When looking for a server, you’ll run across the terms managed, unmanaged, and fully managed. The definition of each of those terms will vary depending on the provider, but most hosting providers try to maintain a similar definition for each term. It’s important to know what service level you need when purchasing your server or you could end up wasting money on a monthly basis or not have the resources available to you that you need to keep your server maintained and managed.
Below are the two main management types most hosting providers offer, unmanaged and managed. Additionally, we also describe what a fully managed server is and how it varies from a managed server. It’s important to keep in mind that these terms do not have a specific meaning and will vary among providers, making it essential to read what each provider offers with their provided management types.
What is an Unmanaged Server?
An unmanaged server is the easiest to describe and the majority of hosting providers are consistent on what is an unmanaged server. In general terms, an unmanaged server is a server you have to fully manage yourself. There is no control panel, no staff member that will help if you run into software or configuration problems. Unmanaged servers generally also mean you will have full root access.
There are benefits to unmanaged servers though. If you are experienced with Linux or Windows Server, an unmanaged server might be exactly what you want. Firstly, unmanaged servers are generally less expensive. If you’re experienced with server management, having an unmanaged server gives you move control over the server and you are able to setup your own configuration tools. Finally, with an unmanaged server, you get full root access and can make changes that you want.
What is a Managed Server?
Depending on what hosting provider you are researching, the definition of managed servers will vary. The majority of providers consider a managed server as a server that has a control panel associated with it, such as cPanel, Plesk, or Webmin. With managed servers, you will generally not be able to sign in as root and will be unable to install custom software.
If you are not very experienced with managing servers, using a managed server can save you a lot of time, effort, and save you from overlooking your server’s security. You will usually be limited on what you will be able to run on your server. If you are planning on anything other than websites, you probably will need an unmanaged server or find a provider that offers managed servers along with root access.
Another benefit of managed servers is that the hosting provider will usually offer additional support when you run into problems. Providers will generally fix issues with the control panel, configuration issues, and can help track down issues with services that run through the control panel, such as e-mail and database issues.
What is a Fully Managed Server?
A fully managed server is a term that has been created to mean a server that the provider manages, usually in association with a control panel. It’s similar to having a system administrator run your server, but instead of hiring someone you are purchasing the service along with your server. There are providers that use the term “Fully Managed” to mean “Managed” and vise versa, so you’ll have to research each provider and make sure you are getting the service level you expect.
Not many providers offer fully managed servers because it requires a lot of additional resources and the servers are going to cost a significant amount more than a regular managed server. Fully managed servers generally offer a dedicated support team that will setup new services on your server, help you upload files, and will maintain that your server is running smoothly.
For most people, a managed server will be perfectly fine and the additional cost of a fully managed server is unnecessary. But if you’re running a large website and don’t have anyone that has technical experience, a fully managed server could prevent headaches down the line.