Windows Vs. Linux Web Hosting Comparison

Comparisons of Windows vs. Linux web hosting are interesting if only because this debate can be approached from so many different directions. It can be about open source technologies, or about blogging or control panels. But at the end of the day, the decision is made based on application compatibility and the customer's existing infrastructure.

Wider penetration of Linux servers in the web hosting business is vital to the continued success of the open source movement. Customers on an open source UNIX/Linux server with Apache as a web-server and MySQL as a database and do not pay licensing fees to Microsoft. Those who prefer or need a Windows server may have to pay for the license in addition to the basic package rate the host charges.

But as far as functionality is concerned, a head to head comparison is not that easy. Each server offers support for technologies and tools that are incompatible on the other server. As an example, consider a blogger who doesn't know what OS the server is running on. Based on market share, there's more than an even chance that this is a WordPress blog.

WordPress is a PHP script which needs MySQL as a database. It can be installed and used only on a Linux/Unix variant server. So bloggers may not even know what OS the host is offering, but will still invariably end up on a Linux server. The same situation applies for customers using applications written in Python, Ruby, Perl and CGI.

On the other side, applications built using Microsoft's ASP and .net technologies with MS-SQL Server as a database need Windows servers. Many customers on an enterprise level already have Microsoft software, solutions and servers in place. When adding a new website or application, they have to choose IIS on a Windows server over Apache on Linux because it can be easily integrated with their existing setup.

In all these situations discussed above, the common theme is that the customer has already chosen the required application or site tools, and thus the technology required on the server. This makes a further discussion of the relative merits of the two servers an academic exercise. Even so, it might make customers feel better to know that there is virtually no difference in performance, security or reliability.

For a customer, the decision over Windows vs. Linux web hosting essentially boils down to two things. The first is the server's compatibility with the application or site tools required. If both servers are compatible, then the customer has to decide between going open source and loyalty to Microsoft.