Types of VPS hosting: managed VPS vs unmanaged VPS

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Just a few years back, VPS hosting was a type of service reserved for the wealthier enterprises and ecommerce shops. However, as technology evolved in leaps and bounds, virtual servers started to gain more traction. VPS solutions eliminated the growing risks and problems associated with shared hosting plans while gradually reducing prices to a point where any website owner could take advantage. That's right - you could too.

Today, we are going to take a deeper look at VPS hosting and learn how it functions, what types there are, and how to choose the right hosting plan for your site. 

What is VPS hosting?

VPS stands for Virtual Private Server - a type of service where the host splits a physical server into multiple virtual copies and allocates a fixed amount of system resources to each one. This is what makes VPS hosting inherently different from shared services - each user gets their own CPU, RAM, disk space, and an account completely isolated from all other clients. 

This makes the VPS environment an excellent solution for online shops, business websites, and growing enterprises.

The dedicated set of resources allows you to take full advantage of your server power, while the account isolation guarantees much more optimal security off the bat. As if that's not enough, many VPS solutions come with some level of scalability - the capacity to add or remove system resources as you need them. 

All this is possible thanks to a process called virtualization. It helps the hosts divide the server into as many virtual instances as needed, each with its own operating system and allocated processing power. 

Types of VPS hosting

It's no wonder why the VPS niche is getting so popular. But shopping around for a VPS for the first time, you might get overwhelmed by all the choices. 

Worry not - the answers may be simpler than expected.

Even though you can find providers offering even more than 10 different plans, when you look closer, all VPS services can fit into two main categories - managed and unmanaged hosting.


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Managed hosting in a nutshell

This is the VPS hosting type mostly preferred by beginners, inexperienced users, and entrepreneurs who are looking for more assistance when building their online projects.

On a managed VPS plan, you and the hosting providers share the responsibilities when it comes to server administration, management, and optimization. The host will often fully assist with the initial server and operating system (OS) setup, as well as the basic security configuration. 

What mostly separates managed VPS solutions from their self-managed counterparts is the level of support afterward. 

The provider takes on many of the tasks normally left to the client - software and plugin installation, server maintenance, service upgrades. But perhaps most importantly - whenever you have any technical issues, you can always contact your hosting provider's support department for help. Depending on the provider, you may even have options for higher priority and problem escalations. 

All in all, some of the notable managed VPS hosting benefits include:

  • Low learning curve
  • Easy account management
  • Optimized performance
  • Advanced security practices
  • Expert support assistance

Best VPS hosting

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Unmanaged hosting in a nutshell

For users that have actual technical experience and find managing a server relatively easy, unmanaged VPS hosting is possibly the best solution for their needs.

Self-managed servers are all about user control. 

After some initial setup and OS installation, all VPS operations are entirely left in the client's hands. We are talking about full control over the machine, comparable to that associated with dedicated hosting plans.

You are essentially paying only for the bare-metal server and its resources - RAM, CPU, space, and bandwidth. There are no fancy features or complementary services. Whenever the self-managed server owner needs to add a component - they purchase and set it up separately. 

The unmanaged VPS hosting benefits for developers and webmasters are apparent:

  • Complete server control
  • Limitless customization options
  • Affordable price rates
  • Enhanced scalability

How to choose the right VPS plan?

If you're still wondering as to whether a managed or an unmanaged VPS plan is the right one for you, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I handle managing my own server?
  • Can I deal with VPS maintenance and optimization?
  • Do I have the time and resources to do it myself?
  • Do I have any specific OS or software requirements?

It's usually quite simple - if you don't feel experienced enough to handle a server and don't have any specific hosting needs - managed VPS is the sure way to go. Analogically, if you intend to tweak every little part of your server machine and have the knowledge to do so - choose a self-managed option and have fun with it.

Still unsure? Maybe comparing these factors will help:

  • Features - when it comes to the range of features, managed VPS solutions have no match. In fact, you will rarely find ANY included by default on a self-managed plan. Unmanaged VPS clients have to add desired features as paid extras.
  • Security - this aspect boils down to your expertise in cybersecurity. If this is not your forte - just leave it in the hands of your hosting provider and only take care of your website's protection. If you know what you’re doing, though - the root access on the unmanaged virtual server gives you the opportunity to harden your defenses to perfection.
  • Price - at first glance, most providers lure users with more affordable prices on unmanaged VPS deals, which is logical given the lack of support assistance. But when you consider all possible extras you may need to add afterward - a managed server can easily turn out to be more cost-effective. You can also check out ScalaHosting as one of our top picks for managed VPS hosting.

Worth the upgrade

The great thing about VPS hosting services is they have become increasingly accessible to the average user. You no longer have to be a technology wizard or invest tons of money to rent a virtual server. What's more - opting for a managed VPS package will see you get all essential technical help from your hosting provider while you focus on building and growing your online business. 

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.