As websites and web apps become more technically advanced, the demand for VPS (virtual private server) hosting continues to grow. A natural step up from shared hosting, VPS hosting affords businesses the freedom to create modern, media-rich websites and internal or external web apps without worrying about bandwidth and storage space.
If you’ve settled on VPS hosting, one question inevitably follows: managed or unmanaged? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the answer to this question will depend on the nature of your or your client’s business, workforce, and needs.
In this blog, we give you the lowdown on managed vs unmanaged VPS hosting to help you discover which one is right for you.
What is VPS hosting?
The VPS in ‘VPS hosting’ is short for ‘virtual private server’. You’re probably familiar with that last bit: servers are high-spec computers that store large amounts of data and make it available for users to access online. Servers underpin every data centre and drive every website and resource on the internet.
But a server is a physical, tangible thing. So what exactly is a virtual server, and why the distinction between private and shared servers?
A virtual server is essentially a server within a server. Using machine virtualisation – the process of using a computer to emulate one or more other computers – one powerful server can essentially be split into multiple virtual servers. While these virtual servers are less powerful than the server as a whole, they each have their own dedicated resources.
This is the private aspect. Rather than sharing the resources of the server with other users whose data is stored there, each virtual server has a set amount of storage and computing power partitioned from the others, much as a computer has its own RAM and CPU. This means that – unlike shared hosting – the entire VPS is always at your disposal, meaning more bandwidth and fewer bottlenecks.
Not only are a set amount of resources guaranteed to each virtual server, but the files stored on each one are also completely distinct.
As each virtual server uses a separate operating system, any changes to one cannot affect the others, and no files held on one virtual server are accessible by the others. It is, to all intents and purposes, a real server – but in a digital costume.
What is managed VPS hosting?
Managed VPS hosting is probably the most popular form of VPS hosting, particularly for businesses without a comprehensive IT infrastructure. With managed VPS hosting, much of the support and maintenance required to keep the VPS running is outsourced to the VPS provider.
This includes tasks and services such as:
- Managed server configuration
- Tech support
- Cybersecurity services
- Software updates
- CDN setup
In short, managed VPS hosting takes care of the majority of setup and maintenance for your VPS, leaving you free to focus on how best to use it.
This does not mean a completely hands-off approach: you will probably still need to install and manage any software yourself, or upload and manage any websites yourself. But the important aspects – configuration, maintenance, monitoring, and backups – will usually be taken care of for you.
The biggest downside of managed VPS hosting is that it’s more expensive. This is an obvious point, but you’ll have to weigh the cost of outsourcing it against the cost of performing the same tasks in-house.
Managed VPS hosting may also limit the capabilities of the VPS, including the operating system you choose to install on it. However, some VPS providers will still allow you root access to the server for greater flexibility and customisation.
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What is unmanaged VPS hosting?
As you may have guessed, unmanaged VPS hosting does not involve the same level of initial or ongoing support as managed VPS hosting. With unmanaged VPS hosting, the operation and maintenance of the VPS is left entirely to your business.
The VPS provider simply provides the VPS, with no expectation that they’ll have to configure or maintain it, except for the hardware and physical infrastructure it uses.
Unmanaged VPS hosting usually saves a significant amount of money, with some providers charging 80 or 85% less than a managed VPS package.
With free reign over the VPS, you’ll generally also have more choice over how it’s initially configured and what is installed on it, such as your own operating system, control panel, and one-click installers.
An unmanaged VPS keeps everything in-house and avoids all third-party involvement with your VPS and data. This could be preferable from a security standpoint, as well as from an autonomy perspective.
The obvious caveat to all of this is that the ongoing operation of the VPS is down to you, and will require technical expertise and time to manage.
Which one is right for my business?
If you’ve not used a VPS before and do not have the in-house expertise needed to manage one, then managed VPS hosting is likely to be the right choice for you.
A managed VPS hosting package offers all of the benefits of a VPS – a powerful server with ring-fenced resources for storage, websites, or web apps – without the hassle of managing and configuring it. You’ll still need the expertise to use it, but even this may be provided by the VPS hosting company as part of a support package.
An unmanaged VPS is best for businesses that have confidence in the abilities of their IT staff to configure and manage it.
This usually applies to businesses with an IT department that already has some experience of working with virtual private servers. You may, for example, be seeking to transition from managed VPS hosting to unmanaged VPS hosting to harness the full range of benefits of a VPS.
Hiring staff specifically to configure and manage a VPS is unlikely to be cost-effective, even accounting for the price disparity between managed and unmanaged VPS hosting.
Instead, an unmanaged VPS is likely to be a better choice when its configuration and management form part of the responsibilities of an existing IT team or a member of staff with the capacity (both in terms of time and knowledge) to do it.
Once the initial workload of server configuration is complete, the ongoing management may not demand much additional work and could fit neatly into someone’s ongoing duties.
Your choice may also depend on what you intend to use the VPS for, and how often this use case is likely to change.
If your VPS is primarily intended for a single use case such as web hosting or storage, there may be less of a burden in terms of management or configuration.
If your intention is to use the VPS as a platform to create and test web apps, then it may require more configuration and supervision. And perhaps it would be better served by an experienced technical team who can help to set it up and ensure it’s working correctly.
Managed VPS hosting also comes in different shapes and sizes. At Nimbus, we offer nine managed VPS hosting packages, featuring different server specs to suit your needs, starting from just £31/month.
All Nimbus packages benefit from our expert, round-the-clock support, a wide range of intuitive tools, and eco-friendly hosting that’s powered by 100% renewable energy.
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