Windows Or Linux – Which Operating System Should You Choose For VPS Hosting
When it comes to setting up a VPS for your hosting, one of the more important questions you’ll need to answer is which operating system to choose. On the surface, it seems a simple binary choice between Linux or Windows. However, it’s more nuanced than that, as Linux comes in the form of multiple distributions, each one being a slightly different take on how a Linux operating system should work. Which should you choose for your VPS?
Let’s start by looking at Microsoft’s Windows server. Microsoft has the lion’s share of the personal computer market in terms of operating systems, with Windows present on most computers sold. It’s also in use in most offices and schools, making it a very well-known operating system that most people are familiar with. The server versions of Windows are more of the same, so one of its big advantages over Linux for many people is that it has a very low learning curve to use and can be easily configured.
Despite its familiarity and popularity on the desktop, Windows is very much in the minority when it comes to hosting. While it is required if the site you need to run is coded in ASP, ASP.net, or you require the MSSQL database for web hosting needs, Linux can do the same tasks, and can generally do so with slightly lower system resource requirements. Windows also requires a monthly license fee which can make running a Windows server more expensive than Linux.
Linux, on the other hand, holds a minuscule percentage of the desktop operating system market while making up the lion’s share of the hosting market. Linux comes in a variety of distributions which can increase confusion for beginners. Linux itself refers to the kernel or core of the operating system which acts as the interface between software and hardware. A Linux distribution consists of the Linux kernel bundled with a selection of software to be used with it. The reason for the different distributions is that different groups of people have different goals when using a computer and one distribution may install Linux with a different pre-installed set of software than another. There are often differences in how the operating system is configured too. For example, the Ubuntu Linux distribution is based on the Debian Linux distribution. The Debian team prefers to use more stable tested software, whereas the Ubuntu team use more up-to-date software releases, although configuration-wise both distributions are very similar. CentOS, another popular Linux distribution, is similar to Debian in that it often uses older and more stable software releases, but uses a number of different pieces of software and can be quite different to configure.
One advantage that Linux distributions bring is that there’s often a wide range of software included with the distribution. Software is normally installed from repositories (a bit like an app store in concept) where the software is managed and maintained by members on the team behind the distribution to ensure that all the software works together properly. Software installed from the repositories will get security updates for the support lifetime of the Linux distribution but will not be upgraded to newer versions to ensure nothing should break, these updates can be installed automatically.
The downside to Linux is that configuring it is done at the text-based command line, which may feel vaguely familiar to anyone who started using computers before the mid-1990s. This can be quite a stumbling block to new users who are used to controlling everything on a graphical interface with a mouse, as the command line lacks the usual cues for learning how the software works by clicking through menus and options. On the plus side, the internet is full of guides and tutorials on the many tasks you may wish to carry out with your server. To make configuring a Linux server easier, a number of web-based control panels have been released, some are free while some require a monthly license fee.
Making the right choice
So which should you choose? If you want to use something that feels familiar with a minimal learning curve and if you aren’t put off by the license fee, then Windows will do the job for you. If you are on a tight budget and would rather put the license cost towards a more powerful server, then Linux with a control panel will be a great way to get started. If you aren’t put off by the interface and learning curve then Linux could get the job done for you.