Posts Tagged "operating systems"

Windows Web Space

For a novice, Windows might seem to be an appealing server operating system. After all, it’s probably what you use on your desktop or laptop; why not choose web space that uses an environment that you’re more familiar with?

However, this isn’t as good an idea as it seems. Desktops and servers are two very different things. Windows is great on your desktop. But on your server, the standard operating system in use is Linux. In fact, when providers offer web hosting but don’t mention the server operating system, they’re likely referring to a Linux server.

Linux is a free, open-source operating system, originally based on the Unix specification. Linux distributions—typically Apache, but others are perfectly viable—simply beat Windows on the metrics that matter here. Most notably, it’s far more stable when running a large number of processes.

Processes

The Windows NT kernel’s stability degradation with process count isn’t a huge deal for personal use; you’ll never be running enough software simultaneously for it to be relevant. However, a large-scale server, like those used by the big web hosting companies, has to run numerous instances of the PHP parser, various database engines, and a host of other specialized software. Windows is significantly more prone to downtime under these circumstances.

Modularity

Linux is much more modular than Windows, too. This is helpful both for performance and security. With respect to performance, it means that servers can run a minimal subset of the operating system, with only the software they need. For you, this means that you can be allotted more CPU time and memory at the same cost to your host. On the other hand, even with the recent efforts to minimize the resource footprint on server versions of Windows, it’s still much clunkier and more bloated than its competition—which means that you’re looking at worse results for your money.

Security

Back to security, Windows has a similar problem—more complexity, in terms of the features that are currently running, means more opportunity for security flaws. Linux dodges this bullet, plus it benefits from its open-source development model, which corrects security holes with lightning speed.

Conclusion

Are there times when you want to use web space on a server that runs Windows? Well, yes; there are some limited circumstances where you need to use Windows-based web space in spite of its flaws. If you intend to use proprietary Microsoft technologies like ASP.NET, your best bet is still a Windows server. Linux-based implementations do exist for many of these, but they’re far from flawless, and as such most web hosts don’t bother. Barring special cases along these lines, though, there’s really no reason to bother with Windows as a server operating system.

Your user interface will be the same either way—typically, an online control panel. You won’t be using a desktop environment. Windows web space isn’t necessarily going to be any more familiar or easy to use than a Linux system, and it fares much worse on both performance and security. This means a greater total cost of operation, which is passed on to you in the form of greater prices or reduced service. Unless you need something that only Windows web hosting can offer, it’s better to go for Linux.

Linux or Windows?

Are you trying to choose between Linux or Windows as your web server’s operating system? If so, this article can help you decide.

Technologies

What technologies do you plan to use on the server? Most technologies can run on both Linux and Windows. However, some of them have limited or no support in one or the other. For example, proprietary technologies from Microsoft—such as ASP, .NET, and Access—work best with Windows.

Security

The consensus is that Windows servers have more vulnerabilities than Linux servers. Still, in reality, all operating systems have security issues. Linux may be a more secure platform, but if your system administrator doesn’t know what he’s doing, the threats will still be there. Spend your time looking for a good web host rather than worrying about your server’s security.

Cost

Linux web hosting is generally more affordable. This doesn’t affect the quality—it’s cheaper simply because Linux operating systems are free, while Windows operating systems are not. Web hosts charge more for Windows because of the licensing fee they have to pay.

Ease of use

Since Windows is commonly used as a desktop operating system, some people mistakenly think they should also use it for their server. The truth is that working on a server is nothing like working on a desktop. Most of the time, you’ll be using FTP, control panels, and content management systems to create, access, and update your website. These technologies are available on both Windows and Linux.

Availability

Most web hosts offer Linux hosting. A smaller number offer Windows hosting. In fact, when web hosts mention “web hosting,” they usually mean Linux. If you’re looking for Windows, you’ll have to specify it.

Conclusion

The choice of server operating system won’t make a huge difference to people who aren’t system administrators or web developers. The two platforms offer similar features. So unless you plan to use technologies that are unique to Windows, my recommendation would be to choose Linux. It’s more affordable, more available, more common, and generally more secure. In the end, your choice of web host matters more than the server’s operating system, as your web host will be the one running the server, taking care of your website, and helping you whenever you need assistance.