What is managed hosting?
Managed hosting is a service where your hosting provider manages all aspects of your dedicated server, including the monitoring and maintenance of the hardware, operating system, and all supported applications.
Free reboots and data backups are also included with virtually all managed hosting plans.
How do I know if I need managed hosting?
If you're currently on a shared hosting plan, you're already using managed hosting. You won't have to concern yourself with the managed hosting decision until your website grows to the point where you realize that you need a dedicated server.
In a nutshell, you'll need a dedicated server when your site has grown to the point where site performance is noticeably sluggish and your site begins to hog the server's resources. This is often brought to your attention with a call or email from your hosting company.
Dedicated servers are just that: a server that is dedicated to your website and yours alone. If your account doesn't include managed hosting, you'll be responsible for the monitoring and maintenance of your server all by yourself. You'll either have to have the expertise to do it yourself or hire someone who does (which is quite expensive).
A managed hosting account on the other hand includes professional monitoring and maintenance of the system by skilled hosting company personnel. This allows you to concentrate on what you do best: growing your website.
What do I need to consider when shopping for a managed hosting provider?
You should consider the following issues when comparing managed hosting plans:
- Security of Data and Equipment - Does the managed hosting company provide hardware security with power line conditioners and battery backups? Do they offer data protection with effective firewalls and data backups?
- The expertise of the managed hosting personnel - Are the support engineers certified and experienced? Are they well trained on all of the software packages that are provided with your managed hosting account?
- Uptime and reliability - Do their managed hosting accounts come with an acceptable up-time guarantee? (Anything less than 99.9% is unacceptable.) When a managed server goes down, how long does it usually take for them to get it back online?
- Reboots and data backups - Does the managed hosting plan include free reboots and data backups? Most do, but you'll need to ask to be sure. A simple reboot can cost $50-$75 if it isn't included in the contract.
- Allotted Storage - How much hard drive storage space is included with the managed hosting plan? Is there an easy, seamless upgrade path should you need more storage in the future? If your website is growing you probably will.
- Allotted bandwidth - Will you get enough bandwidth to handle your site's current traffic level and still leave room for expected growth? How much does each extra GB cost should you exceed your allotment in a given month? If you do happen to exceed it, will your site be shut down or will you simply be billed for the excess?
- Timeliness, quality, and cost of technical support - Are tech support requests answered in a timely fashion? Are the answers correct and do they help solve the problems quickly? How much will you be charged for each support request (incident)?
- Cost of the managed hosting plan - How much does the managed hosting plan cost and how does the cost compare to similar plans from other managed hosting providers?
- Setup fee - Is there a one-time setup fee for the managed hosting account? Typical setup fees for managed hosting accounts range from $0 (free) to $99 or more. All other things being equal, opt for a plan that doesn't require a setup fee.
- Money back guarantee - Most quality managed hosting plans come with a 30 day money back guarantee. You shouldn't even consider one that doesn't.
After you have determined that you need managed hosting, it's time to start shopping around and asking the above questions.
Evaluate each managed hosting provider that you're considering by visiting their websites and calling them with any unanswered questions. Ask for references and follow up with them.
If you do your due diligence and thoroughly evaluate your managed hosting candidates, you're more likely to end up with a managed hosting service that you'll be happy with long-term.
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