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What’s the Best VPS: Windows or Linux?

Alexander Wise
by Atlantic.Net (35posts) under VPS Hosting
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A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a popular choice for organizations in need of web hosting as it provides an economical and secure platform from which to run their applications, for example, a business or e-commerce website. In this article, we are going to look at why a VPS makes sense for businesses of any size and how to choose the operating system used by your virtual server.

Why Choose a VPS?

There are three basic choices when engaging hosting services for a website or web-based application. Depending on the security and performance requirements and the organization’s budget constraints, an enterprise might choose one of the following options:

  • Dedicated Physical Server – Dedicated server hosting provides the greatest control and customization. Customers self-manage or pay for the management of an entire server that is housed in a provider’s data center. The increased control over the hosting environment comes with a price. Using a dedicated physical server is the most expensive of the three options. It can provide a secure environment when configured correctly but relies on the customer to implement this security or pay a service provider for those services.
  • Shared Hosting – In a shared hosting environment, multiple customers have access to the same physical server. They share the server resources such as the storage space, memory, and CPU power. A shared hosting option is the least expensive alternative but provides limited customization. The possibility exists that performance may be impacted by other customers sharing the server. You may also be limited as to the software you can install making it difficult to achieve business goals or utilize certain software packages.
  • Virtual Private Server – A virtual private server, also known as a cloud server, gives users additional benefits to those provided by a dedicated physical server at a lower cost. It builds on the concept of shared hosting; however, hosting multiple virtual servers on a physical machine offers customers more fine-grained control and less interference from the other occupants. It is a secure, scalable, customizable, and economical alternative that can fit the needs of many customers. Using a VPS eliminates the resource limitations enforced in a shared hosting scenario.

Selecting a VPS is a wise decision for organizations or individuals who desire the security and customization of a dedicated server at a reduced cost. In addition to providing a secure and customizable platform for their websites and applications, the virtual nature of a VPS makes it more flexible than a physical server. Resources can be scaled to allow customers to use exactly what they need and easily address variable usage patterns.

At Atlantic.Net, if you are utilizing a VPS but your business’ growth requires a dedicated server for compliance or other business reasons, then you have the option to live-migrate your VPS to your own private Dedicated Host in the cloud.  This means no downtime for you or your business, providing an easy path to upgrade your VPS and scale your online presence as needed.

A VPS combines the best features of the dedicated and shared hosting models. Once the choice has been made to go with a virtual private server, the next decision customers must make is whether to choose a VPS that uses the Windows or Linux operating system.

Choosing the Operating System for Your VPS

While other operating systems are available for virtual hosting, we will focus on Windows and Linux. Both operating systems can provide reliable functionality for websites and applications, but some significant differences may make one more attractive to some customers. Below, we compare the characteristics of the two platforms to differentiate the two choices and help you select the one that works best for your situation.

Cost

As an open-source solution, Linux can initially be a less expensive solution. Some Linux distributions have no licensing fees, unlike Microsoft Windows Server. This is a major difference between the two solutions and may be enough to sway customers who are primarily concerned with budgetary constraints. Other concerns may impact the final decision, but Linux is a less expensive alternative out of the box when only considering licensing.

Performance

If performance and extended uptime is a primary concern, Linux may be a better choice in an operating system. Linux provides more opportunities for server optimization and has less intensive hardware requirements. Windows servers require more frequent reboots, which impact system availability, and need to be restarted after patching. The Windows GUI can expend unnecessary resources if not correctly configured and optimized. Optionally, the Windows GUI can be disabled in favor of PowerShell to reduce resource usage, but this is not a common solution for most.  When it comes to utilizing server resources, Linux is still considered the performance king, but Microsoft is continually pursuing improvements.

Compatibility

The software tools and packages that you plan to use on the VPS can be the determining factor in making the selection. If you are working with Microsoft-centric products a Windows VPS will provide a better and, in some cases, the only solution. A Linux VPS will be better suited for users who are comfortable with Linux-specific software. You need to perform a thorough review of the products you will use and ensure they are compatible with the operating system you select.  Additionally, you will need to ensure that your OS is supported by your provider. For Windows and Linux, earlier versions may be “end of life” (EOL) operating systems, meaning they are no longer supported.  This means that patching, security fixes, bug fixes, etc. will no longer be provided from the manufacturer.

Control Panel

The control panel used to manage and customize your website differs based on the chosen OS platform. Linux systems use cPanel or Web Host Manager (WHM). On a Windows VPS, these will be replaced by Plesk. Familiarity with one of these control panel solutions may influence the choice of operating system to host your VPS.  While an administrator could install either software package on the other operating system, the issues and work involved are not considered worthwhile.  If you require a control panel, selecting your OS first is a great place to start.

Security

The security of web-based applications is a critically important consideration when choosing its hosting platform. Due to its incredible popularity, Windows is a prime target of hackers looking to compromise enterprise IT resources. Malicious actors also attempt to subvert Linux security but are generally less successful. Linux was designed with strong security in mind and the user community works to maintain it as a safe choice in operating systems. If security is your primary concern, and you are comfortable working with the OS, you may want to go with a Linux solution. It is important to remember that proper configuration and patch management are necessary to maintain security in any operating system platform, so if you do not understand how to properly secure your Linux server, purchasing managed services or instead opting for a Windows Server and additional software to cover your needs will be the best routes for you and your team.

Ease of Use

A Windows VPS provides a more user-friendly interface that features its well-known graphical user interface (GUI). Even with the addition of management tools such as cPanel, a Linux VPS requires a higher degree of technical knowledge than a Windows solution. Thus, the users who will interact with the system may be a deciding factor in the operating system choice. In general, a Windows VPS is easier to use than a Linux alternative. A GUI can be added to some Linux distributions to remove the need to work with a command-line interface; however, most server-based GUIs will use additional resources and can introduce additional security concerns which negate some of the advantages Linux offers over Windows.

Technical Support

One of the most apparent benefits of going with a Windows solution is the technical support available from Microsoft and Microsoft certified partners. Windows is the most widely used commercial operating system in the world, and the company offers extensive support options that can be used by its customers. Organizations that are more comfortable with a corporate-backed OS solution will favor running their VPS on the Windows platform. Over the past decade, however, operating systems like Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu, and others have begun to provide paid support, though engaging that paid support can bring you closer the costs of Windows Server.

Technical support for many Linux distributions is provided by the large user community associated with the solution free of charge.  However, that old saying “you get what you pay for” holds true.  Volunteer-provided Linux support will not help you through your issues if the user base does not want to. There are no contracts, service level agreements, or anything to guarantee your issue will be resolved. This should be a key factor in your decision if you or your team do not possess the technical skills needed to overcome issues.

Conclusion

Specific aspects of implementing a Linux or Windows VPS can pose contradictions that customers must resolve when making their decision on which OS to employ. You might want to take the least expensive route, which generally means a Linux solution, but be skeptical of your ability to handle its technical challenges. While a Windows-based VPS may enable your team to work in a familiar setting, security concerns may cause you to opt for a hardened Linux installation. As with many decisions in life, you need to strike the proper balance to be successful.

Atlantic.Net also offers managed services to help enterprises reach their IT objectives. With over 20 years of experience, their technical team ensures you have the best support available. Offerings include managed server hosting as well as a fully Managed Firewall, Intrusion Prevention Service, patch management, vulnerability scans, multi-factor authentication, onsite and offsite backups, replication, and more.  Managed services are a perfect solution for customers who want to use a Linux platform but do not have the required technical expertise in-house as they can help cover the gaps you have in your IT knowledge base.

You can choose from a variety of Windows Server variants and Linux distributions. Windows Server users can select to host their VPS using Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, or Windows Server 2019. A wide range of Linux flavors are available with users able to use Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, Fedora, or Arch Linux. FreeBSD Unix VPS options are also available. Atlantic.Net also has One-Click Apps to help take some of the work out of a Linux deployment.  Our most popular One-Click Apps include cPanel, WordPress, LAMP stacks, and LEMP stacks.

Atlantic.Net can meet your requirements for a VPS with either Linux or Windows solutions. We offer Windows or Linux VPS hosting in the cloud powered by enterprise-grade solid-state drives and backed by an experienced technical support team that is available 24x7x365. Virtual private servers built on multiple Linux distributions and a wide range of hosting options are available. Atlantic.Net can tailor a VPS solution that gives you the features your application needs with straightforward and competitive pricing. Found out more by contacting Atlantic.Net today.

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