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) in addition to other hosting products. The two most popular options are Windows and Linux. While Linux is more widely used, there are situations for which Windows is better suited.
This article provides a complete overview of everything you need to consider before making a decision when comparing Linux hosting to Windows hosting.
What is Linux hosting?
Linux Hosting consists of 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’s an open source operating system, 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 operating system is typically used to run websites and applications that are built using languages like PHP and Perl and databases like PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and IBM Db2, to name just a few. There are many 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 distributions (distros) that users can choose from. Popular Linux distributions for servers include the following;
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 operating system created and supported by Microsoft.
Choosing between these editions largely depends on the features you need and your hosting budget. The DataCenter version has all the features Microsoft offers and is the ideal choice for large organizations with relatively large data centers. In particular, it offers the ability to create virtual machines (VMs).
Advantages of Linux over Windows
Here 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 able to afford the monthly fees for a server operating system.
Since Linux is the most popular operating system, it has much more community support than other server operating systems. Support from the large Linux community comes in handy when you face challenges installing or managing your server. Most server OS related questions on platforms like Stack Overflow and Quora usually refer to Linux hosting. It’s 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 does not process executable files without the user’s permission. The server administrator must enter your password before installing any application on your server. Consequently, hackers must use sophisticated social engineering techniques to trick the administrator into installing malware on their server.
Throughout the years, Linux servers have been known for their reliability and stability. Linux servers are less prone to random crashes and downtime 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 server resources as their website or web application grows.
Linux supports more software and technologies than Windows and other server operating systems. Such technologies include control panels; programming languages like 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 average person using a Windows machine, installing Windows on your server could make your life a lot easier. They can start doing things right away without having to go through any learning process.
Linux servers are also controlled mainly by commands, while Windows servers have a graphical user interface (GUI) that is much more intuitive and easy to use. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of learning Linux commands, choose Windows hosting.
Support for Microsoft technologies
If the website or application you want to host is based on Microsoft technologies such as ASP.NET, MSSQL, and Visual Basic, then Windows hosting is always the best option. Some of these technologies are not supported on Linux machines.
Windows servers also integrate with other Microsoft products like SharePoint and Exchange, making them an ideal choice for organizations that use these tools.
When you subscribe to any of the Windows Server operating system plans, you are entitled to Microsoft customer support. Instead of going to forums or watching tutorials, you should simply contact Microsoft support team, which usually offers timely and more reliable solutions than forums. Microsoft also rolls out regular updates for Windows Server.
If you intend to run games on your server, choosing Windows hosting should be a no-brainer. With NVIDIA Virtual Machine Image (VMI), users can quickly access a virtual gaming machine running the Windows Server operating system. Other server operating systems have hardly any support for games.
How to choose the right option for your business
These are the factors you should consider when choosing between Linux or Windows Hosting;
Before hosting your website or application on a cloud server, you must first determine the technologies and tools you intend to use. Consider databases, control panel, scripting languages, and other application integrations. Your life will be much easier if you choose a server operating system that supports all the technologies and tools you intend to use to run your website.
Licenses and Cost
If you’re not willing to pay Windows license fees, Linux hosting should be your obvious choice. Linux is open source and the best option for companies with a limited budget to spend on web hosting.
Expertise and Experience
It is better to choose a server operating system that you and your team can easily operate without going through a long learning process. If your company has an IT team, you should consider their opinion before choosing the operating system to install on your server. If you don’t have the experience, you can go for managed Windows hosting or managed Linux hosting.
Linux generally 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’s also easier to scale your Linux server whenever you need more performance on your site. So if you want to get the most out of your server hardware, you’ll be better off with Linux than Windows.
With Linux, all support comes from the community. This may not be as reliable and timely as support from an official vendor like Microsoft. Windows hosting is the right choice for you if you need timely and reliable support.
You may also need to contact your web host to find out what operating systems they support and what they recommend for different use cases. The good news is that most major web hosts support both Windows and Linux hosting. It is rare to find a hosting provider that does not support both platforms.
This article comparing Linux hosting to Windows hosting has discussed all the important details needed to choose between the two platforms. Both have advantages and disadvantages that must be considered before making a decision. It is recommended that you assess your business requirements and then determine which of the two server operating systems best meets 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.