The two main platforms used by most web hosting providers are Windows and Linux, and from these they offer Windows hosting services and Linux hosting services to ensure that there is going to be a web hosting package available to suit the needs of everyone.
Linux web hosting services tend to be the cheapest available and are often the first web hosting packages offered by start-up web hosting providers; Linux as an operating system is used in conjunction with most forms of web hosting in order to allow web hosting providers to offer them at a low price. Windows as an operating system is used widely by web hosting providers but the costs involved with running a Windows server often mean that Windows server hosting is generally reserved for larger businesses; for those with a smaller budget you may find that a Windows VPS server will suffice for your requirements, but if you wish to make the most of the Windows operating system then you should really be considering a Windows dedicated server for your requirements.
The fact that most web hosting providers offer both Windows and Linux server hosting services doesn’t mean that they are going to side with one web hosting platform in particular; although this can put you at a disadvantage in some situations where you may require specialist support, it does help to keep the overall costs of Windows servers and Linux servers relatively low. For most users a Linux server is going to be able to meet their needs since Linux is generally the most popular platform for website hosting providers who offer cheap shared hosting services, and people using Linux servers are normally upgrading from a shared web hosting package; the features of a Windows server hosting service mean that Windows server hosting is only recommended to those who have a specific need for a Windows VPS server or a Windows dedicated server.
The performance and reliability of Linux servers and Windows servers is always going to differ, although you will find that it is mainly dependent on the platform that you have chosen as well as the specifications of your server and whether you are using a VPS server or a dedicated server; for the best levels of performance it is recommended that you consider a dedicated server for your requirements, and both Windows and Linux can be tweaked effectively to make them less resource intensive which will help to improve your server’s overall levels of uptime and reliability.
What can a Linux server offer me over a Windows server?
A Linux server can offer you many advantages over a Windows server if you wish to save money on your web hosting package or if you want to be sure that the server hosting service which you are using can offer you good value for money when compared to the offerings of other web hosting companies. A Linux server is going to be cheaper than a Windows server in any situation regardless of whether you choose to go for a VPS hosting or a dedicated server, and this is simply because Linux is an open source operating system meaning that you don’t need to pay for it whereas with a Windows server you will need to factor in the cost of the Windows operating system license; the cost of Linux servers is one reason why many businesses are now moving all their Windows based servers over to Linux servers since they can save money by doing so.
A Linux server will also be compatible with a wide range of open source applications and services which reduces your costs since you won’t need to think about paying for certain applications whereas with Windows you will need to pay for most applications offered by third-party developers; you will also find that you are paying for the most basic features of the Windows operating system as well, and in most server hosting situations you are never going to be able to make full use of the features that Windows has to offer. Linux is seen by many to be a more reliable operating system than Windows which means if you are also after a reliable server hosting service then you should consider having a Linux distribution installed on your VPS server or dedicated server instead of a version of the Windows operating system; since Linux can be tweaked easily to use less system resources you are able to make more resources available for the applications and services that require them, and overall this will improve the performance of both your server and the services which you run. In summary, Linux can offer you the following over Windows:
- Cost – in the long run you will find that a Linux server is much cheaper to run and maintain than a Windows server, simply because you aren’t going to be paying for any operating system or software licenses as you would be doing with a Windows server – regardless of the Linux distribution that you choose to use you will find that you won’t need to pay a penny for the Linux operating system since it is open source, thus allowing you to spend money in other areas which may be of benefit to you such as by increasing certain server resources to make sure that the VPS hosting or dedicated server that you have chosen meets your requirements properly and will be able to continue to do so for a long time to come – if you find that a web hosting provider is charging you for the use of a Linux distribution on your VPS hosting or dedicated server then you should contact the distributor of the distribution concerned since the likelihood is going to be that the web hosting provider concerned is breaching the license rules of the Linux distribution concerned
- Open source applications – like Linux itself, most of the applications which are widely used on Linux servers are open source which means that you are able to use them without having to pay a penny which can also help you to save on your server hosting costs –some of the most popular applications available for Linux are open source and a good example of this would be the Apache web server – there are many open source applications available for use on Linux servers and although they may not come with any official support, there are generally many large web communities available which can offer you support for popular open source applications, and once you know an application in inside out you may wish to contribute your own code or ideas to certain open source projects that you have made use of over time
- Reliability – most system administrators tend to see Linux servers as being more reliable than Windows servers since most Linux distributions use up less system resources than even a basic installation of the Windows operating system would – the good thing with Linux being open source is that you can easily make changes where necessary to the code which the operating system is based on so that you can compile your own version of Linux which will use up less system resources – most applications that can be used on Linux as well as the operating system itself can be optimized to reduce their resource usage and you can then prioritize services so that you can make sure that a certain service gets to use system resources before another can take its share, and this helps to keep your VPS server or dedicated server much more reliable when using Linux.
A Linux server is able to offer a lot more over a Windows server to an individual or smaller business since in both cases you are going to be wanting to consider the most cost effective server hosting solution available to you, and since Linux VPS hosting servers and Linux dedicated servers are available, you should only consider Windows server hosting services if you have a specific need for a Windows server.
What can a Windows server offer me over a Linux server?
Windows servers are also offered by many web hosting providers although they are generally the preserve of larger businesses who have a specific need for Windows hosting services and are able to justify the cost attached to using Windows servers over Linux servers. The main factor that a Windows server will be able to offer you over a Linux server is direct GUI access to your server for management via Remote Desktop, and for some this can prove to be a much nicer and easier way of managing your server rather than making use of a command line based solution such as SSH as you need to with a Linux server; a Remote Desktop client is included with Windows as standard although there is also a Mac version available, and this means that regardless of the client OS that you are running you will still be able to manage your Windows server properly. Support for classic ASP and ASP.NET web pages is another reason for many businesses considering Windows server hosting services for their requirements, simply because
Linux as an operating system will never be able to offer them the support for both scripting frameworks that are so popular with many larger businesses; although there are certain components available for Linux servers which claim to be able to offer support for classic ASP and ASP.NET web pages using the Apache web server, they support offered by such components is only ever going to be very limited at best. Similarly to classic ASP and ASP.NET scripts and web pages, many businesses also consider Windows servers for the support for Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access databases which is offered and since some businesses like to use both systems for their internal database structure, Windows is going to be the only option for them; this again refers back to the point that Windows servers are best suited to larger businesses since individuals and smaller businesses are never really going to be making use of Microsoft database systems and even then it is unlikely that they will be able to make full use of what the Windows operating system has to offer. In summary, a Windows server can offer you the following over a Linux server:
- Remote Desktop access – one main attraction for most to Windows server hosting is the fact that regardless of whether you choose a Windows VPS server or a Windows dedicated server, you will be able to manage your Windows server using the Windows GUI if you can access your server via Remote Desktop – Remote Desktop access is one feature that is consistent with all Windows server hosting services and is generally seen as the main way of managing a Windows server if you don’t have direct console access or haven’t installed any particular control panel on your Windows server – the Remote Desktop client is a standard feature of all Windows operating systems meaning that if you are using Windows as your desktop OS then you can easily manage your Windows server, although there is also a Remote Desktop client available for Mac computers
- Classic ASP and ASP.NET support – classic ASP and ASP.NET are two very popular scripting frameworks that have been developed by Microsoft over time, with classic ASP being the predecessor ASP.NET – as they have both been developed by Microsoft you will find that scripts and web pages that have been developed using either will only function properly when hosted on Windows based servers and served through the IIS web server – although there are some components available which suggest that they can offer support for classic ASP and ASP.NET web pages that are served through Apache, the support offered is only very minimal and not the full job that you would get with using IIS on a Windows server – classic ASP and ASP.NET only tend to be used by larger businesses simply because they are the only ones who will be able to justify the cost of a Windows VPS server or a Windows dedicated server
- Database support – Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access are two database systems used mainly by larger businesses, but since both have been developed by Microsoft they will only run correctly on Windows servers – as is the case with classic ASP and ASP.NET, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access can’t be run on Linux servers which leaves businesses that use either system with little choice but to consider Windows web hosting services for their requirements, despite the fact that they are going to need to pay more for their web hosting service – however, when Microsoft SQL Server is used it is generally deployed in a cluster hosting environment whilst Microsoft Access databases are generally only used on desktop computers although web developers do like to use them for smaller websites.
A Windows server is only ever going to be able to offer something to larger businesses who are going to be able to justify the cost of using a Windows server but at the same time are going to be able to purchase a high specification Windows server to make the most of the operating system.
In conclusion, Linux servers and Windows servers are generally designed for different audiences with Linux servers being better suited to those with a lower end budget and who may not have demanding web hosting requirements, but Windows servers on the other hand are aimed at larger businesses and this is evident on the pricing of Windows VPS servers and Windows dedicated servers. However, most web hosting providers still offer VPS servers and dedicated servers with either operating system so that they are able to make their web hosting services attractive to both individuals and businesses alike.