Explained: Managed and Unmanaged Hosting and Which Hosting is Right for You

Choosing the right web hosting is a difficult task. You have to select between managed and unmanaged hosting and even WordPress hosting. Then you need to decide whether to opt for shared web hosting plans or to grab the best VPS hosting on offer.  

For this reason, before you select a web host, you should know the types of hosting like managed and unmanaged hosting as well as the difference between the two.

This is what I will run you through in this post, and while we are at it, we will also look at managed WordPress hosting, which is a popular web hosting choice right now.

After this, I will list the different types of hosting plans, such as shared, VPS and dedicated, offered under managed and unmanaged hosting services.

So, let’s zoom.

Managed and Unmanaged hosting

Web hosting services are usually categorized as managed or unmanaged.

types of hosting - managed and unmanaged
Types of web hosting

A managed hosting service manages or takes care of the basic technical requirements of running your website. This minimizes the technical know-how required from you, and you can concentrate on the actual task of managing your site.

Managed hosting services usually include the following features:

  1. One-click website installs using a control panel like cPanel
  2. Background PHP and other script updates
  3. Free or paid website migration
  4. Qualified technical support to deal with server issues
  5. Free or paid website backups
  6. SSL certificate installation

The above features offered in managed hosting plans result in significant time savings for website owners. You no longer need to worry about SSH (Secure Shell) access to install scripts on the server or updating the server software manually.

cPanel offers high levels of flexibility for configuring different content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. You can also quickly set up redirects or email forwarders without any technical knowledge. You can even access your MySQL database using phpMyAdmin.

If you require any technical assistance, the 24/7 support teams are always at your beck and call.

Some managed hosting providers also provide free website migrations and backups. They also offer security services such as SSL certificate installation and malware scanning.

Unmanaged web hosting

But if you prefer a more hands-on approach to website management and possess the required technical knowledge, then you can have a look at unmanaged web hosting.

In this type of web hosting, most of the technical features are unmanaged. This usually applies to dedicated hosting where you get a server, and it’s up to you to configure it with your preferred scripts.

You are on your own when it comes to website migrations, SSL installs, software updates, server optimization, etc.

You will get full access to SSH (Secure Shell) that you or your system administrator can use to customize the server as per your needs.

Only basic support is offered with unmanaged hosting plans, and you cannot expect help with setting up your website or troubleshooting software related issues.

For these reasons, unmanaged hosting is cheaper than comparable managed hosting plans.

What is managed WordPress hosting

Now that we understand the difference between managed and unmanaged hosting let us learn about managed WordPress hosting.

Did you know that WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) that powers more than 34% of all websites and boasts a share of 60% plus amongst all CMS’?

This makes it ideal for building your website, be it a personal blog or an eCommerce site.

Nowadays, most of the hosting providers offer managed WordPress hosting services that are tuned for WordPress. These servers are exclusively reserved for WordPress sites and you cannot install other CMS like Drupal or Joomla.

Since this type of hosting is focussed on WordPress, it is better optimized in terms of caching, PHP, and resource allocation.

You also receive expert support with the right know-how of WordPress issues.

Think of it like a rented accommodation with managed housekeeping services. You rent a part of the webserver for your WordPress site, and you receive different support services as part of the hosting package.


You can expect the following features in managed WordPress hosting:

  1. One-click WordPress install
  2. WordPress caching for optimizing speed and minimizing resource consumption
  3. Excellent WordPress-focussed support
  4. Custom cron jobs
  5. Staging area
  6. SSL installs and website backups
  7. Website migration

These features offer complete peace of mind if you are running a WordPress site since you know your site is in safe hands, and there are experts to turn to in case of any problems.

The staging feature in WordPress hosting is a definite advantage. It allows you to test your changes before making them live on your site.

Also Read: Benefits of managed WordPress hosting.

Different types of web hosting plans

Within managed and unmanaged hosting services, different hosting plans are offered, the most popular of which are shared, VPS, and dedicated plans.

types of hosting plans - shared, VPS and dedicated
Different web hosting plans

Web hosting plans can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on your requirement and the hosting plan you choose.

Shared web hosting

A shared hosting plan is the cheapest and perfect for beginners starting their first website. As the name suggests, the resources of the server on which your domain is hosted are shared among all the domains on that server.

Think of it as a co-working space where you get one desk to work on like everyone else, and all the co-workers share the same internet bandwidth, electricity, and AC. Also, there’s no clear separation between different desks, and everyone can see the other co-workers in the room.

shared hosting co-working space
Shared hosting is like co-working. (Photo credit)

However, you should note that since the server resources are shared among multiple domains, there are various resource limits placed by the shared hosting providers. This ensures that a few domains or users do not hog Lion’s share of the resources.

If only one hosting account uses up most of the facilities, it will adversely affect the performance of other sites sharing the same limited resources.

Most shared web hosting offers include the following features:

  1. Limited or unlimited number of website installs
  2. Limits on bandwidth usage and the number of monthly visitors  
  3. Limited server resources like memory and computing power
  4. Limited storage allocation
  5. Email accounts
  6. Free SSL certificates
  7. SSH and MySQL access

Shared web hosting is the right choice if you are just starting out and do not expect thousands of visitors right off the bat. Most of the shared hosting plans offer one website install on their most basic plan and allow more website installs on higher plans.

So, you should also factor in the number of websites you plan to operate while selecting the right shared web hosting service.

VPS hosting

In a Virtual Private Server (VPS), the resources are divided equally among multiple domains hosted on that server by creating virtual partitions between the different users.

Going back to the co-working example, you can opt for dedicated office desks or team rooms with guaranteed internet service and a few extras like access to the conference room even while housed within the same co-working space.

VPS hosting is like co-working cubicles.
Dedicated co-working representing VPS hosting.

VPS hosting plans offer higher levels of features than shared plans such as:

  1. Multiple website installs
  2. Higher CPU power
  3. Higher bandwidth allocation
  4. Dedicated RAM

The standard features are the same for shared and VPS hosting plans.

The advantage of VPS hosting over shared hosting is the dedicated resources offered by the former that insulates your sites from usage surges by other domains hosted on the same server.

You should opt for VPS hosting if you are already running a resource-intensive website with high traffic, or you plan to operate an e-commerce store.

Dedicated hosting

As the name suggests, dedicated hosting plans offer servers dedicated for your use.

There are no resource limits other than the computing limits of the server that you have selected.

You can think of a dedicated office space that you rent with exclusive use of the office facilities.

Dedicated plans also come with 24/7 chat support and white-labeling if you wish to offer reseller hosting services.

You will usually not require dedicated hosting unless you are running a site with hundreds of thousands of daily visitors or running a full-fledged eCommerce site.

How does shared, VPS or dedicated hosting square up with managed or unmanaged hosting

You should know that all the 3 types of hosting plans – shared, VPS, and dedicated could be offered under managed or unmanaged hosting services.

types of hosting services and hosting plans

However, almost all shared hosting plans are managed since these plans contain varying restrictions on the resources shared among multiple users.

If you wish to go for unmanaged hosting, you will need to select among the different VPS and dedicated hosting plans.

Which web hosting should you choose?

Now that you are aware of the various types of managed and unmanaged hosting plans, it is time to help you select the right web hosting service.

Make the right hosting decision (Photo credit)

If you’re already running a WordPress site or are planning to leverage WordPress to power your website, you should seriously consider using an excellent managed WordPress hosting service like Cloudways. This way, you don’t need to deal with generic support that has limited or no knowledge of WordPress issues.

If WordPress support is not your primary concern and you would instead take advantage of the myriad features of a control panel like cPanel with SSH access, you can go with non-WordPress based managed hosting.

Within managed hosting, you should select between shared, VPS, or dedicated plans. I have already mentioned the features of each to help you make the right choice based on your current and future needs.

Usually, a shared hosting plan is good enough for the majority of websites. But if you are planning a big e-Commerce site or your site gets massive amounts of traffic, you should consider VPS and dedicated hosting plans.

Did you benefit from this discussion on managed and unmanaged web hosting and the introduction to managed WordPress hosting? Also, which web hosting are you using or planning to use? Let me know in the comments below.

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About Trishan Mehta

Trishan Mehta is a WordPress fanatic since 2009. When not WordPressing, he is busy exploring hidden natural getaways whenever he can grab an opportunity. You can grab his WordPress SEO eBook to get up to speed with WordPress SEO.

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