Linux vs Windows: What is the Best Server OS for Web Servers?

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Linux and Windows Server OS are the two most popular server operating systems. When you get a new dedicated server, you’ll likely get to choose between the two. Because of their popularity, sysadmins and users often debate which one is the best OS for a server. 

For starters, Windows Server OS is typically used by server administrators working with Microsoft services. Linux OS and its various distributions, on the other hand, are commonly used in most web server hosting solutions.

But which server OS is best for you? Read on to find out 5 key differences between Linux and Windows OS, and decide which option is the best OS for a server you manage or use to host your business applications. 

Key Takeaways

  • An OS helps you run any application on your personal computer, whereas a server OS is used for controlling all backend operations on a server.
  • The things you need to consider when choosing between Linux and Windows for your server are:
    1. Server Control
    2. Performance
    3. Security
    4. Updates
    5.  Price

Basics of Operating Systems for Web Servers

Operating Systems for Web Servers

Web servers use an operating system to control all backend operations on the server. The OS serves as a tool for the hardware and software to communicate and allows the user to control the hardware using the software.

The operating system of a web server looks different from the one on your personal computer. Personal computers typically run on Windows, macOS, or Linux OS. With the help of these OS, you can run any application on your personal computer.

On the other hand, Windows Server OS and Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOS are designed for web servers and aim to provide service to multiple devices in a network, instead of just one local user.

If you have a dedicated web server, you can choose which operating system you’d like to use on your server in the same way that you can choose the OS on your personal computer. That’s because you are the only user hosting on the dedicated server, so you get to choose what’s installed on it.

If you have shared hosting, however, you will be limited to using the OS the hosting provider has installed. This is a serious disadvantage of using shared hosting for your projects. Since you’re not in control, you might find that the OS and the available server resources are not adequate for your project. Typically, shared servers have Linux installed as their operating system.

Why is the Server OS Important?

A server OS internally manages the resources of a computer system and is in charge of allocating the I/O devices, memory, CPU, and storage resources to specific programs as requested by the users.

The OS enables users to use a server via a graphical interface. Consider the server OS as a sort of a translator between the requirements of the users and the internal workings of the system software and hardware.

Having the right server OS in place is crucial because it will allocate your server’s computing resources most efficiently. You need to make sure that you opt for the best OS for a server because you need effective management of system resources. 

For example, compared to Windows OS, Linux doesn’t use many resources for running system apps. So, if hardware stability is important to you, the obvious choice would be Linux.

On the other hand, the number of system apps you can use depends on the OS you choose. If you need a broad range of pre-installed applications, you should choose Windows, as Linux OS has a limited range of pre-installed software. 

As you can see, choosing the best OS for a server really depends on what you plan to host on the server and the software ecosystem you use. These are critical questions you need to answer when you’re choosing a server OS.

Linux vs Windows: An Introduction

Let’s start with a brief overview of the two options.

Linux 

Linux is an open source, lightweight OS that doesn’t need many resources for running system applications (as compared to Windows). So if you want hardware stability, the best server OS would be Linux. 

Another great reason why Linux is popular as a server OS is the price you pay to use the OS. Many Linux distributions are free to use, and you get support, security, and great performance. 

The limitations with Linux servers are steep(er) learning curve and compatibility issues with third-party software that you might use for your business operations. 

Windows

Microsoft Windows servers have been around for a long time now, with Windows Server 2022 the most popular Windows Server version. The best thing about Windows Server is that it provides a friendly graphical user interface, drivers support and compatibility with a large number of software. However, it is not open source and you need to pay license fees for continued usage. 

Linux vs Windows : Five Key Differences

Finding out the best OS for a server requires careful consideration of several important factors.

For instance, you need to determine who will manage your server, what level of performance the hosted services need, how important security is to you, whether you rely on regular updates, and what is the web hosting price you are willing to pay.

Let’s take a closer look at the five key differences you need to consider when choosing which operating system is best for your server.

#1. Server Management

When choosing an operating system for your web server, it’s important to think about who will be responsible for managing the server. If you are your server’s sole manager or if you have an IT team that will take care of it, you should choose the OS you are most experienced with.

If you haven’t used a server OS before, you will need to go through a learning curve. However, if you have previously used Windows Server or Linux OS, it’s better to stick with the same OS and avoid the hassle of learning how to manage a server with a new OS.

The easiest solution is to get a managed server and have the engineers from the hosting provider manage your web hosting solution. That way, the server OS won’t be a critical factor in your business operations. 

#2. Performance

While the performance of your server mainly depends on its hardware specifications, the operating system also plays an important role in server performance. 

When choosing the best OS for a server, performance wise, you need to understand that there is an evident difference between the performance of servers that use Windows and Linux OS.

Linux is a lightweight and open-source OS that takes fewer resources for running system services. As a result, it can run on servers with low server resources and give you better performance for your hosted services.

If getting the best performance from your web server is crucial to your hosted applications, the best server operating system for you is Linux.

#3. Security

Security is a very important factor when it comes to choosing the best OS for a server. While both Windows Server and Linux OS are highly secure, they are still different in a way that is frequently overlooked.

As an open-source OS, any developer can contribute to Linux. Ever since Linux was created, it has attracted many developers with its open-source software philosophy, and they are now devoted to maintaining the operating system.

What this means for end users is that software bugs and security flaws are discovered and patched quickly, thanks to the large community of developers standing behind Linux.

Therefore, if there is any new security flaw, Linux OS is often the first to patch it. This ensures better overall security.

#4. Updates

Continuing on the previous point, regular updates are another benefit of having a community of developers behind Linux OS.

Bugs in Linux OS can be fixed with a software update quickly after they are discovered. Linux OS is frequently updated, which leads to a better user experience.

On the other hand, Windows isn’t open-source and Microsoft takes longer to push out Windows updates. That’s because, unlike Linux OS, only Microsoft employees work on fixing them.

#5. Price

This point is pretty simple to decide on. Linux is a free operating system, whereas you need to buy a license to use Windows Server OS.

Now, if you need the features that Windows OS comes with, you will not mind paying the price for an OS license. However, if you’re simply looking to get a budget-friendly hosting alternative, you can go with Linux OS to save some money.

Both server operating systems will perform the same activities, so price is often an important factor in deciding the best OS for a server. 

Pros and Cons of Linux and Windows

To help you spot the differences between Linux and Windows, we’ve compared the pros and cons of both systems, which you can see below:

Pros Cons
Linux
  • Free
  • Very stable
  • Open source
  • Numerous configuration possibilities
  • Limited range of software
  • Can be hard to use for those with little IT knowledge
Windows
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Great driver support
  • Huge range of software
  • Not open source
  • License fees
  • Can be a bit complex to work with
  • Frequently targeted by malware

Linux or Windows OS: Which One is Better for You?

Now that you know the key differences between Linux and Windows Server OS, it’s time to choose an operating system for your server.

If you have an IT team experienced with Windows Server OS and if your organization relies on Microsoft’s services, Windows is a no-brainer choice for you. You will need to pay for a Windows license and you will have to slightly compromise on server performance, but it will ultimately be worth it for you.

Linux is the most used server OS in the hosting world. It comes free of charge and delivers top-notch performance. The community of developers working with Linux will patch security issues quickly and you will enjoy regular software updates. Overall, it’s the better choice for most people starting with web hosting.

Tips to Choose the Best Server OS For You

The most important factors to consider when choosing a server OS are:

  • Scalability
  • Stability
  • Your budget
  • Storage capacity support
  • Processor support
  • Applications included
  • Administrative tools

Besides these factors, when choosing a server OS, you need to consider how user-friendly it is. You need to check how equipped it is with applications and whether it will satisfy your computing needs without you having to install third-party software. Most importantly, you’ll want your OS to have an interface that everyone at your company can understand.

You also need to go over the server’s security protocol as you don’t want to be a victim of cyber attacks and viruses. That’s why you should consider choosing a dedicated server that has enhanced protection.

Lastly, it all boils down to your specific needs and the purpose of use of your server OS. For example, if you own a one-page website versus a large ecommerce site, you would need two different options. 

RedSwitches Bare Metal Servers With Linux or Windows OS

Whether you’re looking for a Linux or Windows dedicated server for your business, RedSwitches has got your back! 

We offer numerous hosting plans and customized solutions to fit all your needs, and most importantly, premium servers, which we’ll be more than happy to set up and configure for you.

Contact us today and start hosting your web services on affordable dedicated servers running your preferred server OS.

Conclusion

Whenever you set up a server, you’ll have to face the question of choosing the best server OS that meets your requirements. As always, the decision is between Windows vs Linux. If cost is not an issue, you might want to consider Windows server OS, particularly when you’re already invested in other Microsoft services and products.
Linux, particularly CentOS 7 is a solid well-rounded Server OS option that allows you to take advantage of the many open source software for your business.

Let us know which is your favorite server OS and why. Contact us today and start hosting your web services on affordable dedicated servers running your preferred server OS.

Best Server OS FAQ

#1. What is the best OS for a server?

Windows and Linux are considered to be highly secure and two of the best operating systems for a server. However, the right OS for your server depends upon your requirements and how you want to use your server. 

#2. What is the best Linux server OS?

Here at RedSwitches, we prefer CentOS and Ubuntu. Both these distros are great for server management, offer a great UX, and solid security. 

#3. Is Linux or Windows Server OS better?

Windows servers offer more range and support than Linux servers, which is why it’s perfect for businesses that already use Microsoft products. Linux, on the other hand, is great for startups and enterprises that use open source products and services and require more customization for their business requirements. Here’re a couple of differences between the two OS

Windows  Linux
Standard  versions       Variety of distributions
Requires paid license       Free of cost and open source
Easy to use and user friendly interface       Requires extensive knowledge
Security is an ongoing challenge       Better security, thanks to community support. 

 

#4. What Are the Basic Features of an Operating System?

  • Device management
  • Processor management
  • File management
  • Memory management
  • I/O management
  • Security management