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Managed WordPress hosting vs VPS - What's the difference?

This article will help you decide whether you should opt for a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or for a managed WordPress hosting. Does it really matter? It actually does. 

Selecting an unsuitable hosting option can end up costing you both time and money and has other implications. Yet, you wouldn’t be the first to ask yourself what’s the right choice. Researching varying hosting options from different providers can be confusing and frustrating.

To help you make the correct decision, in this post we’ll compare managed WordPress hosting and VPS to each other, discuss their pros and cons as well as who each option can better serve. This will help you in determining which is the best fit for you and your business.

Person working on a WordPress post

(Image credit: Image Credit: StockSnap / Pixabay)

Option #1: Managed Hosting

What is managed hosting? Managed website hosting is specifically when a company (usually called the “host” or “hosting provider”) offers a range of services in addition to the usual server space that make running your website much easier.

In comparison to (unmanaged) VPS hosting options, purchasing a managed hosting package gives you access to a network of professionals working in the background. They will walk you through the process of integrating your website onto their server farm as well as taking over the day-to-day running of your website.

Having a team of professionals working with you opens up a lot of opportunities; instead of navigating the hosting process by yourself, you will have experts at your beck and call to handle everything from site migration to security.

Advantages

Managed hosting is overall simpler because any technical issues such as updates, backups and other things that are part of owning a website are all handled by other people. That way, you have a lot less to think about and the day-to-day of running your site is more streamlined.

Going with a managed solution can also be safer because those same people handle all preventative measures to secure your website from hacking attempts and other threats. Because that is their sole job, they are most likely much better at it than you would ever be. Plus, if something does happen to your site, they are also there to get you back on track.

In addition to that, managed WordPress hosting can scale along your traffic needs and continue running smoothly. A host like that will have the infrastructure and staff to handle surges in the visitor numbers so that you site doesn’t go down when it’s most busy.

When you weigh the hands-on approach and all of these extra services that managed hosting provides, the average price of a managed WordPress hosting is almost comparable to unmanaged VPS hosting.

Disadvantages

Of course, there are also downsides to managed WordPress hosting. First of all, you have less control over your website since someone else/a team will be taking care of it. That requires a lot of trust or a trusted, reputable provider.

There are also limitations as to the type of website you can run. The host will most likely only handle WordPress installs which means that other content management system (or a bespoke one) will require another specialized hosting offer.  

In addition to that, managed WordPress hosting providers often prevent you from using certain plugins. This is most often because they are incompatible with the server architecture. A common example here are caching plugins, because many managed hosting providers have their own solutions in place.

Finally, price can also be a factor. If you add on additional benefits and services, you can quickly pay more for managed hosting than unmanaged counterparts. However, more recently, managed hosts are setting their prices more comparably with VPS. Yet, you always need to make sure you’re remaining within your budget.

Where are these hosts?

If managed hosting is something that sounds right for you, take a look at our post on what is a managed WordPress website.

Option #2: VPS Hosting

Having your site on a Virtual Private Server, aka VPS, means you’ll be hosting it on an independent, private partition of a physical server. This keeps your files separate from other websites and also means that it will command its set share of system resources. In normal shared hosting, you often have to compete for your server’s processing power with other websites, potentially leading to bottlenecks and downtime. You will also have a lot of decision power over what software to install and how to configure your server.

As a consequence, VPS gives you a lot of control and flexibility and combines the best of shared and dedicated hosting. Your management platform can be more easily constructed and configured as it is not a specific, set platform like in managed hosting. So, if you have a good knowledge of the Linux operating system as well as a thorough technical grasp, with VPS you can more easily ensure uptime, reliability and the stability of your server.

However, since this is an unmanaged solution, it also comes with a lot of responsibility on your part. Instead of getting help from your host, such as in managed hosting, getting your site set up and running is on you.

Advantages

As reflected in the cons for managed hosting, there’s flexibility and control with VPS. Nothing happens unless you want it to and anything that does happen on your website passes through you.

For example, especially with Linux options, on your VPS you can create multiple cPanels (your website’s control panels) and configure them to your liking. This is, again, the opposite of managed hosting because you can dive right into things instead of waiting around for a host’s team to implement changes, updates, etc.  

In addition to that, you can do this for several different websites regardless of whether they’re hosted in WordPress or not. Whatever you want to base your websites on, this is what you will get. You are not bound to any one content management system.

In short, with the right technical know how, VPS lets you do whatever you want to do on your server.

Disadvantages

Of course, there is also a flipside of that coin. Being solely responsible for your website takes time and if you don’t consider yourself a “tech person”, you may not be thrilled by the prospect of handling technical challenges all on your own.

Cost is also important to consider. Renting a VPS can be pricey and easily equal to managed hosting. Plus, you get a lot less handholding for it. While managed hosting providers will walk you through every step of the way, unmanaged VPS will have less support like that.

VPS also lacks other service features, because again, if you have technical knowledge, you’ll be monitoring and managing your website on your own. Once you start putting in the time though, it takes to keep everything running, having someone to take care of your backups, updates and managing your plugins becomes attractive really fast.

Where are these hosts?

If VPS hosting sounds like the route for you, check out our list of the best VPS hosting providers as well as the best cheap VPS hosting deals you can get.  

Managed WordPress Hosting vs VPS: The verdict

Picking out the best website hosting option for you can determine your website’s safety, speed and dependability. It can also influence how much time and effort you spend on your site and if you have to do everything yourself or are part of a larger support structure. Because of this, managed WordPress hosting and VPS are completely different avenues to take.

If you have higher technical knowledge, enjoy flexibility and full control of your website, then unmanaged VPS hosting might be the option for you. It’s especially great for creating custom solutions in a fast and reliable hosting environment.

However, if you’re either a beginner or a business without much additional time to spend and want something simpler with more security and services/support, then managed hosting is going to be a better option for you. It allows you to add a team of web experts to your company without doing any hiring.

You might ask yourself if the price and benefits are worth one over the other, whether they’re equal, or if one rises over the other. Our advice is to look at it from who you are, what you’re looking for and what you need most at this moment, taking into consideration the total cost of ownership and opportunity costs..

At the end of it, managed hosting is better for simplicity and to keep your site running smoothly with other people handling most tedious things for you. VPS is best for people seeking full control and to make decisions for themselves. So it depends on how personally invested you want to be with your site and how much control you’re willing to give up.

Nick Schaeferhoff is a WordPress expert writing for WP-Engine