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Linux vs. Windows: Which is Best for Web Hosting?

Sep 10th, 2017

If you want to stir up an argument among web hosts and website owners, simply pose the question ‘Is Linux or Windows best for web hosting?’ This has been a hot topic since the beginning of web hosting and some say that it doesn’t really matter because the website owner will likely not even know what operating system (OS) they’re using. That may be true in some instances, but certainly not for all. And even if you’re not going to be tinkering with your server very often, you should still know which OS you’re using, and if it’s the right one for you.

Let’s start with the basics. Linux and Windows are both operating systems. Every computer needs an OS and a web server is no exception. The choice a website owner makes will impact the way the website owner interacts with the server. Most website owners will likely spend most of their time interacting with their control panel or with a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal. But even when this is the case, it’s still important to know what the server’s OS is.
One of the reasons for this is because certain control panels will only run on Linux or Windows operating systems. This is true for cPanel, which is only available for Linux systems. Web developers and system administrators may also prefer Linux because it’s highly customizable, which allows these tech-savvy individuals to make the server, and the website, anything they want it to be.

Website owners that are using shared hosting won’t have the choice of what OS they want to use as the web host will likely only offer one type. But website owners running their site on VPS or a dedicated server will need to make the choice, and therefore need to know which one is best.

There’s really no one right answer, just like there’s no one right answer about what OS should be used on a home computer or laptop. Linux is by far the most popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Many people choose Linux because it’s known to be a reliable and stable OS. Being an open-source platform, it’s under constant development and can adapt to any environment. Because it’s open-source, it’s also considered to be the more secure and safer choice.
Lastly, while a license is needed to run Windows on a server, Linux is free. While the web host will be the one paying the cost for that server and Windows operating systems, if they don’t have to pay a fee for it, they can often pass those savings on to their customers.

However, that doesn’t mean that Linux is perfect. There is a bit of a learning curve that comes with this OS for those that choose it, although it’s fairly user-friendly during the learning process.

With all those benefits, it may be hard to imagine why anyone would choose a Windows OS on their server. But in fact, Windows does have a few advantages over Linux. The first is that the learning curve is virtually thrown out, because a server set up with Windows is much easier to set up and use. Many web applications use the .NET framework, and developing these is much easier when it’s done on a Windows server.

So how can one decide what OS to choose for their website’s server? For those that aren’t interested in customizing their servers, plan on developing applications within the .NET framework, or are looking for the easiest to set up and use, Windows is the clear choice. However, if you are an administrator that wants customizable options along with a server that is more secure, Linux is a better choice.

While Linux has been the popular choice, and the obvious one for many, Windows operating systems on servers have come a long way over the past few years. And when choosing which one is right for you, they both deserve a closer look before you make your ultimate decision.