Join Date: Nov 2004
Before you begin reading this article, itís only fair to point out that thereís very little difference for you between a Windows or Linux web host, if you fit at least one of these:
ē A new or casual Webmaster,
ē Your site is non-revenue generating
ē Your web site is created with static HTML pages generated from boxed software
More often than not, you need to look no further than regular Linux web hosting because it usually cost less and offers a wider variety of control panels, which may be a strong selling point for beginners and intermediate users.
So, When Do You Consider Windows Hosting?
The moment you decide you want your web site to have more complex features, such as members only sections, shopping cart, live help, chat, forums and so on, then the host server operating system might be important. You could use Java Scripts, which are processed by the visitorís browser and are non-dependent on the web server, but they lack the power to access, retrieve and store information in a database.
A database is one of the cornerstones of interactive web sites. They store information necessary to provide web mail to your visitors or give them the option of a customized web page every time they visit. To fully harness the power of a database, youíll need server side programs as the go between. These programs sends a web site visitorís input to the server, processes it and returns information in HTML format customized to the visitorís instruction. Because the web pages are generated on demand, they are also referred to as dynamically generated.
Windows Desktop And Server Operating System
If you run a Windows desktop or use Windows based web page builders such as FrontPage, it doesnít mean you must opt for Windows web hosting. This is true vice versa. Whatever operating system you use on your desktop has little to do with your choice of hosts unless itís a matter of preference. As long as you understand your FTP or web publishing software, your web host can be on any operating system.
Keep in mind, that you donít have to learn how to use another operating system because web hosts usually provide a web based control panel from where you administrate your account and uploaded files.
Web Site Objectives
Whatís important is for you to know what you want your site to do and what you want to offer on your web site. This is what will ultimately lead you to the type of hosting thatís right for you. As mentioned earlier, interactive web sites utilize server side programs. There are many out there but the more common are ASP, PHP or Perl. Each programming language has itís own strengths and weaknesses and sometimes one can give you something the other canít although not very often. For the future reference, PHP and Perl are Linux based and ASP is Windows based.
Which Languages To Use
All these languages are capable of processing similar instructions. Thereís little one can do the other canít. As you might expect, ASP will naturally have tighter and better integration with Microsoftís products such as their SQL Server, .NET framework and it seems to work a lot better for web based systems with intranet capabilities.
Moreover, server side scripting can be complex, requiring web developers who are able to code in that language. Developers are usually strongly partial to one language. If you hire one, chances are the developer will use their programming language of choice and make the necessary hosting recommendations.
Given these factors, it isnít uncommon for businesses to gravitate towards ASP. Most businesses have invested a lot of money in acquiring software licenses. Switching could mean investing time, knowledge and more software and businesses are not always prepared to do that.
If youíre not a business, it depends on your learning capabilities and which language makes more sense to you. Casual webmasters and those running web sites not entirely commercial usually choose PHP scripts. This is rather natural considering there are no hidden costs in running PHP. The source itself is open meaning anyone can download, utilize or amend it as long as they donít claim copyright or sell it.
If you opt to use ASP to power your web site, then youíll want to go with Windows hosting. In the past several years, ASP has also become available on Linux machines if your web host has Chilisoft installed. Do remember, if you choose this option, it might not work as well as it would on Windows. Because Chilisoft is a go-between program, itíll have some limitations.
This is also true the other way around. While you can have PHP or Perl on a Windows web host, they werenít developed for Windows and might not work as well. Support is also lacking. In fact, there are often disclaimers about using these languages on Windows servers.
Some hosts have successfully implemented these programming languages for the different platforms. Be very clear in this case about the scripts you want to use because server configurations for Windows can be vastly different from Linux; certain server settings work well for one script but not another. This might cause the script to fail or not function at itís full potential. This is why itís always best to go with the operating system the language was built for.
In most cases, youíll most likely be told flat out that Unix based servers have better security. Mainly, because these operating systems have consistently been reliable, while Windows is a big target for exploitation. Unfortunately, Windows servers historically arenít known for itís reliability but both are can be equally secured. Web hosting wise it boils down to one thing. No matter how good the operating system is, your site cannot be secure or reliable if your host has not configured it correctly and doesnít update often or swiftly.
In speed and performance they both perform well although it is known PHP and Linux seems to be a little faster than ASP and Windows. With more web hosts using the newer Windows 2003 Server, performance has also improved. Unless youíre counting the seconds youíll probably not notice too much. Regardless which platform your web hosting is, the key is to look for a good host. Do they upgrade well ahead or do they max out the resources before doing so? Are they responsive to you?
In conclusion, the first step to deciding between a Windows or Linux host is what you want your site to do now and in the foreseeable future. Next, you need to figure out which scripts work best for the particular job you want to do. For example, ASP is better known for itís shopping carts and PHP message boards are reliable and popular.