What’s the Difference Between Linux and Windows?
Both Windows and Linux are platforms, or operating systems (OS) used by Web servers to host websites. There are several different options for each brand (i.e. Unix OS, Windows NT, Windows 2000 etc) but it’s far more important to recognize the differences between the two brands when selecting which platform you should use. Once you understand how they differ, you can make an informed decision based on what you want do with your website, and what programming requirements your will have when designing and developing it.
About Linux Hosting
Linux is based on the Unix OS. It’s an ‘open-source’ (i.e. free and publically available) version of Unix’s platform. Large scale commercial enterprises particularly favor Linux for its proven reliability and stability over the thirty-plus years of its existence. Linux is suitable and widely preferred in the hosting industry for web server, database, email and DNS hosting. Because it costs nothing to acquire, Linux is naturally cost-effective.
Critical to your decision about whether to use Linux as a web hosting platform are the programming languages, databases and applications you intend to integrate into your account. Linux supports literally hundreds of thousands of open-source utilities and tools, and also popular scripting languages such as PHP, Perl & Python. Database applications like Postgres & MySQL are easily integrated into the Linux platform. However, you may find it difficult to successfully fit Windows-specific applications into a Linux framework, although not necessarily vice-versa. For instance, filenames and directory names do not need to be case-sensitive for Windows, but must be for Linux. Unless due care is taken, this affects the functionality of links and images within the web page. Also, because the open-source tools preferred by the Linux system are designed to work across multiple platforms, moving dynamic content from a Linux server to a Windows server is reasonably simple and requires little recoding.
About Windows Hosting
The Windows OS is a proprietary system designed by the Microsoft corporation; accordingly users are charged a license fee. Additionally, many of the tools and applications designed specifically to work within Windows come at a cost as well, with few if any open-source alternative options. For these reasons, web hosts incur higher costs supporting Windows than they do supporting Linux, and therefore present higher hosting prices to the customer.
In comparison to Linux’s three decades of proven service, the Windows platform has been around for only a little over a decade. As a result, Windows has a smaller pool of established users and also has not yet achieved the reputation for stability and ‘up-time’ that Linux has earned. However, this is rapidly changing and Windows devotees are proud to champion the reliability of the product these days.
Due to its proprietary nature, many of the applications that work best with Windows are tied to it and it alone; for instance ASP & SQL databases, and the .NET infrastructure, will only work within Windows. Although the Microsoft architecture is very user friendly, and requires less time to build applications than the open-source applications used for Linux, a project that uses Windows-specific tools offers very little opportunity for change later on. One exception is the MONO set of tools, but that is a discussion for another time and place.
For all instances where integration with Windows-specific architecture is not mandatory, Linux-based hosting offers cost-effective & reliable solutions. If your web page requires the use of such dedicated technologies as .NET, ASP or SQL, you will need to tie into the Windows platform.