Managed or Unmanaged Dedicated Servers: What Do I Need?

How do I know if I need managed hosting?

If you are wondering if managed hosting is right for you then you are having doubts. Maybe not even doubt in your technical skills, but in the downtime it takes to carry them out. The time and effort you have available for the upkeep and maintenance of your business product is just as important as making sure you have the ability to use it.

With unmanaged hosting you are leasing your own server to do with as you please, but the host usually provides the bare minimum of service. The host will reboot servers and keep internet going to your server, but that’s about it. They will replace any failed components on the server you are leasing through them, but by then it’s usually too late to not have at least a day of down time. Server software and a control panel to monitor your hardware and software will often be up to you to provide. Security patches and any error messages will be your responsibility to figure out and fix as well. These are all things that managed hosting provides for you. It is this kind of 24x7 support that makes this option expensive, but probably less expensive than your own salaried system administrator.

Here are some things to ask yourself when considering the two options. The host usually has staff able to help with these problems, but will charge a hefty premium for that kind of service. The technical assistance is hourly and would probably undo all the savings you had on choosing the less costly unmanaged service.

• Can you deal with any downtime and how much?
—If you feel like you are able to handle any eventuality within a small window then you are set. Remember to accommodate for time: computer parts need to be ordered, software errors need to be researched. Depending on the complexity of a problem, it could be a few days your site is down while you are fixing it.

•Do you feel comfortable applying security and software patches?
—Sometimes a security or software patch comes out and it creates serious problems with email or applications that you are running. System administrators usually have a test environment to see how these patches react. Are you capable of setting one of these up or are you able to understand the research into what the patch is fixing? Depending on what the patch is it takes at least an hour or so.

•Most importantly do you feel confident in your technical skills?
—You will be dealing with IP addresses and routing errors that you may have no experience in. Weird errors that you’ve never seen before, and have no idea how they were caused.

How do I know if I need managed hosting? If you are asking that question, then chances are you do. Maintaining your website, email and software applications is a large project and will require 24x7 availability. If you are unable to take on those responsibilities, then you should choose managed hosting. It’s not an easy decision because those dollar signs are hard to not see. When you are sitting down and budgeting this out, consider the cost of the service but also the cost of your time. Just because I can (or enjoy) fix(ing) my car, doesn’t mean that I can fit it into my day.

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