Comparing Windows Hosting To UNIX

When looking through what various web hosting companies offer you will be sure to notice that some tend to offer UNIX hosting whereas some others offer Windows. Some hosts even offer the choice of the two operating systems. The question you might therefore ask yourself is what is the difference and which one is better?

Firstly, when you decide to choose a host, the kind of operating system you develop your web site on or what you use on your own computer is irrelevant. Web sites hosted on both UNIX and Windows servers are universally accessible due to the fact that the data they serve is identical. The difference lies only in the software used to serve that data.

As far as reliability goes, UNIX systems have a slight advantage. They are known to be extremely stable and are able to run for years without needing to reboot. Though Windows is also very much reliable – it is slightly less so than UNIX. Windows is however still able to handle most modern web sites’ demands.

Most web hosts make use of various kinds of UNIX such as Linux and FreeBSD. These operating systems are all free and therefore reduce the costs of a hosting operation. On the other hand, Windows costs thousands of dollars so some hosts will charge extra for Windows accounts if they offer you both types.

As well as being free of charge, Linux and the other UNIX varieties are also open-source software. This means that anyone can alter the source code and make improvements, updates, and additions. There is a large amount of dedicated enthusiasts who use their free time to work on this software. Windows, however, is Microsoft proprietary software so users will be dependent on Microsoft to release updates, and users cannot modify the code.

So the biggest difference between the two types of operating systems is the type of software each can run. Windows is most adapted for Microsoft products such as MS Access databases, ASP for delivering dynamic content, and VBScript for site enhancements. UNIX however cannot accommodate these technologies, so if you absolutely need ASP or VBScript you must choose a Windows host. UNIX hosts deliver dynamic content by using software such as PHP, CGI, and MySQL – technologies which are also available on Windows hosts.

Windows will obviously be more necessary for hosting Windows media files such as videos and audio. Other types of media such as MP3, Flash, Shockwave and Real can be handled by either UNIX or Windows. Websites created in Microsoft FrontPage (a graphical HTML development package) can also be hosted on both UNIX and Microsoft, just as long as MS databases or dynamic content aren’t included for use on a UNIX host.

Which is Better?

Before deciding which type of hosting you should use for your website, do consider carefully what kind of technologies you will require. Will you be needing a very dynamic site? Will you have any multimedia content such as streaming video or audio?

UNIX as well as Windows can give dynamic content with PHP, MySQL, as well as CGI, and there are thousands of dynamic scripts readily available. Multimedia can also be hosted by both types of server, although Windows media (WMA and WMV) might need to be hosted on a Windows server.

If you really think you might need Microsoft databases, ASP, and Windows media you will have to go with a Windows host. Otherwise all other websites are probably better off choosing a host such as UNIX. The benefits of UNIX over Windows include greater choices in web hosts, slightly more efficient reliability, and (sometimes) less costly hosting costs.


James Reid is contributing editor at This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.

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