Managed Server Tutorial

Managed vs. Dedicated Servers


When shopping for web hosting, one of the more confusing aspects is the meaning of "managed server". It's confusing because some web hosts use that term as a synonym for "dedicated server", while other hosts consider the two to be quite different.

In short, a managed server is a dedicated server for which the web host provides some level of server administration. That's where it gets confusing, though, because each host seems to draw the line in a different place. (Note that all shared hosting arrangements are managed, since the site owner has little or no access to the server.)

Managed Server Options

Read any managed server proposal carefully - here are a few of the services that a web host may, or may not, include:

  • Hardware Support - almost every host will include full hardware support and will replace failed components as needed.
  • Operating System Patches and Updates - operating systems like Linux and Windows need regular updates and patches for security and performance reasons; either the host or the site owner must take responsibility for patching the OS in a timely manner.
  • Software Patches and Updates - In addition to the operating system, a variety of other software must be maintained, including programming languages (e.g., PHP), databases (e.g., MySQL), etc.
  • Software Installation - most sites run software and scripts to handle special functionality. While sometimes this is a simple upload by the site owner, in other cases software installation may be more complex or require server setting changes.
  • Backups - it is critical to back up sites, particularly those that are more than static content (e.g., ecommerce sites, blogs, forums, etc.) since the newest content resides only on the server.
  • Troubleshooting - if a script suddenly begins generating a "500 - Internal Server Error", either the web host or the site owner will be responsible for checking the error logs and tracking down the cause.
  • Virus, Worm, and Attack Protecton - some hosts offer special services to help protect against viruses, worms, DDOS attacks, etc.
  • Server Admin Time - recognizing that some site owners will need help with miscellaneous server or software issues, some web hosts either include in their managed server rates a set number of hours of "server admin time" or offer these services at a fixed hourly fee.

Managed Server Summary

Don't assume that every "managed server" is the same, or that every web host uses the term in the same way. Get a complete list of what a host includes when choosing a managed server provider. Back to Web Hosting Tutorial.


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