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Linux or Windows Hosting: Things to Consider

written by: Ada Stoy•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/30/2010

Linux hosting and Windows hosting are the two most common types of web hosting. While it is hard to tell which one is better, both Linux hosting and Windows hosting have their advantages and disadvantages.

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    What's the Difference Between Linux Hosting and Windows Hosting?

    Linux hosting and Windows hosting are the two most popular operating systems for any type of hosting (i.e. shared, a dedicated server, a VPS, etc.) and frequently there is a debate if Linux hosting or Windows hosting is better. To some extent the debate is fueled by the fact that Linux hosting uses open source software to provide the hosting service, while Windows uses proprietary software.

    In fact, the debate of Linux hosting versus Windows hosting is more of a debate “open source versus proprietary software” rather than which of the operating systems is the better hosting platform. Both Linux and Windows have their strengths and weaknesses as host operating systems and in many cases what can be considered a strength quickly turns into a weakness - i.e. as a rule Linux is more secure, but if the admin is inexperienced and doesn't know how to configure security properly, a Linux server can be a real security disaster.

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    Factors to Consider When Choosing Linux Hosting Versus Windows Hosting

    Both Linux hosting and Windows hosting are top choices and the factors to consider when you decide where to host your sites are very subjective. There are cases when you actually don't have a choice but to stick to Linux hosting only, or to Windows hosting only. However, if this is not the case with you, here are some factors to consider when choosing Linux hosting versus Windows hosting:

    • The needs of your applications. No matter which operating system you love more, if your applications demand Linux or Windows, actually the choice has been already made. It is true that many applications can run on many platforms, including Linux and Windows but if the applications you plan to run are not in this group, then in fact you have no choice but to stick with the operating system they demand.
    • Hosting fees. The fees for shared hosting are in the single digits, so if you are looking for shared hosting, fees will hardly be a factor. However, with dedicated hosting and VPS, there might be quite a difference as far as fees are concerned. As a rule, Linux hosting is cheaper than Windows hosting simply because Linux is free, while Windows costs your provider money. Otherwise, the fact that Linux hosting is cheaper doesn't mean that this is because of its inferior quality.
    • Security. All equal, Linux gives a webmaster more power to secure his or her site. However, as already mentioned, if the admin is not familiar with the intricacies of Linux, then all these security options could quickly turn into security holes. Also, there are special security-enhanced Linux distros and this makes Linux hosting even more secure.
    • Familiarity with the operating system. Familiarity with either of the operating systems is also a factor because if you aren't familiar with Linux or Windows, this will make it much harder for you to deal with it. All equal, Linux is harder for a beginner to master. Windows might not be exactly “point-and-click” administration but its learning curve isn't that steep. Still, Linux isn't impossible to master, so the fact that currently you don't feel comfortable with it doesn't mean that you won't be able to master it quickly. There are a lot of training courses and Linux certificates, so Linux learning opportunities certainly aren't that rare.
    • Reliability of your provider. Last, but not least, the reliability of your web hosting provider is very, very important. Many web hosting providers offer both Linux hosting and Windows hosting, so it isn't very likely to pick a very reliable web hosting provider who doesn't offer the type of hosting you need. On the other hand, unreliable Linux hosting isn't better than unreliable Windows hosting and vice versa, so even if a web hosting provider offers you all the things you need for Linux hosting or Windows hosting but lacks reliability, then this is not an offer to consider.

    When Linux hosting versus Windows hosting is considered, there isn't a clear winner which of them is better. Both operating systems have advantages and disadvantages and you need to decide which of them are applicable in your case.