Traditional Hosting vs. Managed Hosting – Which Website Hosting is Best for You?


Many agencies who build websites also offer managed hosting and maintenance on their own servers, for anywhere in the range of $100 – $1,000 or more per month. On the other hand, there are hosting companies out there who offer traditional hosting with nearly unlimited bandwidth, disk space and mailboxes for as low as $4.99 per month.

If your site isn’t terribly complicated, isn’t asking for credit cards and social security numbers, and doesn’t get traffic that measures in the hundreds of thousands of visits, you might be wondering why you would ever want to pay that much more for managed hosting and maintenance.

I can give you three very good reasons.

Before I continue, I’d like to clarify that by traditional hosting, I’m referring to shared hosting, at a company like GoDaddy, HostGator, or Dreamhost, which on a technical level, can handle most small-to-medium sized websites and a decent amount of traffic, at the price points I mentioned above.

When I say managed hosting, I’m not referring to the managed hosting that a typical web host would offer you, but rather what some digital agencies (who built your site and know your marketing strategy) might provide. I’m going to use our own hosting and maintenance package that we offer to our clients as the example, but the specifics of what your agency offers may vary. That said, you may find what we offer is a good frame of reference for benchmark comparison.

1. Performance

Traditional Hosting

The trouble with shared hosting is that your site is often going to be crammed onto a server along with perhaps a hundred other sites, which will all share a pool of resources, like memory, processing power and bandwidth. If one of those other sites gets greedy and sucks up more resources than normal, like if they get a huge traffic spike or if they get hacked, it can mean slow load times and malfunctions for your site.

Hosting companies will usually eventually catch on to a huge traffic surge like this, and then they throttle or shut down the offending site. The flip side of this is that if it’s your site that got the big surge in traffic, you could be the one getting throttled.

Managed Hosting & Maintenance

Most digital agencies don’t host nearly as many sites as dedicated hosting companies do. We don’t make our money from web hosting, but rather, from having happy clients whose sites are serving their long term goals. This means it’s in our best interest for your site to be running quickly and working right, rather than seeing how many sites we can fit on a single server.

With only a limited number of hosted sites, it means an agency can keep a closer eye on each of them and proactively apply resources when an increasing traffic trend becomes apparent.

Also, we, like other forward-thinking agencies, host our own clients’ sites on a flexible cloud, which can fluidly expand when one site needs it, without taking anything away from the others.

2. Security

Traditional Hosting

Traditional hosts offer general, server-level security. That usually means taking precautions so that if one of the sites they host gets hacked, it doesn’t bleed over into the others. They’ll employ a firewall and general anti-virus and anti-malware scanners across their customers’ accounts. This is all reasonably effective.

However, customers running popular software like a CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, open themselves up to a new, wide world of threats and security vulnerabilities, which server-level security can’t entirely cover. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be using a CMS, but rather, that you need to be keeping track of threats and applying patches and updates on a regular basis.

Updating to new versions of things can lead to issues of compatibility between your core CMS, your plugins or modules, or the software on your server itself. Needless to say, it can all be a bit of a headache, but when it comes down to it, your choice is either to spend time testing, patching and repairing, or putting your site at a significant risk for getting hacked.

Managed Hosting & Maintenance

All hosts, whether a hosting company or an agency, should be running server-level security. That’s a given. Using ourselves as an example, we run regular virus scans, server hardening and use a very robust firewall to protect our clients. Not terribly dissimilar from what traditional hosting companies offer, although we can tailor things a little more for our own clients.

The biggest difference comes with making software updates. With managed hosting, your digital agency should keeping track of the scuttlebutt on the latest malware and threats, and be doing all your CMS/plugin/module testing, patching and updating for you. There’s not much else to say about that, other than, you really shouldn’t have to lift a finger.

If your website does get hacked, we (your digital agency) will track the problem down to its source, fix it, and repair any damage.

Point is, this can save you a massive amount of time and hassle.

3. Peace of Mind

Traditional Hosting

With traditional hosts, you’re often expected to make your own backups of your database and file system and save them in a safe place (i.e., not on the same server you’re backing up, because, duh). Then, if you ever need to restore a backup, you get to experience the wonderful joys of restoring your files, importing your database(s) and hooking everything up yourself. Does this sound like fun? If so, congratulations, you have serious mental problems!

If your site or server has an outage and you can’t even access enough to restore a backup, don’t worry, they’ll fix it… Usually… Just follow this simple process:

  1. Give them a call
  2. Sing along to the hold music
  3. Tell them what’s wrong
  4. Ask to speak to a manager
  5. Start crying
  6. Wait an hour or two
  7. Voila! You’re all set!

Some of you may think that was a joke. The rest have hosted with GoDaddy.

Managed Hosting & Maintenance

If you go this route, your agency takes care of backups – in our case, we make daily full backups of your entire site, which we store in a bank vault guarded by, you guessed it, karate sharks. Alright, maybe I’m stretching the truth a little bit about that last part, but I think you get the point. And if something bad happens, or if you’re just feeling nostalgic? We’ll restore your site for you.

As far as outages go, we monitor every site we run individually (plus the server as a whole), and if there’s even a blip of downtime, we’re on the case. In most cases, with managed hosting and maintenance, your site is fixed before you, or your customers, ever even realized there was a problem in the first place.

Wrap-up: Performance. Security. Peace of Mind.

There you have it. I’d like to think that, at this point, Godaddy’s $9.99 Unlimited Infinity Supernova Batman Hurricane Hosting Package doesn’t seem like quite such a no-brainer anymore. I would strongly suggest you consider the factors I described here, not just price, especially keeping updates and security in mind.

If you’re not sure about your hosting, feel free to contact us to chat about it. We’ll just be over here, training our karate sharks. Or at the hospital, getting our shark bites stitched up.

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