For small businesses and webpreneurs, maintaining an in house IT department with capable server administrators round the clock can be quite an expensive and challenging affair, one which can be easily avoided by hiring fully managed servers or third party server management company.
For past 7 years, I have been employing the services of fully managed web hosts, in order to run my websites and blogs and on majority of the occasions, my experience with them has been quite decent and satisfying.
However, fully managed web hosts generally limit their support to a specific set of applications and services they are most familiar with and thus getting custom jobs done. For example, installing and configuring Nginx or Varnish as reverse proxy falls outside their scope of service. Fully managed hosts also charge a premium for their service, in comparison to the cost of comparable unmanaged server and Third Party Management Company.
So after years of staying with fully managed web hosts, I decided to take the issues in my own hands and order an unmanaged server from a reputed web host and employ the services of a server management company, which had a good rapport online.
While the initial hardening and optimization of the server by the third party server management company took longer than I expected or hoped for, it was a lot more comprehensive setup than what I had earlier seen and I guess well worth the wait.
Problem however began when I told them to transfer my websites to the new server. Initial response from them took couple of hours (that they had begun transferring my websites) and thereafter there was no response whatsoever for several hours. I logged into control panel to see the progress (it was a CPanel to CPanel transfer) and I could see all the websites had seemed to finish transferring several hours ago.
Multiple attempts to garner a response from the management company went in vain, irrespective of whether it was live chat or tickets.
Frustrated and losing revenue, I decided to bring my websites back online on my older server and couple of hours after that, I finally got a response from the management company, apologizing for the fact that their tech had left the transfers running on a computer and had gone out, thus ensuring that another tech couldn’t take over.
However, that did not make up for the fact that none of their departments responded to my queries for several hours and even though late response is expected on weekend, no response at all isn’t something one would expect from a company, which is responsible for keeping your server online.
Owner of the company did apologize for the trouble and promptly refunded the amount I had paid them, however that downtime was enough to make me realize the fact that third party server management companies (at least the budget ones) are often run by individuals with few employees and thus cannot match the responsiveness of a large fully managed web host.
While my websites did suffer downtime and I ended up paying for an unmanaged server I wouldn’t be using, it did teach me a valuable lesson and I guess prevented an even longer downtime in future, had I shifted to the unmanaged server.
So for now, for most of my sites, I am sticking with my web host for several years, BlueHost. Because although they might not be perfect, they do provide good and prompt service and I know they have multiple people working round the clock to keep my server up, because of this, I do not have to worry about checking each and every website regularly.