Many website owners opt for shared web hosting initially as it offers solid performance at a low cost, ideal for new websites. Shared hosting refers to multiple websites being hosted on the same server, meaning they share resources such as RAM, disk space, and CPU. Plus, since there are other websites on the same server as yours, there are more entry points for potential security breaches.

To avoid these security concerns and sharing computing power with others, many websites eventually make the switch to more powerful, private options such as VPS hosting as their website traffic grows. However, when choosing a virtual private server, you may be offered the chance to choose between both managed and unmanaged VPS hosting. But what do these terms mean, and what are the differences between them? Read on to discover more.

What is VPS hosting?

First, let’s discuss VPS hosting in a bit more detail:

VPS stands for virtual private server. To create a virtual server, a physical server is split into multiple virtual machines (VMs) using a type of virtualisation software called a hypervisor. The hypervisor allows the host device to run multiple distinct VMs by sharing resources virtually between them.

Each virtual machine or VPS will therefore have its own virtually allocated resources. However, unlike with shared hosting, these resources aren’t shared between hosting customers because each VM is its own distinct unit with its own operating system (OS). This means that the resource usage of other VPSs on the physical server won’t affect your VPS, and you’ll also benefit from better security because your VPS isn’t linked to other virtual machines at all. 

A VPS is as close as you can get to an isolated physical server without paying the high price tag. Although you won’t have as many resources (e.g. RAM and CPU) as you could get with an entire dedicated server to yourself, the allocated resources you get with a VPS are more than enough for a medium-sized website. Plus, VPSs are much more affordable than dedicated servers, so they offer the most bang for your buck.

What is a managed VPS?

Managed VPS hosting takes away the stress of configuring and managing the server yourself. Instead of worrying about VPS security or keeping on top of data backups and software updates, you can outsource all of these tasks to your managed VPS hosting provider.

Typical managed VPS services will include:

  • Server setup
  • Server configuration
  • Software updates
  • Security services
  • Monitoring
  • Data backups
  • Tech support

Even though a lot of these technical tasks will be handled by your VPS provider, you’ll still be in charge of managing your websites and installing your preferred software. Plus, many VPS hosting providers will still give you full root access with a managed VPS, giving you a greater amount of customisation and control should you wish to use it.

Advantages of managed VPS hosting

Who would choose managed VPS hosting for their website? Here’s why it’s a popular option among online business owners:

1. Better for those with limited tech knowledge

The main reason why someone would choose a managed VPS plan is that they lack the technical knowledge to maintain their server themselves. In addition to server setup and configuration, everyday server maintenance can be complex, involving constant updates, backups, resource usage monitoring and security threat monitoring. If you have very limited technical understanding, it can be better to outsource these tasks to your provider so you don’t set up your VPS incorrectly or fail to combat security threats.

If you’ve just started a new online business, the cost of hiring your own IT team to handle server maintenance could be unrealistic. Instead, managed VPS hosting can take server maintenance off your plate without you having to expand your business before you’re ready.

2. Time-saving

Even if you are somewhat familiar with maintaining and updating a VPS, you may still prefer a managed VPS plan if you don’t have a lot of time to spare. Creating your own website and trying to increase your traffic can be very time-consuming, so if you don’t have to perform daily server maintenance, this can free up a lot of time you can spend on more important tasks. This is especially relevant for very small or single-person businesses, as they don’t have staff available to take over server maintenance 24/7.

3. Peace of mind

Finally, having a managed VPS can give you peace of mind when it comes to resource usage and server security. Since your VPS provider is monitoring your server 24/7, they’ll be there to identify and solve security threats, uptime issues and insufficient resources before they escalate into a more serious problem. Instead of worrying about these issues, you can simply focus on your website.

Disadvantages of managed VPS hosting

However, managed VPS hosting isn’t for everyone. There are also some notable drawbacks, including:

1. Cost

The main thing discouraging people from choosing a managed VPS is the much higher cost. In fact, some hosting providers offer unmanaged VPS hosting plans that are 80%-85% cheaper than managed hosting plans. Although managed hosting can be very convenient, you have to ask yourself if this is worth the steep price increase.

2. Lack of freedom

You may still have full root access with your managed VPS package, but you still won’t have the same level of freedom you could get with a self-managed package. You’ll be able to install your preferred software and perform some customisation, but you won’t have ultimate control over how your server is set up and how it’s monitored and maintained each day. This may not be an issue if you’re just setting up a simple website, but if you’re working on a more complex, bespoke project, this could be an obstacle.

What is an unmanaged VPS?

As the name suggests, unmanaged VPS hosting is where you have complete control over the day-to-day management, maintenance, and monitoring of your VPS. Your VPS provider will be on hand if you have any technical issues, but most of the responsibilities will be yours.

If you choose an unmanaged VPS, you’ll be in charge of:

  • Setting up your server
  • Configuring your server
  • Installing software and updates
  • Managing backups
  • Monitoring resource usage and security threats
  • Maintaining security features like firewalls and encryption

All your VPS provider will be in charge of is maintaining server hardware in their data centre. Everything else will be managed by you or your in-house IT team.

Advantages of unmanaged VPS hosting

Wondering whether you should choose unmanaged VPS hosting? Here are the main benefits you can expect:

1. Full autonomy

Unmanaged VPS hosting gives you full autonomy and control over your web hosting projects. Thanks to full root access and a lack of external interference, you can configure your server to your exact preferences and keep an eye on all of your software, updates and resource usage graphs personally. This is ideal for those who want things done their way.

2. Cost-effective

Another huge benefit of unmanaged VPS hosting is that it tends to be significantly cheaper. If you’re just starting out with your new online business, it may make sense to save money where you can and opt for an unmanaged hosting package. Even if you don’t have much experience with VPSs, you could go for an unmanaged VPS and use online tutorials to help you learn – this may take some time, but it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Plus, you’ll gain valuable technical skills that you can apply to your business or website in the future.

3. No reliance on external parties

With unmanaged VPS hosting, you can keep everything in-house. Although anyone can enjoy this type of VPS hosting, it’s especially popular among more established businesses with their own IT teams, as they’ll have the time and experience to handle day-to-day server maintenance. Since all maintenance is taken care of within the internal team, this means that there’s no external involvement in your IT infrastructure, which is very appealing to businesses with heightened security concerns. 

In addition, not relying on a third party means you can deal with any issues yourself rather than waiting for assistance. You’ll also be in charge of regular server monitoring, which will help you gain a better understanding of the condition of your server and any potential threats against it. This is important for anticipating when you need to scale up your resources or security measures.

Disadvantages of unmanaged VPS hosting

Unmanaged VPS hosting can be a fantastic solution for most web hosting customers. However, it’s important to be aware of the disadvantages before making your decision:

1. More technical expertise required

The most obvious downside is that you’ll need more technical skills and expertise to set up, configure and manage your own VPS. If you’ve never used a VPS before, using an unmanaged VPS hosting package can be quite a learning curve.

2. More time required

Getting to grips with your new unmanaged VPS can take a long time, which means you could have less time available to spend on your website. Plus, the ongoing maintenance of your VPS will require time and effort, so you need to be prepared for this if you choose an unmanaged VPS package.

Why should you choose unmanaged VPS hosting?

Despite demanding more time, effort, and technical knowledge, unmanaged VPS hosting is an excellent choice for most online businesses. Choosing an unmanaged VPS will save you a considerable amount of money in the long run, and offers far more control over your server. Plus, once you get to grips with managing the day-to-day running of the server yourself, it will easily fit into your regular duties and increase your confidence in handling technical tasks.

To help you manage your server, and learn more about VPS hosting in general, we’ve got plenty of server-related blogs along with articles on our support site. Our UK-based customer support team is also available 24/7, so you can always reach out to us for help if you need it.

When you choose one of our Virtual Private Servers, you’ll get SSD storage, full root access, and 24/7 technical support, all for as little as £1 per month. Talk to our sales team to find out which server package is right for you.

Or, are you looking for the right partner to take the stress of server management off your hands? Take a look at Fasthosts ProActive for managed cloud services.