Why we recommend managed hosting to our clients
Choosing the right hosting platform is an important factor to discuss when onboarding new clients or discussing hosting solutions with potential clients.
Many of our clients use managed hosting solutions such as Acquia or Pantheon, however new clients regularly use traditional cheaper hosting solutions which can prove to be problematic for Drupal development teams.
In this article we’d like to discuss what’s wrong with traditional hosting, why we often move new clients on to managed hosting solutions in order to fully support them, and what the difference means to you as a business owner.
If you’re not interested in the details then read the “What do I need to know as a business owner or decision maker?” section for a summary.
What’s wrong with traditional hosting?
Although traditional hosting platforms such as Rackspace, 1&1 and GoDaddy appear to be attractive based on their low costs, they can cost significantly more to manage, and put businesses at risk if not managed correctly. Many agencies may also choose to manage their client's site in-house (self hosting), but this can be subject to the same problems and risks:
Lack of version control and poor backup policy - Git version control is important to ensure a ‘history of code changes’ is kept and that code changes made by a team of developers are properly merged together rather than overwritten. Backups should also be made at least daily and stored securely off-site, however a surprising amount of self-hosted Drupal sites don’t adhere to these principles, which can prove risky when problems arise.
Poor workflow and deployment model - A proper workflow should at the very least consist of a 3 tier workflow; dev, uat and live (often referred to as dev, staging and production), and each environment should be hosted on a separate server. Due to the increased cost of multiple servers this practice is commonly ignored with cheaper traditional hosting.
High dependency on systems administrator - Most importantly traditional and in-house hosting rely on a systems administrator to support and maintain the hosting environment, and be there to react to any problems when they arise. Not only does this end up being expensive but it is often unfeasible, especially with smaller teams. High-profile sites require somebody to react to any problems as soon as they happen, no matter what time of day it is. What happens if there’s an issue late out-of-hours and the systems administrator isn’t available to respond?
For a much more detailed explanation of traditional hosting problems checkout Pantheon’s white paper “Hosting is Dead” available to download here.
What benefits do our hosting partners provide?
Although the monthly costs are more expensive than traditional hosting, huge time savings are made in the setup and management of these platforms which makes managed hosting much more cost effective in the long run.
With Acquia and Pantheon a new site can be spun up in a matter of minutes, complete with a three-tiered production environment, Git version control, and fully automated backups across each environment.
Downtime can be resolved incredibly quickly with managed hosting since issues typically affect a larger audience and the responsibility to solve any issues is of the highest priority to the platform, regardless of the client who is affected. Both partners have teams working across the globe, so an incident can be picked up and fixed quickly 24/7, 365 days a year.
High-quality monitoring systems are an important role in ensuring issues are picked up extremely fast. The platforms are highly transparent with this, since customers can visit the relevant status pages to keep up to date with any issues (see Acquia’s and Pantheon’s here).
Lastly, because both platforms are Drupal-specific they are optimised for Drupal sites in terms of performance and security. As a customer you automatically see the benefit right from the outset at no extra cost.
What do I need to know as a business owner or decision maker?
Based on what has already been discussed here’s an overview of what you as a customer need to know about choosing managed hosting over traditional or self-hosting:
Overall managed hosting is more cost-effective - Although managed hosting costs more per month, removing the systems administrator costs and making the development team's life easier will certainly provide reduced costs overall.
Choosing managed hosting greatly reduces risk - Infrastructure can be a scary place with all the security issues that teams have to react to. Heartbleed and Drupalgeddon are two of the most significant and well known issues in recent years, however managed hosting platforms had these well under control so you don’t need to worry.
SLA’s are expensive, but all off-the-shelf tiers perform well regardless - Because many tools and features are shared across the whole platform, you’ll find that sites are well looked after regardless of what package you choose, with typical uptime stats of 99.9% and higher. If you need an SLA however then you’ll need an Enterprise level package, with costs starting at around £10K per year.
The development team will be thankful for managed hosting - Development and deployment workflows are much simpler with managed hosting and can be done without any command line wizardry. Less time spent on systems administration means more time can be spent working on the important stuff that will bring real value to your business.
If you’re in the process of choosing a hosting provider then we hope this article proves useful to you in making that decision. If you already have a Drupal site and are looking for a new team to support and maintain it for you then please check out our Support and Maintenance service offering to see how Microserve could help you.