If you run a web server privately or want to rent one from a provider as part of a web hosting package, the question arises right at the start: Linux or Windows? The two operating systems have dominated the web hosting market for years and compete with each other for the supremacy – whereby Linux as a server veteran is still the nose ahead. The decision for one of the two systems is nevertheless a difficult one, above all because the differences in application possibilities and functional scope are only minimal. If Linux and Windows are compared, at least some different advantages of both operating systems can be found, largely due to compatibility with the applications to be used.
Comparison of Linux and Windows as Hosting Operating Systems
In the field of web hosting Linux is often regarded as the best operating system for web servers. The system is available since 1992 as free software for everyone and can be adapted by its simple modular structure with the appropriate knowledge to the own conceptions. Costs are only incurred if you use distributions with a cost-obligatory support offer. With its reliability, stability and efficiency, Linux has proven itself even in the most demanding web and mail server environments.
If you intend to use PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby or MySQL, Linux is an excellent choice. If you are looking for ready-to-use home page solutions, applications such as blogs, content management systems, or discussion forums, Linux hosting offers a variety of open source applications, while Windows hosting software is usually available for a fee. If you are looking for a VPS, then linux is the best choice.
- Since 1993, Microsoft has also been sending the Windows Server, an operating system for server use, into the race. It is a pay-as-you-go software, but it also includes support and updates for the advertised period.
- A big advantage, which Windows hosting had so far compared to a Linux variant, is the support of the powerful framework ASP.NET, whose newest version is also compatible with Linux.
- Applications such as SharePoint or Exchange, however, remain exclusive and help to simplify communication and joint work on projects considerably.
- Although there are open source applications for Linux for this as well, they are less popular in the corporate environment.
Advantages and disadvantages of Linux as a web server operating system
Compared to Windows, the basic Linux philosophy is to keep the structure of the operating system as simple as possible. All components, even devices and processes are one file and adjustments to the system core can be made at any time. Many simple tools help with the configuration and administration of the system – by default via the command line, but if required also via GUIs, which are available for almost all applications. However, the great freedom is also linked to a high degree of personal responsibility, which can quickly overwhelm an inexperienced user.
Advantages and disadvantages of Windows as a web server operating system
The fact that Windows, unlike Linux, is characterized by a very complex structure is mainly due to the fact that Microsoft has always aimed primarily at simple operation for its operating system. All programs are available in the form of intuitive, graphical user interfaces, so administration via the command line, which is basically possible, is not necessary. The user usually has sole control over all hardware resources, receives regular feedback from the system, and can install software independently. However, this also holds a certain potential for errors if, for example, system settings are changed or downloaded applications that endanger security are installed.
Linux and Windows in direct comparison
The preceding sections show the small but subtle differences between Windows and Linux as server systems. Apart from technical and administrative criteria, it should also be mentioned that personal experience often plays a decisive role in determining whether a user can cope with the operating system or not. The same applies, of course, to the user’s expectations of the software. While experienced system administrators rightly appreciate the freedoms of Linux, these are often not relevant at all for the simple website operator who wants to choose an operating system. On the other hand, command line advocates do not see Windows administration via GUI as a superfluous feature that consumes resources and offers a point of attack for malware for no reason.
The crucial question: Linux or Windows?
When you assemble your server modules, you can’t avoid choosing an operating system – but many users do so for the wrong reasons: For example, it is often assumed that the server system and the platform used on one’s own computer must be identical. The own operating system plays no role at all, because administrators can remotely control the server using management tools such as Plesk, which are compatible with both Linux and Windows. If the costs are decisive, it is reasonable to assume that Linux, which in principle is available as open source software, is always the less expensive server solution. In practice, however, this sometimes proves to be a fallacy: depending on the distribution, costs are incurred for the usually expensive support or for specialists with the necessary know-how. A small disadvantage, however, is the complicated Windows license model.
Ultimately, no winner can be chosen in the duel between Linux and Windows servers, because different web projects can be realized with both operating systems. While Windows offers more complex functions for communication and work structuring, Linux has some advantages if you want to use web applications such as a content management system.