When choosing a hosting package, you shouldn't only look at the price or main features. Picking the operating system (OS) for your server is also very, very important.
Choosing an OS usually boils down to two main options - Linux or Windows hosting. These two platforms dominate the web hosting server space, and while both are functional there are important differences between them.
So, which one is better? I’ll walk you through a head-to-head comparison of Linux vs Windows hosting to find that out.
What is Linux Hosting?
Linux hosting places your website’s files on a server running the Linux operating system. Linux servers are used by the vast majority of websites, in large part because Linux is open-source software that companies don’t need to pay upfront for using.
What is Windows Hosting?
Windows hosting uses servers running Microsoft’s Windows server operating system. In general, Windows can support all of the same functionality as Linux servers as well as Windows-specific server applications. But, Windows servers typically cost more because Windows is not open source, and requires a fairly big fee.
Linux or Windows Hosting: Feature Comparison
To make the choice easier, let's take a deeper look at some of the most important features and see how Linux and Windows hosting compare.
Ease of Use
When you want the simplest solution for hosting your website, the choice between a Linux server vs Windows server is somewhat counterintuitive. While the Linux operating system is typically more difficult to use because it relies on a command-line interface rather than the menu-based interface in Windows, chances are high you won’t be interacting directly with the operating system on your hosting server.
Instead, you’ll use a purpose-built tool to interact with your website on your hosting server. On Linux, the most commonly used tool is cPanel, which is extremely user-friendly.
In particular, cPanel makes it easy to establish databases for popular content management systems, such as WordPress or Drupal, and to manage multiple subdomains for the same site.
Windows servers aren’t compatible with cPanel, so you can instead use Microsoft’s Web Platform Installer. While this isn’t quite as simple as cPanel, it offers the ability to integrate your website with Windows-specific applications such as Microsoft SQL and with an Internet Information System server.
If you only have a blog-style website, you can also use Windows Web Application Gallery, which is pared down to mimic the ease of use of cPanel.
But overall, cPanel's ease of use, a big community and plenty of tutorials make hosting management a piece of cake. And Windows platforms simply can't compare with that. So first points go to Linux.
Uptime and Security
Another important consideration in choosing a Windows server vs Linux server is whether you can prevent your website from going offline because of server issues. When it comes to keeping your web server both running and secure, Linux servers win out over Windows servers easily.
Linux servers are revered in the IT community for how long they can run without restarting. Most Linux system updates, as well as most updates to programs running on Linux servers, can complete without having to restart the server and take your website offline.
Windows servers, on the other hand, are known for constantly undergoing time-consuming updates that require multiple restarts. Windows servers can become especially unstable when you or your hosting company are scheduling a lot of tasks or are accessing numerous databases and attached file servers at once.
All of those instabilities can add up to a significant amount of downtime for your website. This could lead to some unhappy visitors, and therefore less sustained traffic and engagement on your website.
In addition, a Linux server vs Windows server is much less prone to security flaws. The Windows operating system has suffered from multiple issues with malware attacks, while Linux has remained relatively free of security issues. That means that Linux will keep your site up and running more often while also protecting your site’s content from being stolen or destroyed by hackers.
Another important consideration in choosing between Linux vs Windows hosting is what kind of technical support team you have at your disposal. Linux and Windows servers use entirely different technologies, so the IT specialists you already have on staff at your company may be more versed in one operating system than the other. If most of your computing technology and staff are focused around Linux servers, for example, it may not make much sense to opt for Windows hosting.
The same is true of technical support at your host. While many hosts offer either Linux or Windows hosting, they may have only a few technicians who can help with one of those operating systems.
In general, hosting companies tend to have better support for Linux servers, since they are less expensive and more commonly used for web hosting.
Linux vs Windows Compatibility
Ultimately, you may need to choose between Linux or Windows hosting according to the type of databases and peripheral servers you’re planning to set up. Linux servers work well for hosting websites built on standard content management systems, MySQL databases, and PHP.
But if you expect to use the ASP server applications or to build a Microsoft SQL database, you’ll need to use a Windows server.
Linux vs Windows Hosting: It Depends on Your Needs
The vast majority of website owners will want to opt for a Linux server over a Windows server. The applications for establishing a database and adding content to your site are extremely user-friendly.
You’re less likely to experience downtime on your site because of your server, and you’ll pay less to host your site.
However, Windows servers are necessary in certain cases, such as for constructing a Microsoft SQL database or using Windows-specific server applications such as ASP and ASP.NET.
In addition, it’s important to consider what type of technical support you will have available depending on which operating system you opt for.
What's your take on Linux vs Windows hosting? Which OS do you use to power your website? Comment down below.