When hosting a web application or website on a VPS or dedicated server, most cloud providers offer users the option to select their preferred operating system (OS) on top of other hosting products. The two most popular choices are Windows and Linux. While Linux is more widely used, there are situations for which Windows is better suited.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of everything you need to consider before making a decision when comparing Linux Hosting vs Windows Hosting.
What Is Linux Hosting?
Linux Hosting involves hosting websites or web applications on a server running the Linux operating system. Linux is the most popular server operating system, with a market share of over 70%. It is an open-source OS, so you won’t need a license to install it on your servers. This is one of the reasons why it is more popular than Windows.
The Linux server OS is usually used to run websites and apps that are built using languages like PHP and Perl and databases such as PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and IBM Db2, to name just a few. There are plenty of other language and database options to choose from if you install Linux on your server.
Like the desktop version of Linux, the server version also has several distros (distributions) that users can choose from. The popular Linux distros for servers include the following;
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES)
What Is Windows Hosting?
Windows Hosting refers to hosting a website or web application on a server running the server version of the Windows operating system. Unlike Linux, Windows is not open source. It is a server OS built and supported by Microsoft.
Choosing between these editions largely depends on the features you need and your budget for hosting. The DataCenter version has all the features Microsoft offers, and it is the ideal choice for large organizations with relatively big data centers. Most notably, it offers the ability to create virtual machines (VMs).
Advantages of Linux Over Windows
These are some of the benefits of choosing Linux as your server OS:
Linux is an open-source server operating system, and anyone can install it on their server for free. This makes it the best alternative for small businesses and startups that may not be in a position to pay the monthly fees for a server operating system.
Since Linux is the most popular OS, it has way more community support than other server operating systems. The large community support of Linux comes in handy when you face challenges during the installation or management of your server. Most server OS-related questions on platforms like Stack Overflow and Quora are usually about Linux hosting. It is also easy to find free YouTube tutorials and courses for Linux Hosting.
By design, Linux is a much more secure operating system than Windows. One of the design choices that make Linux more secure is the way it handles user permissions. Linux doesn’t process executable files without permission from the user. The server admin must input their password before any application is installed on their server. Consequently, hackers must use sophisticated social engineering techniques to trick the admin into installing malware on their server.
Over the years, Linux servers have been known for their reliability and stability. Linux servers are less prone to random crushes and downtime when compared to Windows and other server operating systems.
Another benefit of using Linux hosting is that Linux Servers are highly scalable, allowing developers to easily beef up the server's resources as their website or web application grows.
Linux is compatible with more software and technologies than Windows and other server operating systems. Such technologies include control panels; scripting languages such as Perl and PHP; and databases such as PostgreSQL, MariaDB, IBM Db2, and Oracle Database.
If you don’t want to face issues with software compatibility, Linux hosting should be your choice.
Advantages of Windows Over Linux
Ease of Use and Familiarity
Windows is the most popular desktop operating system, so most people are familiar with it. For the everyday person who uses a Windows machine, installing Windows on their server could make their life much easier. They can start doing things right away without having to go through any learning process.
Linux servers are also mainly controlled using commands, whereas Windows servers have a graphical user interface (GUI) that is much more intuitive and easier to use. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of learning Linux commands, then go for Windows hosting.
Compatibility With Microsoft Technologies
If the website or app you intend to host relies on Microsoft technologies, such as ASP.NET, MSSQL, and Visual Basic, Windows hosting is always the best choice. Some of these technologies are not supported on Linux machines.
Windows servers also integrate with other Microsoft products like SharePoint and Exchange, making it an ideal choice for organizations that use these tools.
When you subscribe to any of the Windows Server OS plans, you are entitled to customer support from Microsoft. Instead of going to forums or watching tutorials, you simply have to contact Microsoft’s support team, which usually offers timely and more reliable solutions than forums. Microsoft also rolls out regular updates for the Windows Server.
If you intend to run games on your server, choosing Windows hosting should be a no-brainer. Thanks to NVIDIA Virtual Machine Image (VMI), users can quickly access a virtual gaming machine running Windows Server OS. Other server operating systems barely have gaming support.
How To Choose the Right Option for Your Business
Here are the factors that you must consider when choosing between Linux or Windows Hosting;
Before hosting your website or app on a cloud server, you must first determine the technologies and tools you intend to use. Consider the databases, control panel, scripting languages, and other app integrations. Your life will be much easier if you choose a server OS that supports all the technologies and tools you intend to use to run your website.
Licensing and Cost
If you are unwilling to pay the licensing fees for Windows, Linux hosting should be your obvious choice. Linux is open-source and the best option for businesses with a limited budget to spend on web hosting.
Expertise and Experience
It is better to choose a server OS that you and your team can easily operate without going through a lengthy learning process. If your company has an IT team, you should consider their opinion before choosing the OS to install on your server. If you don’t have the expertise, you can opt for Managed Windows Hosting or Managed Linux Hosting.
Linux usually offers slightly better performance than Windows if they are all running on similar hardware. This is mainly because Linux is lighter and much more efficient than Windows. It is also easier to scale up your Linux server whenever you need more performance on your site. So, if you want to squeeze the most out of your server hardware, you will be better off with Linux than Windows.
Performance is a crucial consideration, especially for users opting for cloud servers instead of dedicated servers.
Quality of Support
With Linux, all the support comes from the community. This may not be as reliable and timely as the support from an official vendor like Microsoft. Windows hosting is the ideal choice for you if you need timely and reliable support.
Contact a Web Hosting Provider
You may also have to contact your web hosting provider to find out the operating systems they support and those they recommend for different use cases. The good news is that most mainstream web hosting providers support Windows and Linux hosting. It is rare to find a hosting provider that doesn’t support both platforms.
This article comparing Linux hosting vs Windows hosting has discussed all of the important details necessary for making a choice between the two platforms. Both have advantages and disadvantages that must be considered before making a decision. It is recommended to evaluate the requirements of your business and then determine which of the two server operating systems is the best fit for your needs.
Contact Liquid Web today, and one of The Most Helpful Humans In Hosting® will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Chika Ibeneme is a Community Support Agent at The Events Calendar. He received his BA in Computer Science in 2017 from Northern Caribbean University and has over 5 years of technical experience assisting customers and clients. You can find him working on various WordPress and Shopify projects.
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