Unmanaged server vs managed

Root Server or Managed Stack?

Managing your own website isn’t always simple. But with the right hosting solution, you can make the whole process as smooth and painless as possible. When it comes to hosting sites and applications with dedicated resources, you have the choice of either unmanaged servers with root access, or a managed service.

Our CloudNX platform now lets you choose between unmanaged Root Servers and Managed Stacks, as well as pre-installed Applications on managed cloud hosting. But what sets these apart? And how do you know which option is best suited to your project?

Root Servers: complete control

On the CloudNX platform, Root Servers are high-performance virtual machines that provide the user with root access. ‘Root access’ means complete freedom to make changes to any file on the server and install server-wide applications.

But freedom to make changes also means freedom to make mistakes. If you don’t have server admin experience, you’re likely to struggle with the setup and maintenance of your VMs, with potentially negative consequences for your projects.

Root Servers are unmanaged, so you need to install a complete set of software before you can put your VM to work on the task at hand. We provide the Linux or Windows operating system, plus a cPanel or Plesk control panel if you need it, the rest is up to you.

So a Root Server is something of a blank slate – perfect if you want to build a highly customised hosting environment, but less than ideal if you’re not familiar with the techy details of server management, or if you just don’t have the time to spare. What’s the alternative?

Managed Stacks: just bring code

As we discussed previously, a software stack or web service stack is a software bundle including the various components required to create and maintain dynamic web content. The term ‘LAMP stack’ is often used to represent the popular combination of a Linux operating system, the Apache web server, the MySQL database and the PHP scripting language, but this is just one of the many possible setups.

The ‘Managed’ part refers to everything Fasthosts does behind the scenes – the things that allow you to launch your software stack on a powerful, dedicated platform, without the admin that usually comes with it.

To launch a Managed Stack on CloudNX, you configure your resources the same way you would on a Root Server: by selecting the desired amount of CPUs, RAM and SSD storage. Managed Stacks are NOT shared hosting – the resources you configure are 100% dedicated to your projects alone, with absolutely no contention from other customers.

Next, you can create a custom stack by selecting your web server (Apache, NGINX or Passenger) and scripting language (Node.js, Perl, PHP or Python), plus a MariaDB or MySQL database. We provide the Linux operating system and deploy your complete stack in as little as 55 seconds.

All you need to worry about is your code and any additional applications you install, not the infrastructure they run on. There are no VMs to spin up, no operating systems to install, and no software updates to perform. We ensure that all your stack components are up to date and secure, with updates and patches automatically applied whenever required.

Adding containers to the mix

Another thing that sets Managed Stacks apart from Root Servers is that a stack is not a server. While a Managed Stack still has the performance of dedicated resources and no contention, it exists across a cluster of servers, not just a single VM.

This is all managed via containerisation, with the various components of the stack each running in an isolated software container. If you select a stack with PHP, Apache and MySQL, for example, the scripting and web server will run in one container, while another one handles the database.

We use containers on our cloud hosting platform because they’re incredibly lightweight, agile and portable. Not only does this make them easy to host across a cluster of servers, it also provides major benefits in terms of availability.

Containers are always spinning up in the background, distributing web traffic and ensuring no single point of failure. Scaling out automatically, containers help to ensure consistent performance for your website or application. And if a container hosting your project goes down for any reason, there’s always another one ready to take up the slack.

Root access or managed: which is right for you?

If you need a customised server platform with very specific configurations, root access could be a must-have. But bear in mind that Root Servers need to be maintained by someone with server admin experience.

Whether that means doing it yourself or having the right skills in your team, you’ll need to set aside some time to ensure the optimum setup. If you’re comfortable doing this, Root Servers give you everything you need to build your own powerful, complex and highly resilient cloud infrastructure.

With Managed Stacks, you don’t need the knowledge, time or resources required for server admin. But what do you lose with no root access?

While it’s true that root access is required for some applications, you might be surprised at just how much you can achieve without it. You’ll always have full control over your web server, scripting and database, with the flexibility to manage files via SFTP and install any additional software of your choice.

A managed service makes sense for developers who simply want to focus on their code, or businesses that perhaps don’t have server management in-house. As a general rule, if you have to ask about the difference between managed and unmanaged hosting, you should probably go for the managed option.

Still, that’s not to say that Managed Stacks are only for newbies or small companies – any organisation can take advantage of dedicated performance alongside managed updates and auto-scaling containers.

Whether you decide on a Root Server, Managed Stack or pre-installed Application, they can all be deployed via a single intuitive CloudNX control panel.

For more details and a breakdown of the differences between Root Servers and Managed Stacks, take a look at this guide on the Fasthosts support site. And feel free to contact us to discuss your hosting needs – our experts will be happy to help.

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