Sixty-six percent of servers in use by the beginning of 2017 were UNIX based. Of these, 55.6% were Linux while 35% were Windows.
The differences between these two hosting environments are based on factors such as security, stability, and cost. Before settling on one over the other, it is important to understand the key differences between the two operating systems. This is critical because the VPS hosting company you choose to sign up with will depend on your choice of OS.
The main reason server administrators cite for choosing Linux over Windows is the former’s superior stability. You don’t need to reboot it even after changing server configurations. On the contrary, Windows servers are unstable when running multiple databases, file servers, and the web. It gets worse if you overload them with scheduled tasks and applications. While today’s Windows servers have undergone many changes to overcome some of these challenges, server administrators still believe Linux systems are more superior, especially since they have near to 100% uptime guarantee.
Linux servers are more secure than Windows. Most of the BitLocker hacks reported worldwide target the predominantly used Windows machines. Since Linux servers are Unix-based, they benefit from the rights management features of UNIX platforms such as allowing only administrators (root users) rights to modify specific applications and directories. The admin or the root user can view all the files on a server. This minimizes obfuscation issues such as hidden files, a problem frequently encountered when combating malware on Windows machines.
3. Learning Curve
Learning to manage a Linux server takes a long time compared to learning to manage a Windows server. Unless you have training and experience in Linux systems, you will have to be patient and put in the time to learn. Trying to configure a Linux system is a challenge to people without IT and development skills. To the contrary, Windows environments feature user interfaces and standardized software that allows a newbie to navigate their way around easily. In terms of simplicity and ease of use, a Windows server is an obvious winner.
Your choice of an OS ultimately depends on the software you will be running. For a SharePoint or an Exchange site, a Windows server will serve you well. If you, however, want to install applications such as Joomla or WordPress, use a cPanel, which supports Linux CentOS, CloudLinux, or RHEL.
5. Operating System
Always base your choice of an operating system on performance. One of the big differences a Windows user will find when interfacing to a Linux system is the absence of clickable menus. A Linux user is spoilt for choice in terms of the many graphical user interfaces (GUIs). However, if an average user plans to interact with the OS directly instead of using a tool such as a cPanel to update and install applications, database, and to manage your email server, a Windows solution is recommended.
Although a Linux administrator can help, it takes time to learn to configure various software pieces using a command line, time that most people are unwilling to invest. Another key difference between the two is that Linux OS has more features and options than a Windows OS. Besides, if you operate in a complex IT environment with a host of databases and applications running on Windows servers, your best bet is a Windows OS since it is licensed and regularly updated.
6. Intended Use
What you intend to do with a VPS will determine whether a Linux OS or a Windows OS is most appropriate. If you want to set up a blog, a personal website, or an online portfolio, VPS hosting on a Linux server is adequate. Shared Linux hosting services feature tools such as a Confixx or cPanel that provide users with a simple web interface from where they can install microblogging plugins and applications, databases and CMS (content management systems). You can also easily configure applications such as FTP, PHP, MySQL, and Apache. As a newbie, these features make the task of configuring and managing a server easy to handle.
7. Windows Servers Are Ideal for Large Companies
You can use a Windows server if you are planning to use Microsoft applications such as MS SQL, ASP.NET, Exchange or SharePoint.
8. Linux Servers Require Exceptional Expertise
Linux is ideal for web developers with experience configuring NGINX or Apache web servers, and those who can use Python, PHP, or Perl to create MySQL databases. Since these tools have been associated with Linux for quite some time, they feature a huge support structure for Linux environments.
In terms of cost, Linux servers are the most affordable. It is common to come across Linux servers running on a decade-old hardware. This means frequent costly updates are not critical if you are running a Linux server. Although there are distributions such as Red Hat that require payment, as an open source platform, Linux is free! There are many varieties of free fully functional Linux distributions to choose from. You will, however, need to pay a Linux server administrator to manage the system for you. If you factor the cost over time of hardware upgrades and software licenses, Linux servers are less costly than Windows-based servers.
Before making a purchase based on server cost, ask yourself whether that seemingly unbelievable deal comes with 24-hour support. You also need to determine whether you can start with shared hosting and scale up as your business grows. Other considerations such as whether your host will allow you to upgrade to a dedicated server when the time comes are critical. It is important to get answers to these and many other questions before making a final decision to sign up.
Whether to use Windows or Linux VPS hosting depends on how you intend to use your server. Although Linux servers are the most popular, Windows hosting is also gaining ground, albeit slowly.