The Hostway Blog

Windows vs. Linux: Which Managed Server Is Right for You?

When it comes to maximizing the per­formance, value and scalability of their infrastructure, businesses want the best of both worlds. The features and benefits that they derive from their critical applications must outweigh the headaches of man­aging and running them.

Enter managed hosting: A customized solution that works for a customer’s particular infrastructure and business needs.

The business benefits of managed hosting are plentiful:

  • Stop worrying about the details of managing the platform, and get network performance and availability guarantees in the hosting provider SLA.
  • Access the latest technology advances without incurring upgrade costs, and maintain peace of mind knowing monitoring for your configurations is performed by knowledgeable technology experts.
  • Incur reduced IT staff costs because support personnel are not needed on site 24/7.

With the benefits of hosting in general set aside, choosing a Windows managed server or a Linux-based solution is the initial critical decision. Which is the most appropriate in the context of the business and the job that needs to be done?

Factors to consider include the purpose of your hosting environment, which types of databases will be used, and what development language is used to create your application. Cost, performance and security are also key considerations. Let's compare Windows and Linux on some of these factors:

Development language: Most Linux hosting environments utilize a MySQL database or a compatible replacement. A Windows managed server environment should be used for hosting if you plan on using ASP or ASP.NET-based applications, or an SQL Server (MS SQL) or Access database. In either case, the developer’s recommended minimum hosting requirements for running the application should be reviewed before a decision is made.

Scalability: Windows is more easily made compatible with Linux-based programming features like PHP and MySQL. Linux-based web software is not always 100 percent compatible with Microsoft technology like .NET.

Server access: Both Microsoft and Linux hosting utilize FTP access, which allows users to transfer files to the server from a remote computer. Linux also offers SSH and Telnet access.

Security: Both Linux and Windows managed servers require strong security protection, so businesses should investigate the security measures a hosting provider employs before signing up for service. Microsoft has seen a high level of vulnerabilities, likely because many more exploits are created for Windows than Linux.

Stability: The need for reboots is well known in Windows, while Linux machines seldom need them. In an apples-to-apples comparison, Linux has historically performed better.

Cost: Price is and will always be a huge factor to consider. Linux is free, while Microsoft products have costs associated with licensing.

Performance: Both Windows and Linux platforms perform comparably in low-stress situations, but Linux servers under high load tend to be superior to Windows.

One of the perks of using a Windows managed server is that the business reaps all the benefits of the industry’s leading operating system and one of the top platform providers. Microsoft has an estimated 45 percent share of the server market to Linux's 21 percent, according to IDC. The latest Windows version – Windows Server 2012 – offers significant improvements to patching, disk management, file storage, protocol, active directory and virtualization, and is making a very strong case for itself for businesses that require a high level of scalability and support.

Truly understanding the hosting requirements of your business will go a long way in helping choose the right path.