The operating system forms the core of a computer as it enables the hardware and software to work in perfect harmony. While there only a few systems used in home-based computers, the spectrum broadens when entering the server arena. This article will weigh the pros and cons on the most widely used server platforms: Windows, Unix and Linux.
Microsoft Windows is popular in the web hosting environment because it offers a plethora of functionality and a user-friendly interface. Unlike older systems, almost all critical tasks can be done through a point-and-click method rather than writing DOS commands. The Windows platform is usually preferred by those that require ASP (Active Server Pages) technology or MS SQL Server databases.
Pros: Maintaining a Windows server is much easier than any other operating system. The platform is largely supported by software vendors because of its name and domination in the PC sector.
Cons: Versions of Windows Server applications are costly, ranging in the hundreds of dollars per license. These costs are often tacked on to the price of a web hosting service. While the platform has been greatly improved over the years, older versions, some of which are still in use, have a higher vulnerability to security threats.
Many refer to Unix as the granddaddy of all operating systems. This system has been used as a server platform for decades now. Known for its stability, Unix is a reliable application mainly used for larger and more complex computer systems. The software often comes bundled with server hardware made by vendors such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. These servers are powerful but they are also quite expensive, sometimes climbing into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those with smaller scale needs typically utilize FreeBSD, a free Unix-like platform that runs on cheaper server hardware.
Pros: The Unix platform offers unparalleled stability and reliability. It creates a rock-solid server that can thrive for years upon years without memory leaks or needing to be restarted. Unix was built with security in mind and is therefore less susceptible to security flaws and threats.
Cons: The Unix platform can make for a very costly option. The system also tends to be more complex and harder to find that Windows solutions.
The Linux operating system has become a major force as a web hosting platform. Though it shares many characteristics of Unix, Linux is far more cost effective due to being released as open-source software. The platform comes in many different distributions and is compatible with a variety of open-source technologies such as PHP and MySQL.
Pros: As a Unix-like system, Linux provides great stability and performance in the server environment. While it isn’t exactly free, Linux always tends to be more affordable than both Windows and Unix in terms of web hosting. Due to widespread use, the platform has great support from a community of users and software developers.
Cons: Similar to Unix, Linux requires a special set of skills to work with as most configurations must be performed from a command line. Though it is becoming more mainstream, the platform isn’t as largely supported by software vendors as Windows.