Over the last few years, I’ve jumped around from shared to dedicated (VPS) web hosting for multiple web clients, my own websites, and I’ve needed dedicated hosting for ChurchMag as well.
I have learned a thing or two about the differences and would like to share it with you (would love some feedback from those of you that have experience with this, too).
Managed vs unmanaged web hosting:
Managed hosting is exactly what it sounds like: Managed. If your server goes down, needs to be restarted or one of your websites catches a nasty virus, your web host is going to take care of it or walk you through it.
In getting ChurchMag settled on new hosting, I had a number of server crashes. Did I have to worry about it? Well, yes, but I didn’t have to worry about re-starting it. My host took care of it for me and let me know approximately what may or may not have caused the crash.
Often times, managed hosts will take care of some other things for you, too. For instance, my current host will setup my DNS for Google Apps. Also, last month, ChurchMag’s layout totally puked. I began to Google the problem but decided to contact my web host’s 24-hour chat support. They sent me a link on how to do a MySQL fix and I was back in action after five minutes. 😀
Unmanaged web hosting means you get to manage it. If your server crashes, you need to restart it. If one of your websites gets a virus, you get to clean it up. Need some help? I’ve found unmanaged hosting services will help a little, but for the most part, it’s all you Lone Ranger.
My experience with unmanaged hosting was good and bad. I was very happy with my unmanaged hosting service. I had great uptime and my sites were fast, but I found it to be both stressful and a time-suck. I was capable of figuring it out–thanks to Google–but I just didn’t have the time to spend on learning server architecture and maintenance.
What Should Churches, Ministries & Non-Profits Use?
If you’re making a jump from shared hosting to a dedicated environment, I would recommend you stick with managed hosting. This will feel much the same. Even if you have a server jockey on staff or volunteering, here are a couple of things to consider:
- Will there always be someone knowledgable about servers?
- Is this how you want volunteer or paid staff to spend their time?
- Are you really saving money?
I’ve found unmanaged hosting to be a little cheaper than managed, but the amount is usually minimal enough that I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. The extra five to ten dollars per month is well worth it, as I essentially have an entire staff of IT professionals available 24-hours per day. Plus, if they mess something up, they get to deal with the mess, not me.
Now, there will be those exceptions where you’re dealing with a large scale operation and you have the staff and you need the extra flexibility that a unmanaged hosting solution can provide, but for most churches, ministries and non-profits, I recommend you take the managed hosting route.
I hope this was helpful for those trying to decide between the two. 🙂
For those that have experienced both, what would you say?