We have already explained what hosted servers are and what their benefits are in our article about hosted servers. In this article, we’ll be talking about a type of hosted server called a managed hosted server, or just a managed server. A managed server is a hosted server that is managed by the hosting provider.
When a hosted server is managed by the hosting company, the hosting company may take care of the following:
Security. The hosting company protects the server from unauthorized access. It implements security measures such as firewalls (which prevent unauthorized users and devices from accessing the server), intrusion detection and prevention systems (which identifies and stops intrusion attempts by hackers), and antivirus software (which scans for and removes malware).
Implementation of IT solutions. With an unmanaged hosted server, you have to install all of your IT solutions or assets (applications, websites, virtual desktops, etc.) on your hosted server by yourself. With a managed hosted server, though, your hosting company can install these solutions for you.
Compliance. The hosting company can ensure that your hosted server satisfies all of the regulatory requirements that apply to your business, which may include PCI DSS, HIPAA, or SOX. You have to let the hosting company know that you want your hosted server to comply with certain regulations, of course, and the hosting provider may charge you extra for compliance hosting services.
Software updates. The hosting company will apply updates to some or all of the software on your hosted server. It will update your server’s operating system, as well as whatever software you’ve implemented on the server, such as a hosted application or hosted desktop. In addition, it will test updates to ensure that they’re stable and non-corrupt before applying them.
Technical support. The hosting company will provide you with technical support for your hosted server, including if you need help connecting to, accessing, or configuring it. The hosting company’s technical support may be limited to providing support for the server itself, or it may extend to supporting the solutions hosted on the server, such as applications and virtual desktops.
Monitoring and reporting. The hosting company will monitor the hosted server for security and performance problems (the latter including overtaxed CPU and RAM and hard drives running low on space), and promptly resolve the issue or notify the user if some action is required on his or her part.
Backups and disaster recovery. The hosting company will perform regular backups of all of the data and solutions on the hosted server. It will also implement all of the appropriate redundancies and disaster recovery measures in order to prevent outages and data loss.
Some of these management features may be included with unmanaged hosted servers, too, though they probably won’t be as thorough or advanced as the ones you get with a managed server.
For example, most hosting companies will probably include technical support and backups and disaster recovery features with their unmanaged hosted servers, since these are baseline features that are about ensuring that the server is always available and accessible to the user, though the technical support may be limited to helping users access their server and support representatives probably won’t be as responsive as with a managed account; the backups probably won’t be performed as frequently; and the disaster recovery measures probably won’t be as extensive or as effective in preventing downtime and data loss.
There are two main advantages to managed hosted servers over unmanaged hosted servers: first, that it lets you avoid having to manage your hosted servers yourself, allowing you and your employees to focus on more important tasks; and secondly, that it results in your hosted server being managed by the trained and experienced hosting specialists at the hosting company, who tend to be more capable than your average IT employee of maximizing the performance, security, and reliability of hosted assets.
Two potential disadvantages of managed hosted servers are higher costs (those hosting specialists don’t work for free, of course) and that they give you less control over how your server is managed.
To be fair, though, managed servers aren’t that much more expensive than unmanaged servers, since hosting companies use technologies like automation and advanced management software that allow relatively small numbers of technicians and engineers to actively manage thousands of hosted servers; and many hosting providers allow you to dictate, to the smallest detail, how they manage the server for you (and plus, not having to worry about the minutiae of server management is why many businesses sign up for managed hosted servers in the first place, so this supposed lack of control is irrelevant in many cases anyway.)
Of course, managed hosted servers also have all of the same benefits that unmanaged hosted servers have over onsite physical servers that you purchase, set up, and maintain by yourself (covered in the Academy’s hosted servers article, such as default anywhere-accessibility, less setup and maintenance hassles, a quicker setup process, no long term commitments, and no significant upfront costs.