Choosing Between Unix and Windows Web Hosting

Unix or Windows Web Hosting - How To Choose The Best Option For Your Website

When you're checking out the various offerings from web hosting companies, you'll see that some offer Unix web hosting and others offer Windows web hosting. Sometimes you can even choose either one from the same host. So which one is better and why would you choose one or the other?

The first thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't matter what operating system you're using to create your website, on your own computer. The actual code that makes up your web pages is the same whether the server is running Windows or Unix. The differences are more "behind the scenes."

Unix web hosts have a slight advantage in terms of reliability. They are extremely stable and will often run for months or even years without having to be restarted. Windows web hosts are still reliable, but a little less so than Unix.

Most web hosts use one of a number of "flavors" of Unix such as Linux and FreeBSD. These operating systems are free and help them keep their costs down. Windows server software costs thousands of dollars, so you might find Windows hosting is more expensive than Unix.

Not only are most of the Unix operating systems free, many of them are open source. This means that anyone has access to the full source code and are free to make any changes they want.

There are large numbers of people who spend a lot of their time working on bug fixes and improvements for Unix.

Windows, on the other hand, is owned by Microsoft and the software is proprietary. This means web hosts have to rely on Microsoft for bug fixes and improvements - there's no way for just anyone to make changes to the code.

So What Are the Real Differences?

The biggest difference between the two operating systems is in the software they can run. Windows servers will run Windows-based products like Microsoft Access databases, and ASP and VBScript scripting languages.

Unix isn't compatible with these products so if ASP, Access databases or VBScript are some of your requirements, you'll need to choose a Windows host.

Unix uses software like PHP and Perl for scripting and MySQL or PostgreSQL databases. These features are often available on Windows hosts as well, but the support is not always 100% compatible with Unix.

If you want to host audio or video in Windows media format, you'll need to run a Windows server. Other formats like MP3, Flash and Shockwave can be handled by either platform.

If you use Microsoft Frontpage to create your sites, you can actually host them on either Unix or Windows. Microsoft has made a Unix extension to support Frontpage.

So Which One Is Right For You?

Before you decide on which operating system to use, you should consider what features you need. Will you be using a scripting language? Are you going to provide streaming audio or video?

If you'll be using Microsoft databases, scripting or media formats you should choose a Windows web host. If these aren't requirements for you, you're probably better off choosing a Unix web host. This will give you more choices, a little better reliability and often cheaper hosting options.