In the world of dedicated server hosting, it’s not uncommon for providers to offer their hardware under two different service models, and with two different price-points to match: managed and unmanaged.
For many users, this is a logical and important distinction to make, and can be fundamental in determining whether a particular service is right for their needs. For others, however, it may not be so obvious what kind of trade-off is involved - and, therefore, which route will deliver the best possible business benefit for them.
If you fit into the latter camp, here’s a quick summary of the two options and how they compare.
Managed dedicated server hosting
Put most simply, a managed dedicated server is a dedicated server supplied with a pre-installed OS (normally with Windows and Linux flavours available), and where all security updates and patches are installed by the provider - allowing the end user to wash their hands of day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of their hosting environment. Many providers also offer a managed backup service so the customer’s environment can be restored in the event of data loss or hardware failure.
For the most part, managed dedicated servers are favoured by users that want the stability and security of their own hardware, but don’t necessarily have the time, inclination or technical skill to throw themselves into the (potentially complex) business of server management.
That’s not to say they won’t assume some responsibility for admin. Most of the time, this will take the form of actions that can be carried out via a point-and-click control panel (cPanel is perhaps the best-known example). However, for users that do want to get their hands dirty under the hood, root access will normally also be provided so they can get busy with the command line.
Unmanaged dedicated server hosting
With an unmanaged dedicated server, the user is fully responsible for looking after their OS and keeping it up to date with the latest security updates and patches. Depending on what services they intend to run on the server, this can be both technically demanding and resource-intensive - unlike the more hands-free nature of a managed server.
Common use cases for an unmanaged dedicated server include situations where the customer needs to use an OS that isn’t available in managed form from their chosen provider, as well as situations where they simply need more flexibility and control over the software running on their server behind the scenes. Moreover, seasoned sysadmins are often simply more at home and productive logged into their server and using the command line to get straight to the point.
Although the provider's ability and scope to offer technical support to a customer who uses an unmanaged server will be limited, it remains their responsibility to replace hardware components when required. At TeleData, we can also offer a degree of support to unmanaged customers so long as we have an understanding of their chosen OS. For the most part, however, someone using an unmanaged server will know their stuff.
Finally, whichever route you go down, remember there are many other factors to consider in your choice of dedicated server hosting provider. Should you fit the profile of a managed server customer, for example, it’s important to ensure you’ll get the level and quality of support that meets your specific business needs.
Furthermore, always look at the data centre infrastructure underpinning it all - after all, very little else has a similar impact on security, reliability and performance.