Many hosting companies who sell VPS plans and dedicated server plans ask whether you want a managed plan or an unmanaged plan.
A managed hosting plan is where the hosting company handles everything. They will set up the hosting control panel for you and help you manage it. For example, the hosting company will install software for you and configure server settings when required. Many hosting companies will also help you with general website related questions such preventing spam and website optimisation.
In contrast, an unmanaged plan requires you to do almost everything yourself. You usually have to install the hosting control panel yourself (though some companies will do this for you if requested) and it is your responsibility to administrate your server and ensure it is configured correctly and secure. Support is normally limited to hardware issues and responses to downtime.
Who Needs Unmanaged Hosting?
You may assume that unmanaged servers were created specifically for technical customers who want full control over their server. That is not the case.
Firstly, let's look at it from the hosting company's point of view.
Many hosting companies only offer unmanaged services as they do not want to get involved with customer support and administration related tasks. Companies that offer managed and unmanaged hosting services recognise that customers who purchase unmanaged hosting plans are not taking up their time. This is why unmanaged plans are cheaper than managed plans.
From a customer's point of view, purchasing an unmanaged hosting plan allows you to hire someone else to handle the configuration of your server and provide support when needed. It is easy to see why many website owners go down this route as many hosting companies that offer reliable hosting plans are not known for providing good support.
Choosing a different company to help you manage your hosting account means that if support is not to the standard you desire, you can simply hire another service management company.
The Role of Server Management Services
I used managed hosting services for fifteen years. On a few occasions I moved to a different hosting company because of a poor level of uptime, but the most common reason I changed host was poor customer support.
In 2015 I decided to purchase an unmanaged server from OVH and use the server management service Server Surgeon to set up my server, secure and configure my server, and administrate it on a monthly basis.
I have been incredibly happy with this setup so far.
Should I ever have a problem with OVH, I will look for another hosting company to provide me with an unmanaged server.
Should I ever have a problem with Server Surgeon, I will look for another server management service to help administrate my server.
Server Surgeon helped me a lot in the beginning. They configured the server to my liking and transferred all of my websites over to my new hosting plan.
Server Surgeon only charges $65 per month for their services. On their website they advise that this plan includes website monitoring 24 hours a day, however they have never alerted me to any downtime. Despite this, I have been very happy with their service.
There have been months where I have no had to ask for help from them and I have questioned whether their fee is justified, but whenever I have had any problems they have resolved the issues quickly and effectively. That is exactly what I want from a support company and knowing they will always help me resolve hosting related emergencies in a timely manner gives me peace of mind.
If you are looking for a new hosting setup, I encourage you to consider hosting with an unmanaged hosting plan and using a server management service to handle support and administration of your account.
This kind of set up is obviously not for everyone; but I have no doubt it will suit many of you.
Please drop by Rise Forums if you have any questions relating to using a server management company.
Server Management Companies
Below is a selection of server management companies you may want to consider for managing your server.