When you were hunting for a web hosting provider for your website, you probably have been offered a choice of Operating System (OS): either to host on a Windows server or Linux server. Then again, you may not have been given this choice by your hosting provider. You see, not all hosting providers offer both operating systems. HostMonster and BlueHost exclusively host their plans on Linux, while LunarPages and HostGator offer their users both Windows and Linux web hosting packages. Some other web hosts might provide shared hosting plans on Linux solely and dedicated hosting with a choice of either Linux or Windows.
Many moons ago, many web developers would swear that Linux was the better choice, i.e. more stable and more secure. But in recent years, Windows has caught up. There are other operating systems in the market such as Unix and Linux distributions (for example Red Hat, Debian, and Mandrake) but Linux and Windows are the two major ones and are easily available.
Linux Hosting vs Windows Hosting
These days, the differences between a Linux hosting and a Windows hosting are not too great. That said, there are still some significant differences between these two OS and I will highlight some of these differences in this article.
Many hosting providers cite reliability as the number one reason why they offer Linux and not Windows OS. The truth is that both OS are equally secure. It is just that we perceived Windows to be hacked more often and has more viruses/trojans/spyware/adware attacks simply because there are more Windows users than Linux! Linux servers too, get their fair share of attacks.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to the hosting provider’s administration to constantly update their security patches.
Open Sourced vs Close Sourced
Linux is an open source software. In other words it’s free and that hosting providers is not burdened by licensing fees. Thus hosting providers are able to offer cheaper hosting plans for Linux OS servers plans.
Windows OS is proprietary software; owned, developed and updated by Microsoft. As a result, there is licensing fees being charged for its usage. These additional charges would be transferred to the end users thus resulting in a comparatively higher hosting plan price.
Linux servers support PHP and CGI scripting and MySQL database while Windows servers utilizes the MS SQL, ASP.NET and .NET framework for website development. Therefore, it is important to pre-determine what languages are being used by the applications that you plan to run, or that you plan to develop on.
Take for example, if you plan to set up a WordPress blog or install phpBB for your forum or Zen Cart for your online shopping cart, then you should choose a Linux hosting plan. On the other hand, if you plan to run MS SQL or if you want to develop your website in ASP.Net, then you would want to opt for Windows hosting.
Hosting Control Panels
Web Hosting control panels are the central locations for you to interact with the hosting provider’s system. Linux and Windows have different control panels. Two of the most popular and widely used hosting control panels on the Linux platforms are cPanel and vDeck. On the other hand, Windows systems usually use the Plesk control panel.
In terms of popularity, cPanel is more popular as it is easier to use and has a shorter learning curve. Some web hosts and some users prefer to use the newer vDeck control panel though. Anyway, on the Windows platform, Plesk supports more advanced and complicated features.
For more info, check out the top web hosting control panels.
So which hosting operating system is better?
Which should you choose? Frankly, both has its pros and cons. It all comes down to your individual preference and the software you plan to use. My advice is that if you are a new website owner operating a simple website, to opt for the cheaper Linux operating system for ease of use and lower cost, and let your hosting provider take care of the server maintenance. Moreover, Linux is more commonly being offered as shared hosting operating system.
If you are more advanced and are more ambitious when it comes to building your website, or you absolutely must use ASP.NET, then by all means choose Windows. At the end of the day, choose the one that you are more comfortable with and one which is able to allow you to meet your entire website’s design needs.