Web hosting is providing storage space and access for websites on internet.
You must have come across this debatable question, "In general what platform is better for web hosting? Linux or Windows." Well you cannot generalize the recommendation as such, because there are different pros and cons of each platform and often your hosting or project needs will be decisive in choosing one of them.
That is why I would suggest that you make a list of your requirements and expectations and then match them with the offerings from the two web hosting platforms. Post this based on the platform that matches most with your requirements can be your choice.
In the world of web hosting service providers, most of the service providers use either Linux or Windows platforms. Some of them like GoDaddy offer both the platforms.
There are many differences in term of technology, access, security, database format, cost, and so on. I will try to touch all the important aspects in the comparison below.
Linux has the advantage of working on more than 65% of web servers worldwide, thus making it more common and widespread platform for web hosting. On the other hand Windows has exceptional and top class technical support.
Let’s look at the differences between Linux and Windows platforms for web hosting, in a way that will help you to pick most suitable one for your needs!
I have tried covering almost all relevant points of comparison below.
First and foremost point to consider is, what your website going to use in terms of technology?
If your website uses Perl, PHP, MySQL, WordPress, Zen Cart, or blogging software then it is efficient and it is preferred to have a Linux web hosting platform.
Linux was originally used for PHP and MySQL thus it is tailored to these two formats.
If your website depends on ASP or .NET or Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Database, meaning the website will be executing ASP or .NET Code or will be directly accessing MS ACCESS or MSSQL database then it is more efficient & preferred to go with the Windows Hosting platform.
ASP.Net is similar to HTML and PHP, but it uses different request processing scheme.
The next point is access to the back end of the web site
For backend access in Linux, you will get the cPanel control panel, which is there on all most all the Linux web hosting platforms. Linux also has WHM (Web Host Manager), exceptions are the shared Linux servers.
The cPanel interface is simple and you can access all features directly from the front page.
cPanel is for website owners whereas WHM” is for server administrators.
On other hand Windows web hosting uses Plesk control panel. Both cPanel and Plesk are fast, easy, stable and secure. Plesk has sections, so you may require some time to get used to how things are done using it.
The next thing that you need worry about is the approach to data management, meaning transfer of files to and in the server. This is similar in Linux and Windows with minor differences.
Both Linux and Windows use FTP, which is easy and fast, but Linux also offers SSH and telnet access.
It is not the case that Windows platform cannot provide SSH or telnet, but hosting providers offer it very rarely with Windows.
The next important point is the Database. When your website is dynamic then you need to be able to build and access databases.
If your database is MySQL then Linux is the preferred choice of platform for web hosting.
It’s not that Windows cannot work with MySQL, it can, but it gives best results when used with MS Access or MSSQL.
The choice here would again be driven by technology used by your website and workforce managing it.
The next important aspect to consider is security
You often hear that Linux is better than Windows when it comes to security. Well the fact is both the OS have vulnerabilities. And the way security should be handled is not only at the operating system level, but also at web admin level. Any well known hosting service provider will always strive to maintain best possible security.
One more point that you should consider is ready-to-use solutions to power your website and cost
For applications such as blogs, content management systems or discussion boards, more open source applications can be found in Linux hosting. These options are relatively economical when compared with Windows.
Software for Windows hosting is more likely to be based on licensed sources for which you need to pay, making it costlier.
Linux platform are case sensitive, meaning HomePage.html will be different to homepage.html. So a user accessing the website would end up having error "404 Page not found" if the page name is not entered as HomePage.html with correct case. This can be handled by the web admin by identifying and redirecting the request to correct page, but it is an extra overhead.
Whereas windows is not case sensitive. HomePage.html is same as homepage.html or HOMEPAGE.html.
There are features that are offered in both Linux as well as windows
Like FrontPage extension which is perceived as only feature available in Windows, but let me tell you that some of Linux Web Hosting providers also provide it.
Likewise CGI, Perl, PHP and ASP are also offered by Windows, but it works great and is more commonly used with Linux.
Both operating systems are capable of providing ColdFusion.
To conclude, now that you know which platform does what and what they offer, you can decide on one of them. If your website uses Windows-specific technologies like ASP, .NET, MSSQL or Access and you are good at these technologies, it's probably best to go with Windows hosting platform.
If your website uses PHP, Perl or MySQL languages and would prefer broader array of third-party solutions to choose from with a flexible system and low cost option then Linux should be your choice.
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Author bio: Richard is the Admin and Founder of Selected Hosting blog and has a rich experience of 5 years of Server Management under his belt.