When evaluating the operating system for your hosting needs, it is important to first understand the hosting packages typically available from most providers. Usually, site owners will choose between shared hosting, virtual private server hosting and dedicated physical server hosting. In shared hosting, multiple sites live on one physical server maintained by the hosting company. All sites' operations are coordinated by a site management application like Internet Information Services or Apache and all sites on a single server share that server's resources, including memory, bandwidth and processor. On the other hand, dedicated virtual private server and dedicated physical server hosting afford the site owner with their own server devoted just to them. The difference is that VPS hosting gives the client a server in a virtual environment while the other option rents an actual physical server to the site owner. Both options offer more flexibility and control with the client actually being given the right to access the server directly for administration. All three hosting packages have their own advantages, disadvantages and price points for site owners to evaluate. After the right-sized hosting option has been chosen, it's time to evaluate operating system options.
All three major hosting options come with the choice of server OS. Site owners can choose between Linux and Windows hosting servers. Linux has dominated the web server OS field thus far, with many more servers online running on the popular open source platform. While Windows is more familiar worldwide, Linux has an edge in reliability and uptime and also has lower server resource needs than Windows. While this is true, there are certainly cases where Windows server hosting is much more beneficial than hosting a web server on Linux.
Microsoft Applications: There are many platforms and applications that work better in Windows or simply don't work in Linux at all. This is the reason that many who choose Windows as the operating system for hosting servers do so. If a site owner needs technology like .Net Framework, Interdev, Active Server Pages (.ASP), MS-SQL or any of the various Windows development platforms, then choosing Windows server hosting is a must.
Familiarity with the Operating System: This benefit doesn't apply to shared hosting packages, but for dedicated physical server hosting or virtual private server hosting, it is crucial. In dedicated hosting offerings, the client has complete access to the server itself. With more IT administrators familiar with and proficient in Windows, it makes sense in a lot of cases to go with the OS that your IT staff is ready to work with as opposed to hiring a Linux expert or a consultant.
Possibility of better Security: Windows' dominance in the desktop realm makes it a target for cyber criminals. Why write viruses and malware for less-popular operating systems when a large target is available? This same logic may apply to the web server realm. Since Windows has less of the market share when it comes to servers on the Internet, Microsoft's OS may be more secure simply due to its smaller, less attractive attack surface. This combined with Microsoft's regular update and patching schedule may make it a better choice for security-minded site owners.
Technology: If you are determined to make use of Microsoft-specific development platforms or server-side applications, Windows hosting is the way to go.
Staffing: Have you chosen dedicated physical or virtual hosting and want your own staff to manage your server? If so, and you don't have a dedicated Linux guru, it might make better sense to go with Windows hosting to make use of your already knowledgeable Microsoft experts.
Security and support: Are you concerned about which web server OS hackers are trying to attack more often or you know you will rely on frequent, dependable updates from the manufacturer, you may want to give greater consideration to Windows server hosting.