When you’re building an online business with Magento, a reliable web hosting service can provide your store with the resources it needs for optimal performance. However, choosing the right one for your business is easier said than done.
In this article, we’ll conduct a head-on comparison of managed vs unmanaged hosting and list the pros and cons of each one, so that you can make an informed decision when choosing a host for your Magento store.
What is managed Magento hosting?
Managed Magento hosting is a service provided by a hosting company wherein they offer additional services such as server setup, resource monitoring, backups, and server security in addition to hosting your Magento store on their servers.
Essentially, the hosting company handles all aspects of the administration, support, and management of the server for you. While the exact services offered may vary between hosting companies, many companies will also provide additional complimentary services such as email hosting, CDNs, and web application firewalls to their clients.
Managed hosting is usually preferred by solopreneurs and small businesses without an in-house technical team capable of managing their servers.
What is unmanaged Magento hosting?
Unmanaged Magento hosting is where you lease a server or a part of a server owned by a hosting company. It’s a mostly DIY way of hosting a website where the hosting company takes no responsibility for things like monitoring, security, and OS upgrades for the server.
All you receive is access to a server with a pre-installed operating system, while the physical hardware of the server is stored and maintained by the hosting company in their data center. The hosting company is responsible for maintaining the hardware and replacing it when things go wrong. However, you are responsible for monitoring, managing, and securing the software environment.
Businesses with an in-house IT support staff capable of configuring and maintaining a server usually prefer unmanaged hosting.
Managed vs unmanaged hosting: pros and cons
Now that you understand what managed and unmanaged hosting are, let’s look at the pros and cons of both to figure out which of the two is best suited for your online business.
Pros of managed Magento hosting
Although Adobe provides the minimum resources required to run a Magento website, the ideal hosting environment, and resources required to support a Magento installation will vary based on a few different factors. These factors include the number of stores, products, orders per day, and daily web traffic the Magento installation must support.
When you opt for managed Magento hosting, you receive access to purpose-built servers configured to support Magento websites. Some hosting companies make it easy for you to choose the ideal server configuration for your business by offering online calculators where you enter the number of products, stores, orders, and visitors to calculate the best server configuration for your Magento installation.
Security is one of the most significant selling points of managed Magento hosting services. Magento is an exceptionally secure platform. Generally, security breaches aren’t related to the core application but too outdated software or compromised extensions.
Managed hosting companies ensure that your server’s operating system and other supporting technologies remain continuously updated. They also have robust firewalls capable of stopping known attacks and malicious scripts even before they hit the website or its database.
Furthermore, managed hosting companies regularly scan websites and servers for malware and notify their users immediately in the event of a compromise.
According to PayScale.com, in the US, the cost of hiring a server administrator averages around $61,484. This is a high cost for a small business, especially for one that’s on a budget and could utilize those funds more efficiently towards other aspects like marketing and product development.
Managed hosting companies invest in highly skilled experts to manage their servers. This provides small businesses subscribed to their services with affordable access to talented individuals as part of their hosting package.
When things go wrong, hosting providers deploy their technicians to address technical issues to ensure their customers aren’t inconvenienced and all issues are resolved as efficiently as possible.
Cons of managed Magento hosting
All benefits of managed Magento hosting come at a cost, quite literally. Managed hosting is often significantly more expensive as compared to unmanaged hosting. Compared to unmanaged hosting, the price of a managed hosting plan can be more than twice or thrice the amount, depending on the company’s services.
While the reason is apparent, this can be a bitter pill to swallow for a business on a budget. Also, the pricing is often structured into packages that don’t allow you to choose the services you need and those you don’t in order to cut down on unnecessary expenses.
Lack of control
Another significant downside of opting for managed hosting is the lack of control over the server and its associated resources. Generally, all server software is black-boxed, allowing users limited control over the configuration of applications on the server and its resource allotment.
This can be significantly debilitating for some users, especially when troubleshooting bugs on their websites. Even when optimizing website performance, the inability to control resource allocation or tweak it based on a website configuration can be frustrating.
Each time you need to troubleshoot an issue or make any server-level updates, you will be forced to rely on your service provider’s technical support staff.
Pros of unmanaged Magento hosting
The biggest benefit of choosing unmanaged Magento hosting is the amount of control you have over your server. When you’re responsible for configuring and maintaining your server, you have complete control over the applications installed and the resources allocated to them.
Especially when you’re optimizing your website or troubleshooting issues, having administrative control over the server makes it easy to adjust resources and applications. It allows you to tackle minor issues without having to go through lengthy support tickets.
Another benefit of opting for unmanaged Magento hosting is that you can scale your store more efficiently. Managed hosting providers offer hosting plans based on popularity to meet customer demands, which is why you’re unable to personalize server configurations to your liking or scale your server as easily as you can with unmanaged hosting providers.
Especially during peak periods, when you need your website to handle sudden spikes in traffic, unmanaged hosting provides you with the flexibility to add additional resources such as Docker containers or redistribute server resources to handle increased demands.
When you no longer need the additional resources, you can quickly scale down your server, unlike managed hosting plans where you would have to subscribe and unsubscribe to different plans and go through a lengthy and time-consuming process to upscale and downscale.
Reduced hosting cost
Because you don’t pay for anything but the server resources, unmanaged Magento hosting is often significantly cheaper. There’s no extra fluff or unnecessary services that you don’t need, making it easy for businesses with in-house technical teams and tech-savvy entrepreneurs to build and run their websites on a budget.
Saving on your hosting means you can divert those funds to other important aspects such as custom Magento development to boost your website’s functionality. This can directly affect your company’s bottom line as a feature-rich and user-friendly website is more likely to result in higher customer retention and increased conversions.
Cons of unmanaged Magento hosting
Lack of support
Unmanaged servers receive limited support from their hosts. Usually, these companies only deal with issues related to the hosting itself, including hardware failure or bandwidth issues.
All other technical and maintenance-related issues are left to the users, which can be challenging for those with limited technical proficiency.
Maintaining a server is a full-time job that requires constant monitoring to ensure it operates efficiently. Regular monitoring and maintenance ensure that any existing or potential issues are identified and addressed before they snowball into something capable of bringing down the website.
Therefore, if you have limited server management skills or don’t have a dedicated system administrator, you might find yourself spending far too much time trying to maintain and manage your server.
The amount of control you receive with unmanaged hosting brings its share of challenges — the biggest one being securing the server. With the number of technologies Magento uses, it can be easy to lose track of critical security patches for an application making your website vulnerable.
While Magento provides many in-built security features, you will need to be hands-on with your server to ensure your website and its data are safe from hackers.
How to choose the best hosting for your Magento store
Clearly, managed and unmanaged hosting both have significant merits. If you’re still wondering what is the best Magento hosting, here’s a clear answer. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, which is why assessing the needs of your business is crucial to making sure you choose the right option.
If the thought of a DDoS or an SQL injection attack scares you or a command-line interface intimidates you, you should opt for a managed hosting plan. This will help you maximize the benefits of managed hosting while providing your website with the best resources possible.
Suppose you like having control over all aspects of your website or have an in-house server administrator who can maintain and manage your website and its security for you. Then choosing an unmanaged hosting plan will give you the most value for your money.