Whether you want to start up a website for your work portfolio, a web page for your new business or even a website just to create daily blogs on, you will need a web hosting plan and a web hosting service provider to do so. These website hosting plans will come with one of two different types of hosting packages, that will include one of two operating system choices. Either you will have a server with Linux or with Windows pre-installed. Understanding the difference between these two will allow you to determine and pinpoint what you need from your server as they will have different performance, security, pricing and database formats.
Linux vs Windows: The Key Differences
Linux is the most popular operating system used for web hosting servers, mainly because it has more features for web designers. The rule of thumb here is that unless you are working with Windows specific applications, such as ASP Classic, MSSQL, or Visual Basic Development, you are more likely to work better with a Linux based server. With this said, here are the main differences between Linux and Windows web servers:
1. Linux servers are known for their security and stability. They rarely need to be rebooted, which means they have almost no downtime and almost all configurations changes can be done without actually restarting the server. Windows on the other hand, has an issue when there are a lot of scheduled tasks for separate applications, which means a lot more downtime for resets and reboots.
2. Linux is known for its security, mainly because a lot of hacks, viruses and bugs are known to target Windows machines because the personal computer market is primarily made up of Windows users. In addition to this though, Linux has a Unix-based operating system which allows only root users (administrators) to modify applications and directories, and allows them to see all of the files on the server, meaning there is a significant decrease in the chances of there being hidden files that contain malicious software.
3. However, Windows has completely standardized their user interface and software. This is what makes it a popular operating system choice for personal computers. The Unix-based operating system of Linux requires a steep learning curve which takes a huge amount of time to learn, configure and use because it works with command lines, syntax and functions. Whereas, Windows is incredibly easy to learn because it uses system menus and a graphical user interface.
4. Linux powers most shared hosting servers, making it cost-effective and easy to understand for beginners who just want to set up an eCommerce website, or a personal website for a portfolio or blog. In addition to having an easy to understand tool panel, the Linux system has interfaces for automatic software package management and e-mail configuration. Plus, Linux development has been around for decades and has a huge support-structure, giving experienced web developers access to more complicated tools like Perl, PHP, Python, NGINX and Apache. Otherwise, Windows is primarily used in large corporate environments where Sharepoint and Exchange servers are required (including dedicated servers).
Other then the above, there are a couple other differences that are important. The development tools and control panels for Windows and Linux web-hosting servers are quite different. Linux primarily uses cPanel which is standard in web administration tools. It offers a simple user interface and allows applications such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and phpBB. These applications come with one-click installs and automatic updates. Individuals who have basic skills can jump right in and create websites, wiki pages, and blogs rather easily. Essentially, cPanel allows beginners to get a lot done quickly without knowing the ins and outs of every application available to them.
Windows on the other hand, primarily uses Plesk and has similar benefits to cPanel in that it allows you to run server applications such as Git, Docker and Lamp but it comes in a much more complicated stack that takes time to learn.
Finally, another key difference is pricing. First off, Linux as an operating system is free, although there are paid distributions of it available, almost all free versions will have full function. Plus, because Linux has had a slow rate of change over the years, due to being scaled down, servers rarely need to be “updated” to accommodate new features that you may or may not want. Windows however, upgrades their operating system every few years to a newer version with more features in which you have to pay for and eventually the older operating systems lose operating support.