Choosing an AEM Hosting Option That Uplifts Your Company


We’ll get into AEM hosting in a second, but first: Remember when every software we bought came on a physical CD? Some of us may be nostalgic about that time, but most of us have cleared out our CD storage space and exhaled.

It’s nice to recall the local-hosting-only era while having alternative hosting options. More so, if you deal with resource-intensive business software like Adobe Experience Manager (AEM).

Although some companies still host AEM on-premise, many opt for using Adobe cloud hosting services and migrate to either AEM Managed Services or AEM as a Cloud Service.

AEM On-Premise (Self-Hosted)

AEM on-premise, or AEM classic, has seen many different software versions over time. Many of its older versions are still used by companies worldwide, including the following:

  • AEM 5.6.
  • AEM 6.0.
  • AEM 6.1.
  • AEM 6.2.
  • AEM 6.3.
  • AEM 6.4.

Older versions of AEM are still fully functional to this day, although they’ve all reached the end of their extended support periods.

The most current version is AEM 6.5, and it’s expected to receive quarterly updates into the foreseeable future, with no end in sight.

In AEM classic, the freedom to customize, manage, and grow an AEM platform can be incredibly freeing. It’s typically advantageous for companies that need higher control for the following reasons:

  • They have strict security compliance regulations Adobe’s servers don’t yet comply with.
  • They anticipate needing complex or unusual infrastructural design.
  • They have specific requirements for their network.
  • They want to customize their cache controls using AEM Dispatcher.

On the other hand, self-hosting AEM is complicated and highly technical. You are responsible for setting up the platform’s infrastructure the way you want it, migrating to new versions, and scaling the structure to meet growing needs.

So, a dedicated technical team is an absolute must-have to keep your software running smoothly over time.

AEM Managed Services

For many companies, future-proofing their software is a top priority. Local hosting, while it’s a powerful solution, isn’t as easy to keep up-to-date, and won’t have the same level of disaster recovery as a cloud-native version might.

That’s where AEM Managed Services comes in—providing seamless migration from AEM 6.5 to the cloud. Currently, AEM Managed Services is only available to companies with an existing AEM license key (meaning they’re already self-hosting AEM).

AEM Managed Services was Adobe’s initial breakthrough into the cloud hosting space. With it, companies can host AEM on Adobe’s cloud servers. This greatly improves site and publishing speed by offloading load-handling to the cloud.

The nice thing for on-premise users is that AEM Managed Services retains the look, feel, and features of AEM 6.5 on-premise with the added benefit of a cloud hosting platform.

It can act as a middle stepping-stone to its fully cloud-native cousin, AEM as a Cloud Service. Or, it can easily function as a long-term infrastructurally similar solution for companies who prefer the on-premise AEM 6.5 experience but also want cloud-native perks.

AEM as a Cloud Service

AEM as a Cloud Service (AEMaaCS) is Adobe’s predominant cloud-native AEM offering. With AEMaaCS, all of AEM’s processing and storage happens within the cloud. Your AEM website(s) will also function on the Adobe-owned AEM CDN (content distribution network).

We’ll be honest, we encourage companies to migrate to AEMaaCS from the other two versions of the software. We also highly recommend it as the number one option for companies new to AEM. This is because the AEM hosted and managed in the cloud is exclusively capable of a few beneficial things that make it truly future-proof.

By choosing AEMaaCS you can benefit from better integration with Adobe Experience Cloud. On top of that, it’s optimized for Headless AEM implementation.

Yet, the biggest benefit of the cloud-native version is in AEM architecture. The software can automatically scale its load-handling capabilities as your website’s needs fluctuate.

No matter how much your company’s needs change and grow, it’s virtually impossible to outgrow AEMaaCS into the foreseeable future. And that’s exactly what most companies need to see from their software investments.

AEM License Cost Structure Between Versions

While we know you might want to see clear-cut numbers on what licensing each AEM version will cost, we’ve got to say: It depends.

What we can speak to, however, is how the AEM license cost structure works.

Outside of any add-on packages you decide to get, AEM on-premise and Managed Services are priced based on the infrastructure you’ll need, and how many users you’ll have.

AEMaaCS, on the other hand, is priced based on your level of usage—i.e. how much traffic your website sees in terms of API calls and page views.

While AEM on-premise seems to have more predictable cost forecasts year over year, the initial implementation, infrastructure, and user load aren’t the only cost factors to consider. You’ll also need to account for the costs that add up to the total cost of ownership (TCO):

As many of us know, while we can plan for upgrade or maintenance costs, we can’t always plan for the cost to replace spent hardware, upgrade lagging networks, etc.

Now, AEM Managed Services functions on the same pricing structure as on-premise (user and infrastructure), and it will still incur maintenance and upgrade costs. But you won’t have the responsibility of those heavy hardware, network, or maintenance costs because it’s hosted in the cloud.

AEMaaCS also cuts hardware costs. This version will experience significant implementation costs like on-premise and Managed Services, but the cost then drops immensely the year after. You can expect to pay for gradually increasing costs if your site traffic rises, minimal maintenance, and any customizations—but that’s it!

AEM On-Premise vs. Cloud Service vs. Managed Services

Finding the best solution for your company ultimately relies on you knowing what you need to achieve. Each version has different AEM features, upsides, and downsides.

So, to help you get a better idea of each version side-by-side, here’s a look at some of the more prominent pros and cons to expect from each one:

AEM On-PremiseFull infrastructural, network, and cache control.
Compliance with stricter security regulations beyond what Adobe hosting services can provide.
The cost of the license can maintain better stability over time because it’s infrastructure and user-based.
Not reliant on an internet connection to use AEM because it’s hosted locally
More difficult to upgrade and update.
Infrastructure can be difficult to scale if you don’t have dedicated resources to do so.
Limited by the processing power of your company servers, cloud network, or CDN.
Up-front and ongoing costs can add up quickly on top of licensing costs; i.e. hardware, maintenance, and salaries for IT teams.
AEM Managed ServicesHosted in Adobe’s cloud, which speeds up processing and load handling.
Similar infrastructure and feel to on-premise, making it easier to migrate between the two.
Facilitates easier migration to AEMaaCS down the line due to its cloud-native components, if that is your goal.
Access to 24/7 support from Adobe experts.
Only available for existing on-premise licenses.
Might not be fully compliant with some stricter security standards.
Load processing capability is limited and must be upgraded on-demand at an additional cost.
Upgrades and updates still need to be handled manually.
Cloud-connected services make you reliant on a stable internet connection to run the software.
AEM as a Cloud ServiceUnlimited scalability due to cloud nativity and unique infrastructure.
Automatic updates and upgrades with no downtime.
HIPAA, FedRamp, and FERPA compliant.
Deploy new sites and experiences much faster.
99.9% site uptime, guaranteed.
Might not be fully compliant with some stricter security standards.
Infrastructure customizability can be more limited.
The cost of your license will increase as your site usage increases.
Migrating from an on-premise version to AEMaaCS can be difficult and costly due to the vastly different infrastructure.
Cloud-connected services make you reliant on a stable internet connection to run the software.


When it comes to how you want to host AEM, there’s a lot to consider. Usually, we find that the most feasible and future-proof option for most businesses is AEMaaCS. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work for your specific needs.

At this point, you should feel a little more comfortable with the differences between each version, and their respective pros and cons. Now, you’ll need to dive deep into what your company needs to achieve with AEM, weigh those needs against each version, and meet a verdict.

Whether you’re implementing AEM from scratch or looking to migrate away from an on-premise version, both processes can be quite complex and require significant planning. Your teams could be ready to conquer that challenge, but if they aren’t, don’t worry! You can always speak to a knowledgeable implementation team about speeding up and reducing the stress of your project.


Does Adobe host websites?

Yes, Adobe web hosting is available to you if you invest in and integrate your website(s) with AEM.

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