Managed vs. Unmanaged Servers for Magento Hosting

Nexcess Josh WardDedicated server hosting is ideal for a busy Magento store, but should you choose a managed or unmanaged server? Managed vs. unmanaged Magento hosting, which is the right choice for an e-commerce store? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each, and consider which is best for Magento retailers.

Author: Josh Ward, VP of Global Sales at managed hosting provider Nexcess.

eCommerce stores often start life on shared web hosting. Shared hosting is inexpensive. A well-engineered shared web hosting platform may provide excellent performance for a store that doesn’t expect a large number of concurrent shoppers. But as your business grows, you might run into resource constraints and contention issues that impact performance and reliability.

At this point in the life of your ecommerce business, there are a couple of options: cloud hosting or dedicated server hosting. In this article, I will focus on dedicated server hosting and on choosing between a managed or unmanaged server.

What is a Dedicated Server?

A dedicated server is a powerful computer in a server rack in a data center. Unlike a virtual server or a cloud server, a dedicated server is a physical machine: you can pick it up and it would hurt if you dropped it on your toe.

Dedicated servers are available in a range of specifications, from less powerful than your laptop to the most powerful single-chassis computers in the world. The only thing more powerful than a high-end dedicated server is lots of high-end dedicated servers combined in a cluster or cloud.

That power makes dedicated servers ideal for hosting high-traffic Magento stores with many concurrent users.

Configuring a Server for Magento

When you choose a dedicated server, it will be managed by the hosting provider or by you as a Magento retailer. With an unmanaged dedicated server, you get the server, a connection to the Internet, power, and support for hardware and network issues. You are then expected to manage everything else yourself, which includes:

  • Firewalls
  • Software updates
  • Malware scanning and removal
  • Service and application configuration
  • Troubleshooting of any issues

In contrast, with a managed dedicated server, these tasks are taken care of by the hosting provider. For example, a managed hosting provider may configure your server for Magento; handle updates of the operating system, key services, and the OS kernel; configure a software firewall so that it works with Magento; tune the database and web server; to name a few.

Complete Server Control

Some retailers prefer unmanaged servers because they are experts in Linux server system administration and want complete control over their server and the software it runs. It’s a choice you can make when you have the knowledge and skills embedded in your e-commerce organization. But learning how to properly administer a server or hiring someone to do it for you can be time-consuming and expensive – and it won’t help you focus on selling anything.

What’s more, if you make a mistake the results can be catastrophic. A minor security vulnerability could spell disaster for your business, and if you aren’t experienced with server security, you will likely create vulnerabilities.

A dedicated server managed by a hosting provider who understands e-commerce in general and Magento in specific will allow online retailers to focus on running their stores, keep their businesses and shoppers safe, and enhance reliability over the long term.

Josh Ward is Vice President (VP) Global Sales at Nexcess, a U.S. managed hosting provider headquartered in Southfield, Michigan. For more information on this company, visit their website:

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