Managed Hosting vs. Unmanaged Hosting

When you’re on the hunt for a new hosting plan, one of the many choices you will face is between Managed Hosting vs. Unmanaged Hosting. Knowing the difference between managed and unmanaged servers can mean a lot. 

When we start shared hosting is the most common hosting type (find here more about hosting types). Cheap, lots of choices and often offered as an additional service when registering your domain name,  the word ‘management’ is nowhere to be found. This means that you and you alone will be responsible for the proper administration and maintenance of your web hosting account. It is only when you start looking into dedicated servers or VPS hosting services that are the next step up from a shared hosting account.

Do not despair, for starters a shared hosting account does usually have a nice graphical user interface for all the most common options. It has some rudimentary controls to change your DNS records, install WordPress, create a database and create email addresses. It is when you get serious about online business when you will find out that shared hosting does no longer fit the bill. Either because your website is no longer getting faster, you want to do some specific SEO tweaks or in general want more control and say in things like security settings, traffic management etc that shared hosting really does no longer fit the bill. This is the moment you are faced with a serious decision: run my own web hosting and learn all the intricate and ever-changing skill of proper web hosting management.

If you are a unicorn you might be able to pull that off and teach yourself some basic Linux commands, CPanel administration, Apache and PHP, some Nginx or other caching software packages and perhaps most important some basic firewall administration tricks. In all honesty, don’t. From personal experience, you will soon be overwhelmed by a lot of issues that require a significant investment of your time.

So now you are looking at dedicated servers or VPS hosting services. Both are on offer as managed and unmanaged hosting. Besides a pretty obvious price difference managed and unmanaged you should not base your decision on price alone. In the end, you might find out that the cheaper unmanaged hosting is just as expensive or even more expensive if you add all the support you have to buy in, not to mention your own hours and energy. On the other hand, you could be throwing a lot of many towards something you might not need.

What is Managed Hosting?

When you are shopping for a hosting plan. There are a lot of components you can compare on any giving plan. You might not need everything and some choices are somewhat arbitrary. The key one is the server and the hardware. The server usually comes with an operating system. Also, it comes with all kinds of software and tools to help you run your website.

The hosting service provider may also give you additional features, such as status monitoring, security check-ups, automated backups, etc. These are all management services that tend to make things easier, additionally, you get support and advice on an ongoing basis on the status of your web hosting. Managed hosting accounts take care of all the upgrades and updates on all the installed software as well. and that is where the name “managed” hosting comes from. If you want to keep things simple, it is a hosting plan which comes with plenty of add-ons, services, and benefits.

But, what about Unmanaged Hosting?

Unmanaged hosting, on the other hand, is a plan where you either don’t get any extras or you have to install them yourselves, which means you have to do a custom installation including all the settings to get a piece of software to work on your hired server. This leaves you to install everything, and by “everything” I mean even basic software such as PHP or Apache. These systems don’t have anything out of the box. All is up to you and your confidence to play around with servers.

The term “unmanaged” simply states that the hosting service provider doesn’t do anything to your server. If you need or want something done, it is up to you to do it yourself. You will need to understand what it all lacks, but first, let’s see what each comes with in terms of pros and cons.

Managed Hosting vs. Unmanaged Hosting: Which one to go for?

In the comparison of managed hosting vs. unmanaged hosting, any inexperienced user will want to get managed hosting. It might seem like a more attractive option. If you don’t want to spend extra money on server management, managed hosting might also be the better option. The downside is that you will have to adhere to certain restrictions that the hosting provider has put in place. Most of these are common sense, but some of them will have to do with your hosting company. Make sure the managed hosting company has the specs you are looking for out of the box. Also if you are using the web server to also serve as a testbed for anything other then web hosting this is usually not allowed and an unmanaged service would carry no restrictions on this.

While we’re discussing the topic of limitations of managed hosting services, you also might be restricted as far as WordPress plugins go. A good example would be the service stopping you from running caching plugins. That’s true if there is already a server-level system in place. For someone who wants to run their own set of plugins, which they know work best for their specific use case, having an unmanaged hosting might be a better fit, as they get all the flexibility they need.

So, how to make your decision?

There are two main things to consider. The first one is whether you need any specific services and software. If you do, you must make sure that the hosting company can support them before committing to their plan. If for example, the hosting company doesn’t support that custom video encoding solution you need, you can’t really use it.

And, the second important factor, is whether you have enough skills to take on server management by yourself. If you’re not, and you’re tight on budget, you might as well go for an unmanaged hosting service. Just as long as you remember that in order to be fully compliant and work on the technical side of SEO you need to know a lot or be willing to invest heavily into a staff member or dedicated freelancer who can take care of that for you. In that latter case, unmanaged hosting is actually more expensive.

The decision is one that you should think about thoroughly before pulling the trigger. If you opt for an unmanaged server, you must be absolutely sure that you can afford the maintenance. It is about both experience and money, as it is by no means an easy job. If you can’t devote enough time to it, don’t bother at all.

As far as managed servers go, if you need complete control and root access, they might not fit you best. Even though there are hosting companies that give you root access to the servers, managed servers usually cost more and give you much less control. It is a matter of freedom or convenience, whichever you prefer more.


Going for a managed or unmanaged hosting is mainly a choice between doing a lot of work yourself or trusting an external party to know what they are doing. Personally, I prefer the latter. I know enough about hosting to know what I need, but I would struggle to take care of it myself. Perhaps I would gain the knowledge, but then again, as an entrepreneur, you really don’t want to get bogged down in the intricacies of web hosting account management and especially the security side of things. Managed hosting accounts start from 5 euros a month up to a full blown 50 euros but for expert advice and a secure website, it seems to be worth every penny.

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