Understanding unmanaged VPS

June 18, 2020

When it’s time to put your website on the internet, you wouldn’t be able to do so without web hosting. No matter what kind of services you choose, shared, dedicated, or VPS hosting, users should take great care in choosing their service provider. After all, it will affect the performance of their site. Your chosen provider should have great server uptime, excellent 24/7 customer support, scalable plans, additional security services, and more. But what most users forget, especially those new to hosting, is to check whether their plans are managed or unmanaged. This is a mistake as it will affect their overall hosting experience. Running an unmanaged Windows VPS server can be greatly different compared to a managed Linux one. Why is that so?

What’s the difference between managed and unmanaged VPS?

Managed hosting is pretty self-explanatory – your hosting provider takes care of your server set up & maintenance. You don’t really have to anything regarding server tasks or issues because a team of professionals will be managing these aspects for you. Need to install new software? Something isn’t working right? The provider has all the technical aspects covered.

While this a great choice for those that don’t have technical knowledge about server running or can’t afford an IT team for it, naturally, managed VPS is a more expensive option. This is completely understandable as the provider has to dedicate several people just for your server and they have to make sure that everything runs smoothly 24/7.

Another downside is that technically, you are completely dependable on your provider. You don’t get full access to the system, so you’re limited to what you can and can’t do on a server. In some cases, you can’t really install anything without getting their approval first. But if you don’t know much about servers, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be changing anything major in your virtual environment.

Now, unmanaged VPS means just that – the provider only makes sure that the physical machine your VPS server is running on functions as it’s supposed to. Every other aspect of operating and maintaining the server is the sole responsibility of the user. Whether it’s unmanaged Windows VPS or a Linux server, this means that you can be the boss and do whatever you want with the server (of course, as long as the changes or content hosted on it doesn’t break the terms of service of your chosen provider).

It’s a significantly cheaper option because there’s no need for a dedicated support team for each user. With this kind of service, you usually also get fool root access to the system, which is especially great for developers that want to really delve deeper into the system and customize every aspect of it. On the other hand, you have to have enough technical knowledge about servers.

The benefit of unmanaged VPS

Having full root access provides users with much-needed flexibility. With managed, shared hosting, and similar services, such as WordPress hosting, you’re either dependant on the provider or, to some extent, other users on the same physical machine. Others might be using up most of the resources to run their processes and you can be limited only to specific software. This can be quite restrictive to some people, especially those that want to develop without limitations.

That’s why unmanaged Windows VPS and Linux servers are so great. You can install chosen applications that best suit your needs or are needed for specific projects or system tasks. You can easily replace Nginx with Apache, or MySQL with MongoDB without your provider telling that you can’t do so. This way, you can complete your work faster.

It should be noted though that some unmanaged VPS hosting providers offer different levels of customization for their services. This depends on the virtualization software used for the server. Two of the most popular types are OpenVZ and KVM-based. The former is a bit more limited when it comes to kernel customization and is more suitable for common tasks and applications. The latter allows for more kernel customization options and there are more software options.

Why people choose this type of service

Typically, those who have enough technical knowledge about server management choose unmanaged hosting as it costs much less than managed services. Some are willing to learn more about Virtual Private Servers because they have specific custom options that other types of hosting don’t have.

People usually pick unmanaged hosting because they:

  • Have complex websites that require specific/less common extensions/modules not supported by regular shared hosting.
  • Require specific server configurations and more server resources for certain applications.
  • Want to create a separate environment within the server.
  • Want to use applications/control panels not supported by regular shared hosting.
  • Want to use unmanaged Windows VPS servers, which are typically not supported by shared hosting.
  • Want isolated resources for projects.
  • Want to be solely responsible for their virtual environment.

These are just some of the reasons why someone would pick unmanaged VPS. Of course, before doing switching to it, you should carefully think over this choice.

What you should consider before picking unmanaged

The best aspect of unmanaged hosting can be detrimental for some if they don’t have the skills for it. If you’ve made up your mind and are really switching, make sure that you at least have some basic knowledge about servers and the various processes required to run them. Or find/hire a person that could do this work for you because these tasks have to be done regularly.

You should also consider:

  • Virtualization. Known the difference between available virtualization software. If you choose the wrong one, you might be unable to complete your project.
  • OS compatibility. Not all providers offer unmanaged Windows VPS or all Windows OS distributions and the same can be said about Linux
  • OS distributions. If you require a specific OS, make sure they have it before purchasing their services.
  • Resources. With time, your project or website might grow and start requiring more resources. Your VPS hosting provider should allow you to freely scale your plan whenever you need it without causing server downtime.
  • Uptime. The success of the daily tasks required to run the server and your work, in general, depends on whether the system is accessible 24/7. Make sure your provider has very minimal downtime per year.
  • Customer support. Even though unmanaged VPS means that you’ll be doing everything yourself, there will be times when you’ll have to get additional help. 24/7 customer support will be very handy.
  • Add-ons. Some projects can require additional components like backup options, additional IP addresses, or SSL certificates. It’s recommended to choose a provider that can offer these services.

It can be really gratifying to run a server on your own, but users should keep in mind that there’s always a risk with unmanaged services. You have to know what you’re doing before implementing any changes or installing additional software. Server maintenance is another crucial aspect that everyone should consider, especially beginners, although this might be becoming less of an issue with GUI-based server control panels, like cPanel, Plesk, DirectAdmin, etc., doing most of the tasks for you. With them, both unmanaged Windows VPS and Linux VPS system management becomes easier for those willing to learn more.