Windows or Unix/Linux Which is Best Choice For Your WEbSite?
One thing is sure, the web is continually evolving and what may have been right yesterday or last month may be entirely different today. That said, one of the mysteries that seem to continue is which is the best platform to host your website, a Windows-based server, or one a Unix machine running the Apache server?
The machines of choice in your home or office will likely be a PC that runs Windows or one created by Apple, a MAC for short. Some have the mistaken, though logical thought that if they’re running a Windows PC, they need a Windows, web host? That isn’t the case, though it’s understandable you might think so. And, before we delve into the meat of this article let me say that I have never heard of or used a Mac server.
The files you create on your local machine, be it on Window or Mac, are independent of what runs on a web server. It’s possible you or your designer may use a program such as Adobe Dreamweaver to create your site, but that is a cross-platform program that runs on both Windows and Mac and the files you upload to your server, text, graphics and other assorted data, will not care on what platform they were created.
Windows, however, does have some proprietary programs that run best under the Windows environment, such as ASP.NET, Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Server. If your website requires those elements, then a Windows server may be your best choice.
NOTE: While it is possible to run Windows-based programs on a Unix server, configurations are different, and the outcome is often not what you expect. Conversely, while WordPress runs best on a Unix machine and Apache server, it can be configured to run on a Windows server, but again, configurations must be changed, and the outcome often is not what you’d expect.
The new web designer or webmaster is confronted with a wide variety of choices, and unless they experience them, it’s no wonder they have a question about which is the best platform for their website. When you’re checking the web and see packages offering Linux operating system, FreeBSD, or Windows, how do you know what is best?
Which operating system you are using on your local machine does not necessarily determine which type of web host you need, they are two separate entities. In this article, I’ll break down the components so you’ll have a better understanding of how the process works.
More Compatible or Less Compatible?
There has been a misconception among new webmasters and web designers, that being, if they compose on a particular system, ie., Windows, then the web server should match. This isn’t the case and a needless concern. Programs that run on a web server are written differently than those that run on your local machine. This is true whether you’re running Mac or Windows.
Another misconception is thinking that if you work on a Windows machine and are familiar with the interface, it would make sense then to host your site on a Windows server. That isn’t the case however, even if you choose a Windows server, there won’t be a familiar desktop or start-menu, things will look completely different.
Whether you choose a Linux or Windows servers, you’ll still need to upload files either from your web editor, ie. Adobe Dreamweaver, via FTP, or via a browser interface. It may sound foreign, but it will quickly become second nature once you’ve done it a few times.
Deciding on whether to choose a Windows or Unix/Linux based server has little to do with your local machine, instead what is the intent and needs of your completed website.
If your website requires ASP, .NET or Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Server, then choosing a Windows server makes good sense and you’ll find the integration much more seamless than trying to patch code on a Unix machine. The adage of, the job is easy with the right tool, hold weight here, use Windows if you require Windows technology to operate your site, for instance, do you need to directly interface with Microsoft Access? If you do, then by all means, choose a Windows server.
If the above paragraph makes little or no sense, then it’s highly likely you don’t need a Windows server and Unix, which is the established and most widely used type of server, would be the better option.
What About PHP and WordPress?
I’ve not wanted this article to be too technical or filled with undecipherable web jargon, so apologies if any of this is confusing at first glance.
It’s very likely that you’ll already know whether or not a Windows server is your best choice, mainly if you’re working with Microsoft technology. For the majority of people who just want a simple website, or maybe offer a product for sale, feature themselves as a photographer, etc. Unix is going to be your best choice. The reason isn’t necessarily based on whether Unix is better than Windows, it’s just a matter of numbers, most of the software and tutorials on the web will be centered around Unix/Linux servers.
If you already know you’re going to be using PHP, Perl, MySQL or WordPress, then it’s sure, in my opinion, that a Unix server is the better choice. While it’s true that with tweaks and adjustments, these scripts and programs can run on a Windows server, they are not likely to do so, out of the box, and will require someone with knowledge making the needed adjustments.
If you’ve read to this point, I hope you realize that it doesn’t mater whether you created your website on a Mac or PC, the files you upload to your server will operate in a completely different environment, one that is not dependent on which type of machine created them. With that thought in mind, to date, I have not seen a web hosting company offering Mac hosting.
Right Thinking in the Wrong Place
While this is an oversimplification, there are two things that happen for a website to be seen worldwide. Number one is the web creation tools you have on your local machine which will be dependent on your needs, skills and end purpose. Secondly is the web host who will deliver (or serve) your files to the world. Often, new webmasters and designers are looking for tools on their server, which are needed on their local machines.
Experience, of course, is the best teacher. As you read this, you may have concerns and confusion, but they will quickly disappear after you’ve uploaded your first website and approvingly shown it to friends and peers. Once that milestone has been reached and surpassed, there will be little confusion over Windows or Linux; you’ll already know the best choice. One thing is sure though, the web is a constantly changing environment, and it’s the wise webmaster who is always learning and staying on the cutting edge of web design and hosting.
The bottom line is just this, a Unix-based server is a norm in the industry and you’ll have more choices, better prices and a greater variety of available software to choose from. If you’re someone who needs Windows-specific technologies like ASP, NET, MSSQL or Access, then go with Windows