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Linux VS Windows - What is the right operating system for your server?

When you are purchasing a dedicated server, it is important to know if you require a Windows or Linux operating system to be installed. Typically you have the option to choose between using an edition of Windows Server or Linux distribution. It is very important to choose the correct operating system for your dedicated server as Windows and Linux can be used to run different applications. If you choose the incorrect operating system you will need to contact your hosting provider to have the new operating system installed on your server, and you will typically incur fees for this change. You will save both time and money if you are able to determine the correct operating system before you sign up your dedicated server.

Do I need Windows installed?
You will require Windows to be installed if your development team has created your websites or applications with ASP or ASP.NET scripting, which utilize Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL (MSSQL) databases. A Windows operating system can also be used to develop and test PHP and MySQL database websites and applications but is more frequently used for ASP development. Having a dedicated server with a Windows operating system does provide your developers with a broad range of scripting options, such as PHP and MySQL, which they will not find in a Linux environment. As far as server management, some clients find it easier to manage a Windows based dedicated server as you have access to the server using Remote Desktop, which is a graphical interface used to connect your computer to the server.

Windows System Requirements
It is very important to check the system requirements of the Windows operating system before choosing your dedicated server as you need to make sure those requirements are met. There will be licensing fees involved with the installation of a Windows operating system; therefore, speak with your service provider for additional details of what the costs will be for the particular version you require. Here is an example using different versions of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Version Foundation Standard Enterprise
CPU 2GHz 2GHz 2GHz
RAM 8GB max 32GB max 2TB max
Disk Space 10GB 32GB 32GB

Do I need Linux installed?
Linux is an open source software, meaning there are no licensing fees for using the software, unlike Windows licensing. You should choose a Linux operating system if your websites or applications have been developed using PHP and MySQL. There are also a number of versions of Linux( known as distributions) that are available, which include Ubuntu and Debian. You should consult your development team as they will probably have a preference of which Linux distribution to use. We find that a majority of our clients choose to use Linux as there are a number of benefits over Windows.

  • Linux uses less server resources than Windows, allowing you to save some money on your server
  • The performance of PHP and MySQL increases helping to increase the speed and reliability of your website or application
  • Linux allows for SSH (Secure Shell) access which some feel is superior to Windows Remote Desktop

Linux System Requirements
The system requirements for Linux are much less than with Windows. Again, it is very important to check the software requirements to ensure you are purchasing enough resources for your server.

Distribution CentOS Ubuntu Debian
CPU 1GHz 1GHz 1GHz
RAM 512MB 512MB 512MB
Disk Space 5GB 5GB 5GB

In conclusion, it can not be stressed enough how important it is to consult with your development and technical teams on which operating system you need installed on your server. While both offer the same level of security there are distinct differences between the two that need to be considered. Your hosting provider will be able to offer some guidance but ultimately it is up to you to educate yourself on the software and programming that will be used to create your websites or applications.