One key choice among the many options web hosting companies offer their clients is the selection of which operating system to use for hosting. The OS of the server that will be hosting the client's web site is important for a number of reasons. The operating system has an effect on server uptime and reliability, hosting price, the amount of administration the client has to put into the site and server, the applications that can be used on the site and much more. This choice is particularly important when it comes to choosing a dedicated hosting solution where the client actually bears the responsibility of daily server maintenance and management. The typical choice that hosting clients are given for their server operating system is Linux hosting vs Windows hosting.
Linux and Windows have their own pros and cons that make each qualify as the best choice depending on a given situation. It really comes down to how comfortable the client is with the operating system, which applications will be run on the web server, the client's system for server maintenance, performance and uptime expectations, security and update concerns and budget. Choosing Linux hosting vs Windows hosting is certainly not an easy choice. Here are some guidelines describing which situations call for Linux and which qualify for Windows instead.
You're on a budget: Linux licensing costs far less than Windows licensing and it's actually free in some cases. This is especially true considering the different flavors of Windows server, client licenses, support fees and Windows server-specific applications. Linux also requires less maintenance, saving on technician man hours.
You expect high traffic: If your site attracts lot of visitors, Linux may be a better option. As an operating system, Linux uses a lot less in the way of server resources than Windows does. This means that more resources can be dedicated to your sites applications, processing and serving pages to site visitors.
You have increased uptime needs: Some web sites just need to stay online as often as possible. Some examples are banking, ecommerce and government web sites. Linux experiences memory leaks, resource issues and other problems that lead to OS crashes much less often than Windows. Linux also doesn't need regular reboots to "freshen things up" like Windows does. Linux's lack of crashing and need for reboots means sites hosted on Linux will stay up longer.
You're managing your own server and don't have Linux expertise: With the dedicated physical and virtual server options, clients are given the ability to manage their own servers. They have full access to applications, development platforms and anything else they need. Your IT department is more likely to have qualified Windows admins than it is to have a Linux expert on staff. If you don't want to hire an extra person just to manage a Linux server and also don't want to pay extra for consultants, it's a good idea to stick to Windows.
You have applications that only run on Windows: FrontPage, Interdev, .ASP, .NET Framework and MS SQL are just some of the many applications and platforms that may be used on a web server that either work better in Windows or don't work in Linux at all. If you know your site is going to use any of these, it's a good idea to look into Linux compatibility or just go with Windows hosting.
You're concerned about operating system support: Microsoft has a reputation, occasionally deserved, for being buggy and patch prone. This is exaggerated a bit, but Microsoft realizes this and has a strong infrastructure in place for updating and patching their operating systems and other products. Compare Microsoft's regular release schedule with the uncertain support options for some flavors or Linux and it's easy to see why anyone concerned over the stability of their web server OS may choose Windows.