Managed hosting has become popular over the past several years as businesses are increasingly using it to run their high-priority, high-traffic Web operations.
Managed hosting differs from standard hosting in that customers are supplied not only with an unshared, dedicated server, but with a full array of management services as well. Managed hosting has sometimes been described as "hands-free hosting" or "worry-free hosting." While these terms may be somewhat hyperbolic, it's certainly true that managed providers strive to relieve their customers of most routine hosting chores.
Although the number and type of managed-hosting services available vary between individual providers, customers can generally expect to be able to sign up for one of at least three basic tier levels:
Full Management: Under this level of service, the managed hosting provider promises to relieve the customer of virtually all daily hosting management tasks, such as server monitoring, software installation and server updates. Providers also usually offer enhanced and priority service offerings, such as 24/7 live technical support.
Standard Management: With a standard management plan, the customer still receives server monitoring, software installation and server updates, but not as quickly or as often as with a full management offering. Limits may also be placed on some services, such as the number of server reboots. Technical support is also offered in diminished forms, either limiting the amount of support provided, charging extra for support or even restricting customers to online resources.
Self Management: In many respects, a self-management offering tends to resemble a high-level dedicated hosting service rather than managed support. If you opt for a self-management plan, you should have a significant amount of technical expertise on hand. Some services will be made available, but it will be up to you to handle the installation, configuration and related tasks. Technical support will be minimal or available only at extra cost.
The prime draw of managed hosting is that it arrives as a "white glove" service. With the provider assuming the responsibly of running, supervising and maintaining all or most hosting operations, the customer is left free to concentrate on business and creative matters.
For many customers, particularly SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses), managed hosting can lead to substantial cost savings. As with dedicated hosting, users are spared the high up-front capital costs associated with installing, deploying and maintaining expensive servers and associated technologies. With managed hosting, companies can also sidestep or lower the expense of hiring and training technical employees. Equally important, managed hosting gives customers confidence that their vital Web resources are receiving the technical and time-intensive attention they require.
Improved service levels are another reason businesses turn to managed support. Like other hosting providers, managed specialists offer a physical and technical infrastructure that's supported by state-of-the-art power sources, environmental controls, security devices and high-bandwidth network resources. It would be very costly, perhaps even prohibitively expensive, for a business to replicate such a hosting facility on its own premises.
Managed hosting's biggest disadvantage is that it removes or severely limits the customer from direct control over its hosting operations. This means that key tasks are left in the hands of a service provider that may or may not tend to them as quickly or as diligently as the customer needs.
Another point worth noting is that many businesses with low-priority, low-traffic Web sites waste money on managed hosting when a simple dedicated or even shared hosting environment would suffice. Still, just about any business that depends on its Web resources for e-commerce, or to provide any type of service beyond general public information, probably stands to benefit from managed hosting.
Managed hosting is continuing to gain popularity as more businesses deploy increasingly demanding and complex Web services. While not all companies will need or want to take advantage of managed hosting, a large number of organizations are very pleased that the approach is available to relieve them of what would otherwise be costly and burdensome tasks.