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Web Hosting: Linux vs.Windows

Posted on 4.30.2007

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You have spent countless hours designing and optimizing your website. Now you must make an important decision — Linux or Windows? There are major differences between the two and making the right decision is important for your online success. However, determining which is best for you can be difficult, especially if you are inexperienced with Web hosting. And one of the biggest reasons is a lack of unbiased information examining the technologies — most information is based on the authors’ personal and philosophical preferences. So, in an effort to avoid the philosophical arguments that pit one technology against another, let’s take a practical approach to the key considerations directly related to Web hosting and platform selection. There are many other metrics that can be used to compare the two systems but, for the purpose of Web hosting, these are the most significant.

Some Facts Regarding Web Hosting

• If you are planning to purchase Web hosting from a Web host, it won't matter much whether the platform is Windows or Linux. Most basic services such as Web, FTP and email are provided by almost all hosting companies. Instead, your chief concern is making sure you pick a good Web host. Selection criteria should include your desired levels of functionality, reliability, security and price.

• Your technology selection will largely determine the hosting environment you require for hosting your Web services. For instance, PHP, mySQL and email will run on both platforms. However, if you are using any MS technologies such as ASP, MSSQL or Windows Media streaming services, those choices will require hosting on the Windows platform.

• A semi-managed server means that the provider helps you with some aspects of the setup and configuration but you are responsible for the day-to-day operations. An unmanaged server means that the provider gives you a machine and the platform of your choosing and you are fully responsible for the administration of the machine. In a semi-managed environment where help is available, it may not be necessary to know and understand all aspects of managing your machine. However, in an unmanaged environment it is critical that you pick a platform you have experience with.

Windows vs. Linux General Comparisons
In terms of comparing the two platforms along metrics such as reliability, functionality, security and price, I have to reiterate that if you are purchasing hosting services from a Web hosting provider, the difference is largely negligible. Your experience along all of the aforementioned metrics is likely to be impacted by the quality of the host you select. However, if you are planning to rent a server from a provider, set it up and manage it yourself the differences will largely work out like this:

Functionality and Usability
While Linux has improved greatly over the years and can be just as easy to use, Windows has a larger footprint among users and therefore
benefits from a simple matter of exposure — most new users will find Windows easier to use than Linux. However, graphical and webbased
control panels added to Linux systems largely eliminate this advantage. Finally, while Linux is improving all the time, Windows has much better hardware support.

Reliability
If we focus strictly on uptime (the amount of time a system can run in production without being rebooted) Linux wins hands-down. While Windows has made several improvements and can run for months on end, there are many things that can be done in Linux without requiring reboots that would require as much with Windows.

Security
Both systems can be attacked and have their share of security-related issues. But, in spite of security advancements it remains a fact that
Windows is still the most vulnerable to attacks and viruses.

Price
Linux is open source software (OSS) which means that it is free, while Windows is proprietary and contains licensing costs. However, just
because a provider offers Linux services doesn't mean that it will always be cheaper than a Windows-based solution. The price can
fluctuate and will largely depend on the provider and solution offered.

About the Author:
Lee Evans owns and operates LeeWare.com, a premier provider of unmanaged virtual dedicated Linux servers.

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