What is Managed Hosting?
With managed hosting a service provider manages hosting infrastructure on behalf of the client. Managed hosting is part of the managed services industry, which is expected to grow from USD 260.39 billion in 2023 to USD 380.83 billion by 2028 according to a report by Mordor Intelligence.
Small and medium-sized businesses, according to the report, will be the primary drivers of this growth as they outsource non-core operations and end up cutting IT costs by 25-45% while giving operational efficiency a healthy 45%-65% boost. It is important to understand this in the context of a prevailing global IT skills shortage. According to the BBC, for example, there were more than 2 million UK job vacancies in 2021 while “nearly 12 million workers lack essential digital skills”.
Introduction to Managed Hosting
In a managed hosting scenario the service provider supplies the technical expertise needed to run hosted services. The most common functions associated with managed hosting include running security, backups, server monitoring and performance optimisation, and technical support.
Services within each of the aforementioned categories and the extent to which they are provided will vary from host to host. Storm Internet, for example, provides “Standard” support by default with all its managed hosting services. This includes a dedicated SupportPod (a team of six engineers) as well as the following:
|Platform Support||Application Support||Proactive Monitoring|
|Full support for all Cloud and Dedicated server requests related to:||We cover all the following Application level items as part of our standard support service||We proactively monitor the availability and security of your servers, websites and applications. Taking action to resolve alerts without you needing to contact us.|
|Capacity monitoring||Windows & Linux Operating System support||24/7/365 Proactive Server Uptime monitoring|
|Health & performance checking||Plesk & cPanel issues and configuration support||Proactive URL and port availability monitoring|
|Managed migration of your sites and apps to Storm||Investigation of server error messages||Proactive Reverse Port monitoring|
|Cost Analysis, Management & Optimisation||Database related issues|
|Patch Management & Security Updates||Performance optimization|
|Basic DDoS Protection||SSL certificates|
|Brute Force Protection|
|Services Hardening (RDP / SSH / cPanel / FTP / TCP)|
|Managed backups and on-demand restorations|
|Cloning & templating|
|Security & firewall management|
|Server customisation & software installation|
Where you may require a higher level of involvement, faster response times, or custom SLAs, the “Business” and “Enterprise” support plans can be selected instead. Learn more about Storm Internet’s support SLAs here.
The Benefits of Managed Hosting
Back in the day I managed a handful of servers – mostly web servers that run client websites. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
- There isn’t always time to do backups, or to run patches and updates
- Security is always a concern nagging at the back of your mind
- Server and network optimisation can be tricky and requires a lot of patience and research
- Ensuring that client websites run smoothly 24/7 requires expertise and constant monitoring
- Tracing the sources of errors (and fixing them) can take days
- Again, security is a concern that never really goes away
These concerns are amplified when your hosted services become more complex. An increased attack surface and more moving parts only serve to make management of the hosted services more complex and stressful. Managed hosting, alleviates these problems:
Managed hosting comes bundled with the expertise needed to efficiently manage hosted services, often at a predictable fixed monthly cost. This reduces the complexity of finding staff with the right skill set, and can cut expensive consultant / freelance costs when permanent staff cannot be found.
At the same time, where there is an existing IT team, managed hosting creates the space they need to focus on mission-critical tasks. Where there isn’t an existing IT team, managed hosting can fill the skills gap at a fraction of the cost.
Keeping cloud spend in check
Not too long ago I wrote about organisations failing to stay within budget when it came to cloud spending, with some considering repatriation back to an on-premise data centre as a result. But that too can be costly, and perhaps entirely unnecessary, especially if their service providers help them keep track of what they spend. Storm, for example, includes Cost Analysis, Management & Optimisation with all our managed hosting options as a way to help customers keep track of their cloud assets, resource usage, and ultimately what they spend.
Expert server management
Managed hosting includes performance optimisation and disaster recovery services. Performance optimisation can include keeping an eye on resource usage, performing OS-specific tweaks, deploying load balancing when necessary, and implementing caching and/or CDN solutions. This ensures high-performance throughput, and a consistent user experience.
Virtually all managed hosting service providers include backups as a component of disaster recovery. This can either be a backup of your data, or a backup of all your hosted services (e.g. virtual servers) and data. The latter is preferable, since it means less downtime and data loss in a disaster scenario.
Also described as “reduced downtime”, however the current title is more apt, since managed hosting includes 24/7 monitoring of not only your hosted services, but also resource consumption of each individual server, the underlying hardware infrastructure, networking, and so on. Anomalies in performance are investigated immediately, often eliminating downtime before it occurs.
Security and compliance
The table above shows some of the security measures included with managed hosting. These can be extended with additional security features. Storm, for example, includes managed PCI compliance with every server: each individual server receives a quarterly external vulnerability scan. Should a scan fail, your Storm SupportPod will make the necessary adjustments until a pass is achieved.
When it comes to compliance, managed hosting makes it easier for businesses to meet regulatory standards without excessive overhead or specialised knowledge. Managed hosting providers can implement encryption solutions, automatic backups, and data redundancy to ensure data integrity and security, and can provide hosting in specific geographical locations to ensure that data sovereignty requirements are met.
Managed hosting use cases
The chances that we’ve all used managed hosting in the past (and still do today) are good. If you’ve ever had a shared hosting account for your website, you’ve relied on managed hosting. Using Google Workspace or Microsoft 365? That’s managed hosting, too.
When it comes to websites and apps, there are plenty of use cases where your hosting provider can take care of the ins and outs of your hosted service while you focus on your business objectives.
E-commerce Platforms: Online stores require high uptime, security against threats (such as DDoS attacks), and compliance with standards like PCI DSS. Managed hosting provides the reliability, scalability, and security these platforms need, especially during traffic surges like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
SaaS Applications: Software as a Service (SaaS) providers can leverage managed hosting to ensure high availability, scalability, and security for their applications, offering a seamless experience to their end-users.
Backup and Disaster Recovery: Some businesses use managed hosting primarily as a backup or disaster recovery solution for their on-prem or hybrid infrastructure to ensure quick recovery if their primary systems are compromised.
Development and Testing Environments: Software development teams often use managed hosting. This is not because they lack the internal skills required to manage their hosting solution, but rather to eliminate distractions often associated with hosting and maintain a narrow focus on the project at hand.
Financial and Health Data Platforms: Sectors like finance and healthcare have stringent regulatory compliance requirements (like HIPAA for health data). With managed hosting the service provider can manage many of the compliance requirements (security, continuity, performance), which helps organisations cut back on associated expenses.
Educational Platforms: E-learning platforms and Learning Management Systems (LMS) can use managed hosting to ensure a smooth experience for students and educators, which is particularly important when catering to a large number of users.
Embracing the Managed Hosting Revolution
In a world where digital performance directly correlates with business success, managed hosting is a must for enterprises seeking reliability, security, and efficiency. Importantly, managed hosting can help you transcend common challenges, and ensure you remain resilient in a competitive landscape. Whether you’re an e-commerce platform requiring robust security or a budding SaaS startup seeking scalability, managed hosting has the versatility to cater to diverse digital needs.
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