When configuring your virtual private server, one of the most important decisions you’ll make involves your operating system. It’ll form the core of your server, regulating which apps you can install, how long it takes to tune everything, and even how well your server performs.. It goes without saying that it’s not a choice you should make lightly.
But maybe not for the reasons you’d think.
Windows Or Linux?
The first choice you’re going to have to make is whether you want to go with one of the Windows Server installations or one of the many Linux distros available on the web. As a general rule, the latter is the superior choice, as the Windows Server Software isn’t well-integrated with most open-source programming languages. It’s also more expensive and slightly more resource-intensive than many of the more lightweight Linux distros.
That said, there are certain situations in which you’ll still want to go with Windows. The Windows Server environment is extremely well-suited for ASP/ASP.NET development, and it’s ideal for any server operators who want to make use of an MS SQL database. Additionally, it’s a lot easier to manage a Windows server environment than it is most Linux distros, since it requires very little technical knowledge to utilize effectively.
Basically, you should choose Microsoft’s Windows Server Software under the following conditions:
- You need to make use of Microsoft-specific programs or applications.
- You’re developing in a language supported directly by Windows.
- You don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge where server operation is concerned or you aren’t experienced with Linux.
If none of those sound like they describe you, then you’re going to want Linux. At this point, I’ve a bit of bad news for you. Here’s where things get really complicated.
Which Linux Distro Works For You?
Being that it’s an open-source platform, there are scores upon scores of different Linux distributions available for you as a server operator. Unfortunately, that can make it a little difficult to select one for your server – and you’re liable to get a different answer from every person if you ask around about which one is ‘the best.’ That said, there are five distros that currently lead the pack: CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
If you’re still something of a novice with Linux, then you’ll likely want to select Ubuntu or CentOS. Each one is incredibly powerful in its own right, and both are extremely intuitive, meaning they’ll be easily picked up by first-timers. If you’re a bit more confident, then Fedora, Debian, or Red Hat are all ideal choices, as well – Debian in particular is great for a minimal installation.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to use any of the above. You could really use any Linux distro to run your VPS. You do, however, need to consider the following questions:
- How much support do you need?
- How stable does your distribution need to be?
- What’s your budget look like? Can you afford to shell out for a distro with enterprise
- support like RHEL, or will you just go with open-source?
- Will all the apps you need to run work in every distribution?
Once you’ve taken all that into account, the choice is yours.
Go With What You Know
So, now that we’ve got all that out of the way, I’m going to hit you with something a little shocking…
Ultimately, unless you’ve desperate need of certain platform-specific apps, none of this really matters all that much. Every OS has its strengths, quirks, and faults – and there isn’t a single one that’s inherently superior to the others. As such, the best thing you can do here is to stick with what you know; use what you’re comfortable with, and you should do just fine.