally overkill if you’re just focussing on serving your website quickly and to a huge volume of users, but is a good option for those who want a little bit more control over their security and customisation at a server side level. As an out of the gate product, VPS hosting is a strong in between option but can be costly for not much upside when compared to shared hosting.

Dedicated hosting is great, especially managed dedicated hosting, as having a managed service prevents you from going over the top with updates, add-ons and extra bells and whistles. Realistically though, if you’re going with dedicated hosting options you are expecting to have millions of site views or you need high level security at a server level… So unless you’re Jeff Bezos or James Bond, dedicated hosting tends to be a bit over the top.

Dedicated servers tend to be overkill and then some for the majority of websites, and can be a bit of a money pit as once you’re hosting on a dedicated server there will always be an opportunity for ‘upsell’ to the next best version of security, support, updates etc.

With shared hosting, especially managed hosting, you’re still paying for a service but it never feels disproportionately priced considering what you are getting. With a managed service, you manage to avoid all of the common pitfalls of hosting that occur due to inexperience or a lack of established network management knowledge.

It’s also good to have the option to grow your service- if you find that your shared server is running exceptionally slowly, or isn’t fulfilling your needs anymore, you can always upgrade to a VPS server.

Downgrading from a dedicated server or VPS server can be much more difficult!

To discuss your server hosting options further, and to get a little bit of a better understanding of how Canny can help you with your hosting options, get in touch today and see what we can do for you!

Hi, I'm Jordan and I'm the Head of Development at Canny Creative. During my days I am bringing your website to life and doing all the things that make me so much fun at parties.

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