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Web hosting has never been more affordable -- or more complicated. Rich media, social networking, and sophisticated eCommerce platforms are all making the Internet experience incredibly dynamic, interactive, multi-faceted, and profitable.
This makes security threats more pervasive than ever: last year alone, the number of viruses, worms, and trojans in circulation topped the 1 million mark. That's in addition to new variations on spam, phishing scams, malware, and other vulnerabilities, which now exceed the 51,000 listed in the Open Source Vulnerability Database (OSVDB).
The million-dollar question is, What's the cost of lost data? In the US alone, data losses to PCs cost businesses $18.2 billion annually. Lost productivity due to messaging downtime has been calculated at up to $50,000 per major email outage. Likewise, self-managed servers for web hosting now require constant attention to OS patching and software and server updates: in addition to Microsoft's "Patch Tuesday," a constant stream of scheduled critical updates come from Oracle, Cisco, and others. Add to this growing "to do" list the unrelenting importance of network monitoring, server load management, DNS records management, data backups, and general troubleshooting.
There was a time when small- to medium-sized businesses could handle all, or most (or at least some), maintenance and support tasks. But the days of do-it-yourself server management may be over for a growing number of online storefronts and communities. Today, these "routine" tasks have become too time-consuming and complex for many individuals; they require the expertise and resources of in-house IT staff, diverting personnel from other business-critical processes.
In the support spectrum between co-located or unmanaged web servers on one end and fully outsourced IT on the other is a rapidly growing market segment for managed and semi-managed web hosting services. A recent Forrester.com report commented on the clear trend towards managed servers as well:
"Since the eBusiness era began, managed hosting has been a principal alternative to co-location for customers without a "do-it-yourself" bias and appears likely to grow in popularity based on expressed buyers' preference. Emerging virtual solutions, including cloud-based services, will likely reinforce this."
Cost is clearly a consideration with managed services. This approach does require a financial commitment beyond leasing an unmanaged dedicated server. Yet the benefits may far outweigh the risk of inaction or a poorly-maintained site, and all the downtime, weak connectivity, insecure software, or catastrophic failure that could ensue.
Managed plans also typically offer a great deal of choice: tiered levels of service and support, according to a customer's specific needs, expertise, and time constraints, as well as a wide variety of ad hoc services. Together, these offer a comprehensive package of supported hosting solutions that include security audits, intrusion detection, server monitoring, network troubleshooting, and consistent OS and software updates.
Increasingly, the migration to fully managed and semi-managed services represents an important, informed next step to ensuring that hosted sites and email messaging perform at the highest possible levels, utilizing the resources and expertise of service providers that already specialize in these areas. Aplus.net has just released a more detailed discussion of these trends and issues in a free white paper.