Planning to launch a website or migrate your existing one to a new hosting provider? If so, one crucial decision you’ll need to make is selecting the right operating system (OS) for your web host.
The choice often boils down to two popular options: Linux or Windows.
Hang on. What on earth does an operating system have to do with web hosting?
Well, the operating system determines how your server functions and interacts with other components.
In other words, it’s the backbone of your web hosting environment.
Selecting an operating system might seem daunting, especially if you don’t have much technical experience. In this article, you’ll explore the pros and cons of Linux and Windows as server OSs. You’ll also get a glimpse of how server OSs and everyday OSs are different and highlight the essential features of a web server OS.
Liquid Web understands how important it is to have a web host that caters to your needs. That’s why you’ll find a wide range of hosting solutions available, including both Linux and Windows operating systems. Whether you’re looking for dedicated hosting, VPS, or managed WordPress hosting, Liquid Web has you covered.
Discover which operating system is the best fit for your web hosting needs!
Why Is It Important To Choose the Right Operating System for Your Web Host Server?
The operating system for your web host server can impact the performance, security, and reliability of your website.
The server operating system:
- Acts as the link between the hardware and software of your server.
- Allocates input/output (I/O) devices, memory, CPU, and storage resources to specific programs.
- Allows you to use the server with a graphical interface.
- Helps manage system resources efficiently.
When it comes to web hosting, Linux and Windows are the two most popular operating systems globally.
As of February 2023, Unix, from which Linux is derived, dominates the web hosting market with a whopping 80.9% of operating systems worldwide. In contrast, Windows accounts for 19.4% of the market.
Common distributions by Linux hosts include Ubuntu, CentOS, and Red Hat Linux, each with its own set of features and functionality.
The answer is Linux offers various distributions with different functionality and is a powerful and cost-effective option for nearly all websites.
Besides, it is an open-source operating system, which means that it is (mostly) free to use and can be customized to suit your specific requirements.
However, using Linux as your server’s operating system often requires some technical expertise. Your team should understand how to use Linux’s graphical user interface (if your chosen distribution even offers this) and know Linux commands to deploy functions.
Having said that, if you need specific Microsoft applications or services to run your website, then you will need to use Windows as your server’s operating system. Windows has a strong advantage for businesses that rely on Microsoft applications like SQL Server or .NET, which may not run well on Linux.
Why Does It Come Down to Windows and Linux?
The decision of an operating system is largely driven by what software or content management system (CMS) you will be building your website on.
Ergo, Linux is the most popular server OS for websites.
- Not only is it versatile and affordable, but most Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, CentOS, and Red Hat Linux, are free to use, which means that running a website on a Linux server can be more cost-effective than on a Windows server.
- Linux has a reputation for being more stable and secure compared to Windows.
- Linux offers developers and users access to the source code, making it easier to identify and fix vulnerabilities.
Windows is also a viable option for web hosting, particularly for those who are more comfortable with Windows-based applications or those who require specific Windows-based software for their website.
Windows Server OS offers some advantages over Linux, such as support for .NET and ASP.NET frameworks, which can be used to build powerful and dynamic web applications. Additionally, Windows Server offers native support for Microsoft SQL Server, which is a popular choice for managing large databases.
All in all, both Windows and Linux can handle most websites, and the decision on which one to use largely depends on the specific needs and requirements of your website.
It is important to carefully consider your options and consult with your web hosting provider to ensure that you choose the best operating system for your web host server.
Linux vs Windows for Web Hosting
As you’ve seen above, Linux and Windows are both popular operating systems for web hosting. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to understand the key differences between them before making a decision.
Here is a detailed comparison of Linux and Windows based on five main factors that website owners consider: pricing, resources, tools, security, and compatibility.
|Most distributions are free and open source
|Requires a licensing fee for each server
|Requires less RAM and storage compared to Windows
|Requires more resources to run
|Easy access to popular site-building tools and control panels
|Ideal for Windows-specific technologies and databases
|Has a strong user community
|Maintained and developed by Microsoft
|Majority of providers offer Linux
|Less common than Linux hosting
Here is a look at each of these factors in more detail:
One of the biggest differences between Linux and Windows is pricing. Linux distributions are generally free, which means that web hosts can pass on the cost savings to their clients. On the other hand, Windows requires a licensing fee for each server, which can significantly increase the cost of hosting.
If you compare Liquid Web’s managed VPS hosting plans for Windows and Linux, you can see that:
- A 24-month plan for a VPS server with 8 GB RAM costs $45/month using Linux.
- The same plan with Windows costs $85/month.
Having said that, some Linux distributions may require more space than this. CentOS 7, for example, requires 10 GB of gig space, which can affect web hosting costs.
- Linux: Most Linux distributions are free and open source, which can lower web hosting costs. Some paid Linux distributions, such as CloudLinux, can be expensive.
- Windows: Requires a licensing fee for each server, which can increase hosting costs. Requires more resources to run compared to Linux, which can also increase hosting costs.
Resources, Tools, and Applications
Both Linux and Windows have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to web hosting resources, tools, and applications.
One of the most important considerations when choosing an operating system for web hosting is resource usage. Linux’s efficient resource usage means that it can typically handle high-traffic websites with ease.
Windows is generally considered to be more resource-intensive. This can be a disadvantage for smaller websites or those with limited resources.
When it comes to tools, both Linux and Windows offer a wide range of options for web hosting. Linux is known for its powerful command-line interface, which allows users to easily manage their servers and applications.
Windows, on the other hand, has a more user-friendly interface and offers a range of graphical tools for managing servers and applications. It also has a strong focus on compatibility with popular applications and software, which can be an advantage for businesses that rely on specific applications or tools.
Linux is known for its strong support for open-source applications and tools, which can be a major advantage for developers and businesses that rely on open-source software. It also supports a wide range of programming languages popular for web development, including PHP, Python, and Ruby.
Comparatively, Windows has a strong focus only on support for Microsoft applications and tools, such as ASP.NET and SQL Server. While it also supports open-source applications and languages, it may require additional configuration and setup to use them effectively.
To help Windows hosting users comply with these regulations, Microsoft has introduced various security features, including Windows Defender Credential Guard. This feature, introduced in Windows Server 2016, utilizes virtualization-based security to keep secrets and protected credentials isolated from the running operating system.
While compliance with these regulations is essential for protecting sensitive data, it can be a hassle at times. Compliance requirements can be complex and time-consuming to implement, and organizations must be vigilant to maintain compliance over time. This can be particularly challenging for small and medium-sized businesses that lack the resources to dedicate to compliance.
- Linux: Generally requires less RAM and storage compared to Windows, which can improve server stability. Offers easy access to popular site-building tools such as the LAMP stack, Python, Perl, and Node.js. Provides access to popular control panels such as cPanel.
- Windows: Ideal for those who want to use Windows-specific technologies such as .NET or Exchange Server. Uses MS SQL and MS Access databases, which may be better suited for .NET frameworks.
Security is a crucial consideration when choosing an operating system for web hosting. Both Linux and Windows offer robust security features, but there are some key differences between the two.
Linux is known for its strong security features, which are built into the operating system itself. And being open source enables security experts to identify and fix Linux vulnerabilities quickly. Additionally, Linux has a reputation for being less vulnerable to malware and viruses than Windows.
The Linux community has developed a number of powerful security tools, such as SELinux and AppArmor, which can help to protect against attacks and unauthorized access.
Windows has made significant strides in recent years to improve its security features. But while Linux has a larger share of the web hosting market, Windows has a larger overall market share. This makes it a more attractive target for hackers and cybercriminals.
Windows also offers a range of user account types and permissions, which can be useful for managing access to sensitive data and resources. However, some experts argue that Linux’s approach to access control is more secure, as it relies on a system of user groups and permissions that is simpler and more transparent.
Ultimately, the security of any operating system depends on the knowledge and expertise of the administrator or hosting provider, as well as the implementation of best practices for security and access control.
- Linux: Has a strong user community with access to the source code, making it easier to identify vulnerabilities. Requires regular maintenance and configuration to ensure security. Web hosts offer security options such as firewalls, DDoS Attack Protection, and server protection.
- Windows: Maintained and developed by Microsoft, which can put vast resources into security. Releases regular security updates on Patch Tuesday.Can utilize virtualization-based security to keep secrets and protected credentials isolated from the running operating system.
Many web hosting platforms and applications are designed specifically for Linux. Some of the most popular ones that are compatible with Linux include:
- Apache: The most widely used web server software, which runs on Linux and other Unix-based operating systems.
- NGINX: A lightweight web server and reverse proxy server that is commonly used with Linux-based systems.
- MySQL: An open-source database management system that is commonly used with Linux-based systems.
- PHP: A popular programming language for web development that is widely supported on Linux-based systems.
Windows is less commonly used for web hosting than Linux, but it still offers a range of web hosting platforms and applications that are specifically designed for the operating system. In addition to MySQL and PHP, some of the most popular web hosting platforms and applications that are compatible with Windows include:
- Internet Information Services (IIS): A web server software that is specifically designed for Windows-based systems.
- Microsoft SQL Server: A database management system that is commonly used with Windows-based systems.
- ASP.NET: A web application framework that is widely used for building dynamic web applications on Windows-based systems.
- Microsoft SharePoint: A collaboration platform for businesses that is fully compatible with Windows-based hosting platforms.
While there are fewer web hosting platforms and applications for Windows, it still offers a range of options for businesses and developers that prefer to work with the Windows operating system. Additionally, Windows offers robust support for Microsoft applications and tools, making it an ideal choice for businesses that rely on Microsoft software.
- Linux: The majority of web hosting providers offer Linux. Better compatibility with open-source technologies and tools.Ideal for those who want a cost-effective hosting solution.
- Windows: Less common than Linux hosting but still available from some providers.Ideal for those who require specific Windows technologies or compliance requirements.May be more expensive due to licensing fees.
Liquid Web: Your Top Solution for Linux and Windows Web Hosting
Liquid Web offers top-of-the-line solutions for both Linux and Windows web hosting. The company’s hosting plans offer exceptional performance, security, and reliability, making it the perfect choice for businesses of all sizes.
These VPS hosting plans provide a secure and isolated virtual environment, offering the same control as a dedicated server and the flexibility of cloud hosting.
With daily backups and OS options, including AlmaLinux or CentOS 7 for Linux or Windows Server 2019, you can rest assured that your website is always in good hands. Plus, the team can migrate your site for free with any VPS hosting plan, making the transition to Liquid Web a breeze.
For websites with high traffic, multiple websites, or large databases, dedicated server hosting or dedicated cloud hosting plans are the perfect solutions. These plans offer the same level of security and performance as the VPS hosting plans but with even more power and resources to meet your specific needs.
At Liquid Web, the team is committed to providing customers with the best possible hosting solutions and support, irrespective of the web hosting OS you choose.
Choosing the right web hosting plan can be overwhelming, which is why Liquid Web’s team of experts is always available to help you choose the perfect plan for your business.