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On which operating system (or, platform, in tech jargon) should I host my web site?

Which operating system should I host my web site?

For most web developers, this question can also be rephrased to: “Should I host my web site on a Windows operating system or a Unix/Linux operating system?” For instance, if you work on a Windows computer or a Mac, will a Linux based Server work?

Before we delve into which operating system would be more suited to your need, you need to know the important features of a web server operating system.

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Important features of a web server operating system

  • Stability:
    The operating system should not crash under heavy load and, thus, bring all web sites down.
  • Security:
    The operating system should not be vulnerable to viruses and should not have security holes that can be exploited by hackers.
  • Ease of administration:
    Operating system administration should be trouble-free with easy-to-use administration tools.
  • Features and Software:
    A good operating system should have all required features and software to run a web hosting server. If these are not in-built, are they available from other sources? (read the next point).
  • Third party application availability and integration:
    Software for the operating system that enhance the features of the web server should be available from other vendors. Further, integration of these should be smooth and trouble-free.
  • Scalable to up-gradations:
    An operating system should be scalable to hardware and software up-gradations.

The popular web server operating systems

Web server operating systems can be categorized as follows:

Your choice of the operating system for a web server should not depend on the operating system on your desktop. That is, if you use Windows on your home/office computer, it is not necessary to have the same operating system on your web server. Rather, your choice should depend on how you create your web site and the kind of applications you want to run on your web server.

If you are just starting out and simply want a quick answer, please scroll down below.

The Windows operating systems for web servers can smoothly integrate Microsoft applications including Access, MS SQL, FrontPage etc. However, they are known to be less stable under heavy web traffic. They are also more vulnerable to attacks from viruses and hackers (though the latter has more to do with how the server is administered).
Read more on the Windows operating system for web servers

Unix and Linux servers are famous for their stability. They can provide more than 99% uptime even under heavy web traffic. By the way, if you are developing your web site in Microsoft FrontPage you are not restricted to the Windows Operating system – Unix/Linux servers provide FrontPage Extensions that help you seamlessly integrate your application.
Unix, Linux and FreeBSD web hosting servers

If you are a beginner, you would likely be thinking of virtual web site hosting, in which case I suggest you use a Unix/Linux/FreeBSD based web server. These provide a better uptime, are less prone to attacks and come slightly cheaper than servers based on the Windows Operating system. Further, if you ever face a problem, there is a lot of support available on the Internet (in forums, discussion groups, articles etc.) for Unix/Linux/FreeBSD based hosting servers. A whole range of easy to use third party software that integrate smoothly are available for these operating systems. Not only that, most web hosting companies provide lots of such software that you can use on your web site by installing them through the online control panel.

A final word: If you are in doubt, clarify with your web developer and come back to this page. For example, if your developer is creating the web site using ASP technology, I would definitely suggest a Microsoft Windows operating server. While on the other hand, if they are developing using PHP and MySQL, I would recommend using Linux or FreeBSD. [FYI, One could run ASP scripts on Linux system using software such as Sun Java System Active Server Pages 4.0 (no longer available… probably) or PHP on Windows. It’s just that PHP scripts run better on Unix/Linux and ASP on Windows].

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