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Linux Hosting vs Windows Hosting: A Beginner’s Guide

WRITTEN BY
Timothy Shim
UPDATED
June 17, 2024

 

Choosing your web hosting Operating System (OS) is likely to be one of your most important decisions when you’re setting up a web host for your website.

 

While there are many choices, the ultimate choice will be between Linux vs. Windows hosting. Understanding the fundamentals of these OS can help you make the right decision.

 

 

Linux vs Windows: Why Do You Need To Choose Wisely?

 

Ubuntu server

Linux has changed over the years and is today also a very GUI-driven product.
(Source: Wikimedia)

 

The OS is an integral part of your web hosting plan. Changing the OS once you’ve chosen your web hosting plan may not always be possible. Just think of it as the foundation for your home. Choosing the wrong foundations might mean you end up not being able to build the home you want.

 

The primary reason is that each OS supports different things to varying degrees. For example, you will need Windows hosting to run an ASP-based website since ASP scripts don’t work on Linux platforms.

 

It can also be challenging to change once you’ve chosen your web hosting OS.

 

Most new website owners start with Shared Hosting. While these plans are straightforward and cost-effective, they don’t give you any control over the OS. To change the OS for Shared Hosting, you must sign up for a new hosting plan and migrate your website.

 

Those who use more advanced web hosting options like VPS or Cloud Hosting owners will be able to change the OS. However, unless you’re on a managed hosting plan, you will have to put in some effort.

 

 

Linux For Web Hosting

 

Linux

 

Linux is a UNIX-like OS that’s been around for decades. Initially meant as a portable, multi-tasking, multi-user platform, it is now available on more hardware platforms than any other OS. It’s a popular web hosting choice because it’s stable, secure, and well-suited to high-performance applications.

 

It’s one of the most popular OS choices for web hosting servers because of its stability and flexibility. Linux and additional UNIX-like OS power over 80% of all web hosting servers today.

 

Popular mainstream Linux distributions include Debian (and its derivatives, such as Ubuntu) and CentOS. Check out our review on the best Linux web hosting providers.

 

 

Windows For Web Hosting

 

Windows

 

Windows Server is an OS released by Microsoft. It is the server counterpart to the desktop version of Microsoft Windows and offers better flexibility, security, and reliability. This OS can support the most common web server applications, including Apache, Nginx, Lighttpd, and Microsoft IIS.

 

While it faces some criticism from detractors, the fact that Windows Server powers Microsoft’s Azure Cloud service is notable. Microsoft Windows can perform most of the same tasks as Linux-based servers, although performance profiles may vary.

 

The most current version of Windows Server is Windows Server 2022. It’s capable of supporting hardware configurations of up to 64-core processors and 48TB of memory. Explore more on the features of the best Windows web hostingthrough our detailed review.

 

 

6 Key Differences Between Linux And Windows Hosting

 

linux vs windows hosting featured image

 

There are many differences between Linux and Windows servers. Some of these differences involve the OS, while others are related to the hardware.

 

1. Performance – Linux Servers are faster

 

One of the most important differences between Linux and Windows Servers lies in performance. While hardware plays a part, Linux Servers will mostly offer better performance. There are several reasons for the notable difference in performance.

 

The base installation of Linux is usually extremely streamlined and allows users to implement features selectively. The result is often a lightweight but effective server deployment. Windows Servers come “all in,” resulting in unused components wasting valuable system resources.

 

Another contributing factor is the Linux file system, which is much more organized. This attribute allows more agile read-write operations. Comparatively, Windows allocates data more randomly, resulting in slower retrieval times.

 

2. Flexibility – More choice with Linux Servers

 

Due to its open-source nature, Linux offers more flexibility than Windows when configuring your server’s hardware and software components. This advantage is again due to the modular nature of the Linux OS. You can add (or remove) any OS components.

 

The Linux open-source framework also allows developers to easily create or customize applications at lower (or no) cost compared to Windows systems.

 

Finally, newer Windows Server versions require increasingly advanced hardware to support the OS. Linux, comparatively, often runs smoothly even on older hardware.

 

3. Reliability – Linux Server is steady as a rock

 

Unlike Windows Servers, which are prone to crashes and other issues, Linux Servers are more stable and seldom suffer performance outages due to OS failure. While Microsoft has made improvements to Windows Server stability, it is still a point of weakness caused by the design of the OS.

 

Most of the Linux stability advantage comes from its design emphasis on process handling, modularity, and availability.

 

4. Usability – Many find windows server familiar

 

The stripped-down, lightweight nature of Linux, which offers performance advantages, somewhat hinders usability. Using the server version requires knowledge of Linux commands for most tasks.

 

On the other hand, Windows Servers come with highly advanced user interfaces that simplify and speed up task management. The interface is also very similar to the consumer desktop environment, allowing a less steep learning curve.

 

Note

Web hosting control panels negate many of these complexities in Shared Hosting. These interface layers help offer a unified dashboard to most web hosting users.

 

5. Security – Airtight security on Linux Server

 

Since its early days, Linux has come with a strong security advantage for many reasons. Its open-source nature and vibrant developer community allow for quick vulnerability patching.

 

Windows is also a victim of its success. The similar architecture of consumer and server Windows makes a large target to attract security threats. Thanks to the wide, combined use of Windows variants, many viruses and malware are built to attack this platform.

 

Microsoft also didn’t initially focus too much on user account access, resulting in unsegmented access for most security threats to the system. While newer versions address this loophole, it hasn’t been overly successful.

 

6. Cost – Microsoft can be expensive

 

The upfront cost of Windows Hosting presents a significant cost obstacle. Microsoft relies on server licensing for its OS, and users must pay large amounts in a complex licensing structure. If you think SSL certificate prices are high, wait till you see how much a Windows Server license costs!

 

For example, HostGator‘s Windows Shared Hosting plans start at $4.76/mo, nearly double what it charges for Linux-based Shared Hosting at $2.75/mo.

 

The resource-hungry nature of Windows also means that web hosts must deploy robust hardware to handle even the OS, further increasing baseline costs.

 

 

Hosts That Offer Linux and Windows Hosting

 

Many web hosts used to offer a choice between Windows and Linux hosting. Today, however, the selection is heavily dwindling in favor of Linux hosting. Some hosts still support Windows environments, mainly in their VPS Hosting plans.

 

We can easily see this bias in some of the top web hosting brands.

 

Hosting provider Linux hosting Windows hosting Learn more
Hostinger Yes (from $1.99/mo) No
DreamHost Yes (from $2.59/mo) No
HostPapa Yes (from $2.95/mo) No
Bluehost Yes (from $2.95/mo) No
SiteGround Yes (from $3.99/mo) No
Kinsta Yes (from $35/mo) No
ScalaHosting Yes (from $3.95/mo) VPS only (from $79/mo)

 

 

Linux vs Windows Hosting: Which Should You Choose?

 

Thanks to the many advantages that Linux offers, it is usually the most recommended option for web hosting. It is also the most commonly available today, allowing you a broader range of choices when selecting your web hosting service provider.

 

If you want to run on Windows hosting, the most likely option is to use a VPS server and install your copy of Windows Server OS.

 

 

Wrap Up: Decide Which Option You Prefer

 

These are just some of the many things to consider when choosing between Linux or Windows hosting. Don’t let the considerations overwhelm you—it’s all about what is most important to you and finding a solution that can provide those things for you at a reasonable price.

 

You will ultimately need to decide for yourself which option you prefer. While there is technically a clear “winner” between Linux and Windows servers, it doesn’t include preference.

 

 

 

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