To understand what Linux virtual private server hosting is and what its benefits are to you, it is first important to comprehend the overall picture of web hosting, the products available and how they compare. This will allow you to see virtual private server hosting's role in the scheme of things. Web hosting companies offer a wide range of hosting solutions, but all of them typically fall into one of three categories. These categories are shared web hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting and dedicated physical server hosting. Shared web hosting, the least expensive hosting option, features multiple web sites hosted on a single server running a web app like Apache Tomcat or Internet Information Services. These sites all share the same server resources and bandwidth. The opposite of this is the most expensive option, dedicated server hosting. With dedicated hosting, a client actually rents their own physical server from the hosting company. This server is dedicated solely to the client and hosts their site.
In between these options is VPS hosting. In VPS hosting, dedicated virtual servers are hosted in a virtualization environment, typically with Vmware. These virtual servers are functionally no different from physical servers, but the cost of hardware is eliminated. This means virtual private server hosting grants clients all the benefits of dedicated physical server hosting without the higher prices associated with renting a dedicated physical web server.
When a company purchases a hosting plan, they typically have the option of choosing the operating system of the server where their site will be hosted. This is even true of shared hosting, where hosting companies have a variety of shared hosting servers with some running Windows and others relying on Linux as their operating system. The choice of operating system is especially crucial in the virtual or physical dedicated hosting solutions. This is because companies that use this type of hosting will have full access to the server at the operating system level, so they will have the ability to administer the OS and applications. This is not the case with shared hosting, where clients only administer their own sites while the underlying hardware and software is maintained by the hosting company. Windows and Linux hosting platforms both have their own pros and cons, but Linux hosting is usually the preferred choice due to its renowned stability and the many other advantages it has over Windows at the operating system level.
Stability: It can't be stressed enough how stable an operating system Linux is. Windows has certainly gotten better, but it still usually needs a weekly reboot to free up memory and start things fresh. Linux, on the other hand, might need a reboot once per year, if that.
Uptime: This goes along with stability. Again, Windows keeps getting better at this, but it still crashes from time to time. Linux rarely crashes and, as already mentioned, rarely needs to be restarted. This means sites hosted on a Linux virtual private server experience far fewer outages than those hosted by a Windows server.
Performance: Linux is a very lightweight, bare bones operating system. This means that, unlike with Windows, not a lot of system resources are being occupied solely by the operating system. This allows Linux to allocate more resources to sites and applications, increasing site performance.
Price: Linux distributions are typically free and even Red Hat, the most widely-used enterprise-level Linux distro costs far less than a copy of Windows. Linux also requires less frequent administration and maintenance, saving on IT staff manpower costs.
Need for uptime and performance: If you have a busy site that receives a lot of traffic and simply cannot go down, Linux is the answer.
Budget: This is where one of the cases where the higher-quality solution actually costs less.
Not running Windows apps: Unless you're running ASP or Frontpage, you'll be fine.
Comfortable with Linux: This is the choice for you if you or your staff have experience with Linux or a desire to learn. If not, you'll still benefit, as most hosting companies can offer admin and technical services for a fee.