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What is managed hosting? Everything you need to know

Website hosting is supposed to be easy. You click pay, select a few options – you’ve got a functioning website.

For some people, that’s where their needs drop off. For others, there’s a lot more to a website. And the right type of web hosting is essential.
As a business owner, there’s only so many hats you can wear before you run out of hours in the day. Founder, salesperson, marketer…IT staff? The hardest part of your job should be getting the sale, not babysitting a server. There’s got to be a better option.
Spoiler alert: there’s managed hosting!

Why is managed hosting so popular?

If you’re a growing business, chances are you need more from your hosting service than just server space. You’re probably looking for ways to:
Keep your site updated and backed up
Improve security and avoid data breaches
Prepare for unexpected traffic without expensive upgrades
Market your business and manage performance in one place
Provide a seamless, consistent experience for all users
Sound like you? It may be time to consider managed hosting. This guide will explain what managed hosting is, what types of managed hosting services there are, how managed hosting services compare, and how to figure out what managed hosting is right for you.

What is managed hosting?

If your domain is where your store lives, web hosting keeps your lights on. Managed hosting is all that, plus a friendly housekeeper.
Been around the web hosting block before? We’ve all done it. We get a great business idea and decide to put the wheels in motion. So we register a domain and buy a basic hosting package from a familiar name. We put time and effort into the design, launch our site and all is well – until it isn’t.
A product goes viral. You have a sale. You install a new theme or plugin. Or worse, your site gets hacked. It could be anything that wrecks your site. Then, all of a sudden you’re on the phone for hours trying to get your site back up fast so you can stop losing sales and traffic.
You may have frustration with other hosting providers and you’re looking for a better solution. Maybe you’ve heard of managed hosting but don’t really understand what it is. Let’s clear that up.
The Five-Star Hotel
Managed hosting as a service
Managed hosting service is web hosting with additional features. Managed hosting services monitor and support servers and/or applications.
A quality managed hosting service includes OS updates, patching, 24-hour support, virus and spam protection, network management, and always-on monitoring. Anything that may affect server performance should be included.
If unmanaged hosting is an AirBnB, managed hosting is a five star hotel. Is there a new WordPress version? Your managed host tests it out before pushing an update.
Did a new plugin cause a hiccup? Your managed host can turn it off for you — even if you’re miles away on vacation.
Was there a huge security breach? No sweat, your managed host is already developing a solution.
With managed hosting services, you get the control you want and need for your site — with the added comfort of knowing someone always has an eye on the backend.
One of the key features of managed hosting is communication. If something goes wrong, you’re going to know before your customers do — because managed hosts reach out to let you know what they’re fixing.
Managed hosting makes running a website a lot more manageable. And it’s more affordable than you’d think.
Managed hosting is your website’s next BFF.
The AirBnB
Hosting as a service
With unmanaged hosting services, you get hosting services. That’s it. You’re paying for space on your host’s server. You’ll probably get some hands-off support if something goes wrong, but it’s almost entirely DIY. It’s on you to handle security, updates, backups, etc. It’s also on you to test that everything works. Unmanaged hosting relies on you to keep an eye on your site at all times.
Unmanaged hosting is like renting an AirBnB but for your site — it might be a little cheaper, it fills a need, but you still have to clean up everything yourself. Taking time out of your regular work day to address bugs, testing if new versions of your plugins break your site, handling a DDoS attack? That means current projects get shelved until your site is back up and running.
Another big issue with unmanaged hosting is when something goes wrong, you don’t find out until you find out. It’s very likely they will not alert you when something goes wrong. A key feature of unmanaged hosting plans is the “unlimited” label— and it sounds too good to be true. Because it is. When your needs change, everything is an upcharge. When running a site or store is your day job, you’re looking to save money — not waste it.
Unmanaged hosting has hidden costs and a significant time investment. It can cost you more money and stress than you’d expect.

Are there different types of managed hosting?

Quick answer: Yep!
Long answer: When hosting is “managed,” it can mean a couple of things.
Fully managed services
When we say “fully managed” website services, we’re talking about butler service. If you’ve got a problem, we’ll solve it. Managed hosts will handle server deployment, OS and plugin updates, security monitoring, the works. This type of web hosting is great for small to medium sized businesses that need flexible resources but aren’t ready for enterprise hosting.
Why would anyone ever need managed hosting service like this? Sites get hacked all the time. When you have a managed website, you don’t have to worry if your site is at risk from threats — whether they’re malicious or accidental. Plugins and operating systems get automatically updated, and security patches are deployed fast.
A fully managed host like Nexcess tests plugins for you before automatically updating your managed website. Depending on what service you have, we also offer WooCommerce Automated Testing – a feature unique to Nexcess hosting. Site security is monitored and tested daily to keep you safe from threats.
Adding plugins and themes to your site can extend functionality and provide a fresh look – but some may contain malware or bog down your site speed. When you use managed hosting, your provider’s support team can target where things went wrong and fix them. No waiting for IT to come around.
A subset of the fully managed category is “managed applications,” which is a type of managed hosting service that is specific to the site owner’s software application, i.e. the CMS software you use to build your site (like WordPress).
Managed WordPress application
Managed WordPress hosting is WordPress-focused server management and maintenance.
WordPress powers over a third of the internet. Over the past two decades, WordPress has enabled creators and business owners to quickly develop beautiful, professional websites. It changed the way we looked at website management. Today, some of the most recognizable celebrity websites use WordPress as a CMS.
A common myth is that WordPress is difficult to use. We have to disagree – but as with anything else, it does take a bit of getting used to. Managed hosting services lessen the burden. With daily backups, automatic updates that are tested on the server, and tight security – all you have to worry about is designing your content.
Managed WordPress services are great for blogs, brochure sites, or other content-focused businesses.
Managed WooCommerce application
Managed WooCommerce hosting is when your hosting provider handles server maintenance and updates for online stores using WooCommerce, the WordPress ecommerce application.
Right now there are roughly 4.5 million live websites using WooCommerce. Why do so many stores trust WooCommerce? Because it’s a fast, easy, and reliable way to launch a store. WooCommerce is an extension that turns WordPress open-source software into an ecommerce machine.
Why wouldn’t you just use managed WordPress solutions and add the WooCommerce plugin? That’s easy: it’s not the same type of hosting. WooCommerce stores just don’t work the same way as a blog.
For instance, you can’t cache pages the same way. Storing cart pages and user information isn’t just potentially inaccurate, it’s a violation of website privacy requirements! Since ecommerce hosting needs ultra fast speeds and more selective caching, you don’t want to power your store inefficiently. That just reduces the likelihood of making a sale.
Managed WooCommerce services are best for selling physical products, digital products, services and so much more.
Managed Magento application
Managed Magento hosting is when your provider handles the software and server management for a website built on Magento framework. Your application stack is kept updated, but you’ll still need to keep Magento and any plugins (extensions) you have installed on your site.
Some of the features of Managed Magento hosting as a service include database management, hosting compliance certifications, server-side security, and more. You can also create development sites with Magento.
If you’ve got a Magento site, Nexcess managed Magento services support PWA sites and are PCI compliant. What’s more –Magento was actually founded on the Nexcess platform and built on our servers. We’ve been with Magento with since day one.
Semi managed hosting services
Semi managed hosting is a service option that provides server maintenance and management without the benefits of fully managed hosting.
Semi managed hosting providers offer a more pared-down version of managed hosting. They’ll typically include server deployments and OS updates, but there is no 24/7 server monitoring and support.
Semi managed hosting services install software upon request, handle network problems, and look into load issues. They will not configure scripts or software, install third party software, or configure control panels. You’ll also miss out on more advanced task automation and custom optimizations.
Semi managed hosting is a great option for people or businesses that don’t have on-staff server techs, but are tech-savvy enough to manage most day-to-day issues. Learn more about semi-managed bare metal server options at Liquid Web, our sister brand.

How is managed hosting different from…

Cloud hosting
There are a couple of types of cloud hosting: public and private.
With public cloud hosting, you need to know what you’re doing. It’s totally unmanaged and it’s up to you to monitor everything from traffic to security. It’s also on a shared hosting server, which adds a layer of vulnerability. Other companies’ sites are also stored in the same place. When they’re attacked, your site is at risk too.
Private cloud hosting gives you all the freedom to host your site on your cloud server, with none of the risks of public cloud hosting. The downside to private cloudis you’re still doing all the maintenance and monitoring yourself – unless you opt for a managed hosting service.
VPS hosting
Unmanaged Virtual Private Servers (VPS) shares the downsides of public cloud and shared hosting. Your site can be affected by other companies’ cyber attacks because you’re hosted on the same servers and you are responsible for maintenance and monitoring. The main difference is that your managed hosting provider solves those problems for you.
Happy to DIY it but can’t afford the hardware? VPS is for you. Our friends at Liquid Web offer managed VPS that comes with Web Host Manager (WHM), cPanel or Plesk so you can manage sites on your VPS.
Dedicated hosting
Actually, managed hosting isn’t very different from dedicated hosting. However, dedicated hosting may be more expensive. What you lose out on by choosing unmanaged dedicated hosting are the automatic updates, 24/7/365 support, and everything else that makes managed hosting a dream to use.
Managed websites
A managed website is when your developer or tech team handles updating, managing and supporting your web pages. It can include design services and code creation. While managed hosting makes life easier for your developers and IT staff, it does not include website creation, design, content updates and code updates. If you’re looking for a managed website, we can recommend some fantastic agencies and developers that work with your budget.
Managed hosting is worth every penny – and can save you big bucks in the long run!

How much does managed hosting cost?

Managed hosting pricing depends on the size and specific needs of your site. For example, starter plans for Nexcess Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce are as low as $19/month.
Hosting is an investment, not just another business cost. Your website is important: it’s the face of your business. Having your site run smoothly with little downtime is vital if you want to make sales and generate traffic.
Think of it this way – maybe you have a physical storefront. If your parking lot is blocked, customers will have a hard time getting in the door. What happens when you can’t get customers in your store? They go someplace else. Lost sales opportunities mean lost revenue. You’re going to want a better functioning gate.
Managed hosting services might be a bit more per month, but it’ll prevent a headache and lost revenue when things go haywire.
If your door is stuck, customers will have a hard time coming into your store.
The ugly cost of unmanaged hosting
We get it. A good deal is hard to pass up. At first glance, hosting that costs $5 per month sounds like a score! When you look more closely at the terms and conditions, you might be unpleasantly surprised.
Super cheap hosting often gets attractive labels like “unlimited” – which is technically impossible. There’s no hosting with unlimited resources and storage, period. You probably get an unlimited number of sites — but as soon as your site reaches the limit in the fine print, it’s going to crash. When you call for help, that’s when you’ll be told you need to upgrade. In fact, we know this story a little too well.
Frankly, when you’re paying next to nothing, it’s for a reason. You’re going to make concessions. Here are some drawbacks of an “unlimited,” unmanaged hosting plan.
Limited support
Cheap plans get the worst tier support. Surprised?
Many hosts offer limited, delayed support for their cheaper plans.
Why? The less you’re paying per month, the harder it is to justify helping you when you’re competing with “high rollers.”.
Some hosts have community support forums that rely on fellow users. Some have delayed support – 72 hours instead of under 24 hours, for example. And there’s no guarantee your support agent actually knows what they’re talking about.
One tradeoff of super low prices is dealing with the “fast food” model of support.
Hidden fees
Every little thing ends up having a charge with unmanaged hosting.
Cheap providers charge for things like migration and much-needed features like CDNs and SSLs.
When you hit your resource limit, you’re told to upgrade. Once upgrades run out, you’re told to move up to a dedicated server. At this point, you’re shelling out as much as $2,000 in upgrades – in addition to your business costs.
When does it end? Usually, it only ends when you switch to managed hosting. Unfortunately, that’s the reality.
With managed hosting from Nexcess, many of the tools you need to create a successful site are bundled into your plan. No extra fees, no fine print.
Shared resources
When you’re using shared hosting, you’re sharing server space with a bunch of people you’ve never met.
When you’re sharing resources on the same server, there are tradeoffs. For starters, cheap hosting where people are all bunking together in the same space – and likely handling security on their own – means that if their site is compromised by a cyberattack, yours is too.
Another problem of shared hosting is that it’s a LOT easier for resources to top out. Did someone’s site go viral? Is it getting a ton of traffic right now? Every other site hosted on that server is going to be slower and more dysfunctional.
It might seem like a great deal – until your conversions and clickthrough rates are plummeting because your site is down.

Which managed hosting plan is right for me?

Ready to see what managed hosting is all about? You’re going to need to pick a provider and a plan. Here are some things to consider.
What kind of site do you run?
Are you more content-focused or are you all-in with ecommerce? Managed WordPress services are going to be best for blogs, photo sites, and professional websites. Stores, membership sites, or e-learning sites are better suited for managed WooCommerce hosting – which is optimized for transactional visits. Have a larger store that needs higher concurrent user capacity? Managed Magento hosting might be for you.
What kind of traffic does your site get?
The more traffic you’re expecting, the higher tier of a plan you’ll want. Only get big surges during a sale event or when your newsletter drops? You’ll want to have a plan that offers instant autoscaling.
How hands-on are you?
Are you a tech whiz, or does the backend make you anxious? Managed hosting is great for those who are comfortable with updating frontend posts and customizations. Unmanaged hosting is better for people who know the backend as well as the frontend.
How to find the best managed hosting provider for your needs
You know your needs best. It might take a bit of research to find your “Goldilocks” hosting provider. Here’s what you should be thinking about as you conduct your search:
  • What’s the host’s history? Have they had many cybersecurity issues?
  • Does the host operate their data centers independently, or do they outsource?
  • What support do they offer? Do they have more than one way to communicate?
  • Is hosting support available 24/7/365? What are their response times?
  • What are their product offerings like? Are they keeping up with modern trends?
  • Do their products work with your operating system?
  • Do they use closed source or open source software? Is it easy to migrate to another host?
  • What is their pricing structure?
  • Do the terms and conditions reveal strict limitations on resources?
  • Do they offer free website migrations?
  • What is the quality of migrations? Are they manual or assisted?
  • Do they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee?
Managed Hosting FAQs
What is managed hosting?
Managed hosting is when your host also provides server updates and maintenance, virus and spam control, network management, 24/7 support, and other performance features you don’t get with regular hosting.
Managed hosting removes the need for complete server administration. It’s like having an IT employee on staff to manage your server without paying extra!
How is managed hosting different from regular hosting?
How much more does managed hosting cost?
What is a hosting provider?
If I use managed hosting, do I give up control of my website?
Ready to make your business a lot more manageable?
Ready to see what managed hosting is all about? You’re going to need to pick a provider and a plan. Here are some things to consider.
Nexcess fully managed hosting boasts faster speeds, stronger security, inherent scalability, and trusted support. Building better sites has never been easier, even as WordPress undergoes exciting version changes.
Be prepared by choosing a managed host that knows WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento better than any other host on the market.
So, why choose managed hosting?
Flexibility when it comes to scaling
Lets you focus on your business
Much more secure
Keeps compliance in check

Build a better business online
with Nexcess

With Fully Managed Hosting from Nexcess
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