Linux or Windows Hosting? Which Server Software Do I Choose?
What do you drive? Airline pilots know the question to be a reference to the type of aircraft they fly. For Web developers it might refer to the hosting platform they operate—Linux or Windows Server?
Each of these hosting platforms has its own pros and cons. In some cases, the type of hosting platform you choose limits the type of programs and software you can use on your website. If your website is already built, the platform is already set up. If the site is in the design stage, you have options provided you haven’t already begun to code.
Key differences of Linux and Windows hosting
The type of hosting you choose is immaterial to readers, so you don’t need to worry about which will attract more traffic. Instead, the differences lie with your preferences as a developer, the code and the price. The choice of database also plays a role in deciding which hosting platform you want to use. The two primary operating system platform and database combinations are:
- Windows hosting with a SQL Server database
- Linux with a MySQL database
Generally, Windows hosting is always more expensive. For this reason, Linux servers have become more popular, especially for start-up businesses or people who just want to operate a small content site. Windows works seamlessly with SQL Server 2008, which is typically the choice for .NET website designers. The rule of thumb for choosing your hosting type with a website you already purchased or own is the following:
- .NET (C# or VB.NET) runs on Windows servers
- PHP (used by WordPress and other out-of-the-box solutions) runs on Linux
For small websites who pay for shared hosting, the hosting company provides an interface that you use to manage the website. For cloud servers, the key differences between a Windows and Linux hosting environment is the software used to manage the server and its resources. Windows uses Plesk while Linux usually uses cPanel. Both of these applications are standard with cloud servers you manage on your own. You use cloud server management when you want to have your own private server that you can remotely manage, add websites, add databases and manage email accounts on your own. The main difference between shared hosting and private cloud servers is that you have more control over a cloud server, and you can add as many websites to the server as you need to fit your website model.
Why choose a Linux host solution?
Linux is now the most popular hosting solution for websites and continues to gain ground in the enterprise. The main difference most people notice is the price — Linux Web servers are considerably less costly than Windows servers. Other than price, there are several compelling reasons to choose Linux:
- WordPress compatible
- Runs PHP applications, which are the common platforms for blogs and e-commerce sites
- Redirects more easily configured with an .htaccess file
- Commonly used, so there are several resources for troubleshooting and configuration
- Works natively with most free software such as Apache, phpBB and MySQL databases
- Better security
- Choice of operating systems (Redhat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, Debian, and more)
- cPanel integration for managing your servers
Why choose a Windows Server hosting environment?
Even though Linux has most of the enterprise sever market, several large corporations with in-house developers use the Windows and SQL Server hosting solution. Windows integrates with the .NET Framework, so all of your C# and VB.NET applications work with a Windows host. You must check the framework version supported by the Windows host such as 2.0, 3.5 and 4.0. This means you can run even older 2.0 framework code on a Rackspace Windows 2008 server.
Windows and .NET do not use an .htaccess file, but it uses the web.config file you store in your .NET application. This makes editing and using .NET applications less convenient, but the .NET Framework provides you with an abundance of server controls and database components for processing dynamic pages. The advantages of a Windows hosting environment include:
- More server controls and components to choose from
- Hosts C#, VB.NET and PHP web applications
- Integrates natively with SQL Server 2008
- Uses web.config to integrate security and website canonicals
- Plesk integration for managing your server
The server you choose should ultimately fit what you need for your website, and you should select a solution that you are familiar with. Choose the solution that is easier for you to troubleshoot and manage your server–if you can more easily work with cPanel and Apache, you should choose Linux; if you have more experience with Plesk, opt for Windows Server.
The best solution is the one you are familiar with and will be able to operate in case of emergencies or will allow you to more quickly publish your website pages.
Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing providing Fanatical Support® to customers across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.