Most medium and small business websites are hosted on the Linux operating system. Linux is a (usually) free platform comprised of open source software — including the Linux kernel and GNU tools — created by thousands of development projects over many years. In the modern web hosting world, building hosting plans on a Linux distribution like CentOS is almost the default choice.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options, including Microsoft Windows. Windows is better known as a desktop operating system, but Microsoft also develops an excellent suite of tools that include a server version of their operating system and a web server.
Before discussing why you might want to choose Windows as the operating system on you server hosting plan, I want to address some reasons why you shouldn’t. Or rather, I’d like to consider some misconceptions that might make you think you need Windows when you don’t.
If you’re worried about application compatibility, you probably needn’t be — although there are exceptions we’ll discuss later. Most of the standard tools and applications used to build and serve web applications and websites work perfectly well on Linux. In fact, most of them were created for Linux in the first place. If you need standard web technologies, including a LAMP stack or its variants, Linux is just fine.
You don’t need to choose Windows for your hosting plan simply because you use it on your desktop machine either. A web server has no need to run the same software as your PC — and there are tools made for your PC and Mac that will allow you to control a Linux-based server without any problems.
So, when should you opt for Windows-based hosting?
It’s What You Know
If Windows and its associated server applications and ecosystem are what you prefer and are familiar with, then Windows is a good choice for a server operating system. Linux distributions can be difficult to get to grips with, and if you’re already an expert on the Windows platform, then Windows is the clear winner.
To clarify, I don’t mean that you should choose Windows Server because you are used to Windows on the desktop. I mean familiarity with specific Windows Server tools like IIS or MSSQL. There are alternatives to both of these tools in Linux, but if the Microsoft tools are your preferred option, then Windows Server is a good choice.
You Need Applications That Will Only Run On Windows
There are some tools that will only run on the Windows platform. If you need ASP, ASP.NET, MSSQL, MS ACCESS, or Visual Basic development tools, Windows Server is probably still your best option — although many of these tools are becoming available on other platforms as Microsoft moves towards a more open software publishing model.
If you want to use a Microsoft Windows based server, take a look at Windows Server 2012 Virtual Private Server or Dedicated Server hosting plans.