In choosing a server operating system, Windows comes with many features you pay for. Linux is open source and puts users in the driver’s seat for free.

Let’s consider the server as the software to handle the tasks of the hardware. The hardware can range from a single host-computer connected to an internal network, to a high-tech array of external hardware services on the cloud.

Which system you use—Windows vs. Linux—to power your server, depends on your business needs, your IT expertise, and the software you want to load. It could also determine the type of provider you want to work with.

businessman selecting a server operating system

Advantages of Windows Server OS

The Windows server package, professionally designed by Microsoft to make a profit, has some compelling advantages. Pay for your service and receive better support than open-sourced Linux, which is more or less community developed and supported. Windows customer support, as expected is through Microsoft and their resellers.

Your Windows applications (Outlook, Office, etc.) will integrate with Windows servers straight away. If you use Windows software and services, it makes sense to run them on a native platform.

If you are running a database backend based on Microsoft SQL, it will not run on a Linux server, unless you install a Windows emulator. To do this, you must purchase a copy of Windows and the database software separately.

Windows server is often considered a complete solution that is quick and easy setup. If you want remote desktop access with an intuitive graphical user interface, Windows offers this without command-line programming which is required by Linux.

Does your business require scripting frameworks like ASP and ASP.Net? An ASP, or Active Server Page, is a web page that includes small embedded programs—i.e., scripts. The scripts and web pages you develop from those programs will run only on a Windows server. The Microsoft server processes these scripts before the page loads for a user. This is not possible with Linux.

sign on brick wall that says linux

Benefits of Linux servers over Windows

Linux is an open-source operating system (OS) and IT infrastructure platform allowing distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS. Its source code is available for coders to change and update the way the software functions. Users can go to the source to edit features or fix bugs.

Linux, because it is open-source, is free. The web host only needs to pay for technical support to install and maintain the program (if required). Business Server providers do not need to pass along additional costs to the customer. On the other hand, with Windows servers, the company typically must pay for the operating system and a periodic use license.

Linux has instant compatibility with other open-source software products and provides a quick interface with seamless adoption. Linux users can run Windows programs, but they must buy interface software and pay for Windows licensing. That comes in handy when you have legacy applications that must run on a Windows emulator.

Linux servers and the applications they run generally use fewer computer resources as they are designed to run lean. A bonus is that programmers can modify Linux servers and software “on the fly” and without rebooting, something that is not possible in a Windows environment. Microsoft Windows servers tend to slow down under multi-database tasking, with a higher risk of crashing.

Linux is more secure than Windows.

While no system is immune to hacking and malware attacks, Linux tends to be a low-profile target. Because Windows runs the majority of the software in the world, hackers head for the low-hanging fruit—Windows.

Windows vs Linux Server: Head to Head

Now that we have given equal time to both Windows and Linux, let’s make three final head-to head-comparisons:

1. The learning curve to install and manage a Linux server is steep. Windows users don’t need to be a programming expert to customize the server.

2. Linux is a better choice for web developers who can configure an open-source Apache or NGINX server. Likewise, developers working with a MySQL database know that Perl, PHY, or Python development tools are long-time favorites, with broader online community support.

3. A Windows server package includes technical support, along with regular system upgrades and security fixes. Linux technology has proceeded at a slower rate of change. It is a trimmed down system. You don’t have to upgrade for features you may not need continually. You can add those features to Linux yourself.

racks of servers with various operating systems

Linux & Windows Server Costs

On a Windows configuration, expect to pay more to get the exact features you need. For example, a managed Sharepoint site or an Exchange server can take you beyond the features offered by the average Windows-based servers. Ask whether they are available and see if you can get help in configuring them.

Again, be aware that your existing database software will only work on a MySQL server. Also, if remote computing is in your future, you also need to ask about remote desktop access.

If you are in the Linux camp, you’ll need a host that eases your access to common Linux tools such as PHP and MySQL. Look for advanced features, like the ability to use time-scheduling jobs.

Making the Server OS Decision

When you make your decision to either go with Windows or Linux, you will want to find a reliable and experienced provider to help with installation. Consider the following factors in your final decision:

  • Do you need 24-hour, quick response support, and is your eCommerce site mission critical?  Windows support comes with the product. Linux responses might not be so fast.
  • Can you get by with shared hosting solutions or do you need the benefits of a dedicated server? The latter is more expensive, yet more secure. The former is cheaper, yet less secure; you share bandwidth and resources with other customers on the host’s system.
  • What are your plans for future growth? Automatic scaling to allow your secure data storage and bandwidth to grow as your business grows is something that needs to be part of the service.
  • What is your level of interest in cloud computing? Is it important to go all in, or go for a hybrid solution to keep your data closer?

Learn more about Linux ransomware attacks, what are the most famous ones and what you can do to protect your system.

Summary: Linux Server vs Windows Server Comparison

Deciding between Windows and Linux requires an understanding of the pro’s and con’s of each system, as well as how they fit into your hosting needs.

You can work across platforms with Windows and Linux. Be aware that the convenience comes at a cost. You must pay for the software and application licenses if you need to run Windows on Linux.

If you choose Windows, and you get a simple installation and configuration, as well as excellent support. If you go with Linux, you are working with an open-source OS with a community support network—without the higher costs.

Once you have decided between Windows and Linux, look for a provider who can accommodate your needs, based on your companies business model and needs.