A common topic that is confusing to many people looking to buy web hosting is Windows and Linux hosting options. What’s the difference? Is there even a difference? After reading this post, you should have a clearer understanding of what it’s all about.
First Up: A Common Misconception
Don’t let the operating system you’re using on your computer confuse you. Whether you have a PC with Windows or Linux or a Mac running OS X won’t matter when it comes to choosing your web hosting. Windows or Linux hosting specifically refers to the server that your site will be hosted on by your web hosting provider. Both types of servers can interact with any computer via web interface or file transfer protocol programs.
So What’s Different?
The big difference is obviously the operating system. A Windows server runs on the Windows operating system, while Linux servers run various versions of the open source Linux operating system. If you plan on building a website using Microsoft proprietary software (such as ASP.net, or Access databases), Windows hosting is the way to go. However, Linux has matching solutions for every type of Microsoft server-side software, so don’t think you’re selling yourself short by choosing Linux. In fact, due to the open source nature of Linux, there is often more software available for Linux hosting than for Windows.
Security, Costs, and Performance
Some argue that Windows is more vulnerable to attacks since its the largest operating system and hackers spend the most time on Windows looking for vulnerabilities. Others make the counter-argument that Linux is less secure because it’s the most common server operating system. Both opinions are equal parts right and wrong. In reality, both Windows and Linux servers are regularly updated to prevent vulnerabilities and protect your website. Good web hosts are constantly updating software to keep servers secure.
As far as costs go, once again the open source factor comes into play. Many sites (including Domain.com) offer Linux hosting at a slightly cheaper price than Windows hosting simply because Windows is more expensive to implement. Windows is proprietary software and as such they charge higher prices for web solutions and server software. Paying less as a hosting customer for Linux doesn’t mean you’re getting less.
Performance-wise, Linux often has a slight edge because Windows is billed as an “all in one” solution, whereas Linux is very minimal and flexible with the ability to build onto the operating system.
It’s all About Your Needs
When it comes down to it, the differences between Windows and Linux hosting are relatively minor, but those small differences can be important depending on what you plan to do with your web hosting. From a customer usage standpoint, the software that comes with a hosting plan is one of the most important things to look at. Each hosting provider packages different software and services with their hosting, so look carefully at the details of your hosting package.
When comparing the Domain.com Linux and Windows packages, our hosting is very similar for both types, but one difference is that each uses a different Perl Distribution. If you’re not familiar with Perl, then there’s almost zero chance this difference will matter to you. However, if it does, you’ll want to know about the difference before you make your choice.
Other hosting providers may have bigger differences between their Windows and Linux offerings, so make sure to spend some time looking at the detailed breakdown rather than simply comparing cost, disk space, and bandwidth. Yes, the details can be a little confusing, but in the end doing a little research will be worth it to make sure you have a hosting plan that meets your needs.
We’ve made our Linux and Windows hosting plans very similar to each other and highly compatible with all the common website needs specifically to make life easier for you. All of our plans offer PHP and MySQL databases which are required by many open source applications. We’ve taken things a step further by providing you a complete application vault of software to automatically install on your hosting that includes WordPress, Joomla, Drupal plus much more.
And the Winner is:
As you can probably see, one option doesn’t have a clear advantage over the other. Both options provide stable, reliable web hosting, and the differences are primarily in software. Linux is touted by many as being the more flexible option of the two, which is often the case but depends on the individual hosting provider. Overall, Linux has a slight edge as the default web hosting option. The good news is that if you end up needing to switch between server types, most web hosting companies will help you do so. As a whole, worry more about who you’re choosing as a web host and the software options they provide than about whether you’re picking Linux or Windows hosting.