So you're building your small business website, and you want it to be as reliable, secure, fast, and available as possible. This all comes down to how you choose to host your site—when it comes to the best web hosting, you have three main options:
- If you've used one of the best website builders like Squarespace or Wix, they will host your website for you
- If you're using a different platform, like WordPress via a WordPress website builder, or similar, you can choose to buy unmanaged hosting
- If you're using a different platform, you can also choose to use managed hosting
Website builder hosting is perfectly good. Squarespace, Wix, and similar small business website builders are perfect for starting out, and they're built to scale, up to a point. When you're starting to move into high-traffic territory, or you need more specialist features on your website, then you may want to move to a different type of hosting.
Unmanaged hosting means that you will handle all the technical stuff in terms of running your website yourself. This may include installing patches and updates, handling backups of your site content, and managing security for your site.
Managed hosting is a service provided by a web host who takes care of most or all of the aforementioned technical tasks for you. Web hosts who provide managed hosting will have a team of engineers, who deal with everything from system upgrades and security issues to data backups and hardware replacement.
Unmanaged hosting for small business websites
Unmanaged hosting is the cheapest type of web hosting you can buy. While that's certainly good for your wallet, it's often a false economy. When you use unmanaged hosting, you take on a lot of responsibilities for your website. These include:
- Staying aware of bugs that could compromise your website security
- Installing security updates as soon as they come out
- Monitoring security patches in case they create problems
- Maintaining your website hardware and infrastructure, including making sure your servers are running fast and efficiently, taking backups, and similar tasks
- Handling hardware failures: for example, if the physical server dies you need to sort out hosting elsewhere, or restore from a backup
- Handling network failure handling: for example, if the network connection fails elsewhere, you may need to sort out connectivity elsewhere
As you can see, this means you need a fair amount of technical expertise, and these are skills you'd need to build prior to launching your website.
Managed hosting for small business websites
Managed hosting means that you pay a web hosting provider to take care of the technical aspects of your website. Typically, the best web hosting companies will focus on:
- Setting up your publishing platform, like WordPress, with just a couple of clicks
- Testing security and software updates and patches
- Installing all software updates and security patches as soon as they become available
- Tracking the network infrastructure to make sure everything is working efficiently
- Monitoring your servers to see if they're overloaded or need maintenance
- Balancing traffic so your website is fast and reliable
- Restoring from backups should a hardware failure happen
Managed web hosting services have access to the latest tools, software, updates, and best practices. They also have specialists on staff to deal with technical matters.
Managed hosting is the best option if you don't want to worry about your website's stability or security. These hosts will take care of all the technical aspects of your website for you, meaning you don't need any technical skills—just a desire to make sure that your website is always available and secure, which is a great thing for your small business.
In our dedicated comparison of managed vs unmanaged web hosting, we noted that there are many components involved in running web servers, including not only the hardware, but also the operating system and many various software tools. With any managed hosting plan, you get a selection of additional management features, which are designed specifically to help your website run easier.
Additionally, managed hosting packages usually offer more in terms of technical support, while in contrast unmanaged hosting plans offer few, if any, extra features along these lines. What you'll get is a basic server with the operating system installed, and not much more.
In this case, it's up to you to install everything, starting from the basic software required for running a website, such as Apache, Ngnix, or PHP.
Business reasons to choose managed vs unmanaged web hosting
So far, we've focused on the technological reasons why managed hosting is a better choice. But, let's take a look from a slightly different angle—what that means for your business.
Uptime and stability
You don't want to spend your time, money, and effort getting people to your website only for it to be unavailable when they click a link. Managed hosting companies will continuously monitor your website's availability, and either fix any problems themselves, or email you if your site goes down.
This means everything will get back up and running quickly, minimising downtime and ensuring customers can find and buy from you.
Speed and reliability
Slow websites mean your visitors are more likely to bounce from your site, or look elsewhere for products or services. Reliability is key if you want people coming back again and again to place orders with you.
Managed hosting companies have tools that determine where bottlenecks in your site exist, so the host can keep them running fast, often without any input from you. Load balancing is another managed hosting perk that keeps your website running quickly, by distributing traffic evenly across servers.
This all means a faster-loading site that will attract new customers and build loyalty with existing ones.
Security and backups
You want customers to feel safe on your website, especially if you're running an ecommerce store or gathering personal or payment information.
Managed hosting providers will make sure your site is protected from spam and malicious threats. They will also ensure your internal network remains secure, protecting any files or sensitive information that could be accessed by hackers.
Your website could fail due to natural disasters, human error, or hardware failure. In this case, your managed hosting company will completely back up your site on a regular basis.
Managed hosting services will have the expertise to restore your website quickly and efficiently in the event of a catastrophe, ensuring you don't lose valuable business time or revenue.
Look for the long-term benefits of managed hosting for your website
Ultimately, unless you want to become a web hosting expert, managed hosting is a better option for your small business. Although you'll pay a little more, the biggest benefit will be your peace-of-mind.
You can commit all of your attention to building your small business—focusing on marketing your products and services, building great customer relationships, and optimising how you run your organisation.
Further reading on web hosting
If you're considering the best WordPress hosting for your WordPress site, make sure to look at our listicles outlining seven great reasons to choose managed WordPress hosting, and the four S's of managed WordPress: security, scalability, speed, and service.
Finally, check out our interview with managed WordPress hosting provider Pressidium, to learn more about this type of web hosting.
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Paul is a highly experienced professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology.
Boasting over 20 years of business experience working across large corporations, Paul started his own business in 2006. This gives him a unique, first-hand understanding of the challenges businesses and entrepreneurs face.
Paul loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easily understood. He specializes in creating content spanning a variety of formats, including website copy, blogs, knowledge bases, white papers, support guides, tutorials, and in-depth articles.