Linux vs Windows: How to Choose the Best Server Operating System for Your Website

There are many elements of web hosting to consider before building a website, including price, bandwidth, storage, and software compatibility. However, one of the most important decisions you will make is to choose Linux or Windows Server as your server operating system. For most people, Linux is the common server choice; Windows Server is intended for server administrators and businesses that require the services of Microsoft. The average blogger won’t experience significant differences between operating systems when writing a live shoot, but the stakes are higher for businesses with specific backend needs. If you are unsure of which operating system will power your site, this guide will help you make an informed decision.

The basics of the operating system

Not all web hosting services, or their service levels, offer a choice between Linux and Windows Server operating systems. For example, if you choose a shared hosting plan, you are probably stuck with the operating system that the host uses by default, usually Linux. Typically, you need to sign up for the most expensive and robust Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Dedicated Hosting offerings to find a Windows Server option. Editors’ Choice award-winning web hosts like GoDaddy, HostGator, and 1 & 1 Ionos offer Windows servers, but many don’t.

Please note that your choice of a Linux or Windows based server does not do not depends on the operating system of your PC. If you have a Windows PC, you can use Linux servers very well, and vice versa. It’s the same situation with MacOS. Server operating systems are on the backend, which means it doesn’t matter how you log into them from the user side. That said, there are some important reasons why you would want to use Linux or Windows as the base of your website. Let’s explore them.

Decide how much money you want to spend

Linux is a free and open source operating system that comes in several versions. It is also easier to maintain, requiring less maintenance and fewer hours of work. Windows Server, on the other hand, is owned by Microsoft, so web hosting services license it to Redmond. Hosts tend to pass these additional costs on to users.

Take GoDaddy, for example. Its Linux-based self-managed VPS tier starts at $ 29.99 per month (for a monthly plan), while its Windows-based counterpart costs $ 34.99 per month. Ionos’ second-tier VPS M plan costs $ 7 per month, but upgrading to a Windows Server plan adds $ 20 to the price. This price premium may disappear among the more expensive dedicated hosting services, but that extra money per month can accumulate in the lower and middle tier. If you are looking to save money, it is better to go with Linux. Having said that, you may think that the additional cost is necessary if you plan to leverage Windows Server specific features.

Windows Server has a familiar interface

Know the software you want to use

As mentioned earlier, selecting your operating system determines the software you will use to create and update a website. For example, WordPress is much easier to install and use on Linux servers, as it is powered by the PHP scripting language and the MySQL database service (you can run them on Windows servers, but most service providers don’t care). The popular main server, cPanel, which you may be familiar with if you’ve built a website, also runs Linux. Additionally, Linux hosting typically provides easier access to site building tools, such as the Apache HTTP web server, Python and Perl programming languages, and Node.JS JavaScript environments.

In contrast, Windows Server runs services created and maintained by Microsoft. If you are developing web applications, you will want to use the .NET framework which is only available on Windows Server. If your website will be built using ASP.NET or Microsoft’s version of SQL, you will also need Windows Servers. Other Windows Server-only programs that you may come across include C #, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SharePoint, and Remote Desktop.

If you’re just starting your web hosting journey, you’d do well to stick with Linux. Windows Server is a good option for experienced developers and large organizations.

Learn about the differences in operating system security and management

When it comes to overall stability, Linux is the oldest statesman. It has long been used as a web server base and its open source nature means that many talented people contribute to it. Compared to Windows Server, Linux handles more functions smoothly and doesn’t require reboots almost as often. This is because Linux does not have memory leaks in the same way as Windows Server and only needs to reboot when there is a kernel update.

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If you collect financial information or other critical data through your website, security should be high on your list. Fortunately, the open source nature of Linux also means that a lot of people are working on security fixes. However, finding the fix may take more research compared to Microsoft’s full documentation and live technical support, but it’s definitely there.

With Windows Server, you’ll enjoy an out-of-the-box graphical user interface and Microsoft backed customer support. In addition, Microsoft generally releases Windows Server drivers for new hardware quickly; new Linux drivers may take a while to appear, depending on which distro you are using (finding distributions is a separate article). However, Linux is eminently flexible. If you are ready to do the command line programming work, you can turn Linux servers into any shape you desire.

Make the big decision

Should we opt for Linux? Should you opt for Windows Server? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the decision should be based on your needs. If you start a blog, you will do very well with a Linux based server. In fact, it will probably be your only option with low cost web hosting level. If it’s good enough for Facebook and Google, it’s probably good enough for your site. If you are part of a large organization or plan to use services specific to Microsoft, such as Exchange or SharePoint, you should search for Windows Server. In addition, Windows Server is much easier to manage for administrators of green servers.

New to web hosting? Be sure to check out our guide on building a website. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to start your own web hosting company, read our guide to reseller hosting. The best courses for learning how to build websites also provide terrific education.

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