Linux vs Windows

Linux vs Windows: no contest?

It’s hardly a new debate, but the arguments in favour of either a Linux or Windows operating system are as relevant as ever. While Windows dominates the desktop, Linux is generally preferred in the data centre, though Windows has a strong presence there too. We already looked at the choice of the latest Linux and Windows operating systems available on our CloudNX platform, but the process of actually selecting one deserves a special focus.

Ultimately, it’s not a case of Linux or Windows being better than the other outright, because both offer a range of solutions for various user needs. Of course, Linux does have one obvious advantage: most distributions are available for free. But if you’re already spending money on server hosting, it makes sense to pay a little extra if your applications will benefit from Windows features.

When it comes to a new server, your choice of OS will most likely come down to the key factors of functionality and usability.

Functionality

For many businesses, web agencies and developers, the choice of operating system is largely decided by the applications they need to run. Obviously, business-critical systems take priority over everything else, so if you need to run software that only works with either Windows or Linux, your mind is made up for you. Microsoft SQL and SharePoint will only function on Windows, for instance.

But because a lot of popular software is compatible across both operating systems, it’s not always that simple. Often you’ll need to look at the different levels of functionality provided by Linux and Windows to find the optimum solution.

What programming language is your preferred software based on? This question is a great place to start. Even with developers trying to build cross-OS solutions, they’ll almost always be designing more from the perspective of one particular platform. For example, PHP can be used on either OS, but generally performs better in a Linux environment. Likewise, Linux is usually the preferred choice for users of Perl, Python and Ruby. Other applications will also tend towards Linux or Windows, such as MySQL (Linux) and ASP.NET (Windows).

Usability

Whoever said ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ wasn’t talking about operating systems, mainly because they hadn’t been invented, but also because people love to get comfortable with a particular piece of software. You’ll probably have a preference for a specific version of either Windows or Linux that you’re already familiar with – and if that OS also provides your required functionality, it could be a done deal.

Users who have only ever known a Windows OS, for example, may forgo a jump to Linux unless absolutely necessary. The time and effort required to learn an unfamiliar operating system is understandably a deciding factor, especially when you’re happy with the feature set of your tried and tested OS.

Windows and Linux typically offer several options for controlling your server which might also influence your choice. Dedicated servers from Fasthosts allow you to use remote desktop to control every aspect of your Windows server, with client software available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. With our Linux servers, you can use SSH to get direct command line login from your PC. A remote desktop is also possible with Linux via SSH tunnelling.

In the end, your choice of operating system essentially comes down to what you need to do with your server, and how you’re most comfortable doing it. At Fasthosts, we offer a range of the latest Windows versions and Linux distributions, both on our powerful dedicated servers and our highly flexible CloudNX server platform. If you’re still not sure which server OS is right for you, why not get in touch with our experts to find out more?

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