Operating System Hosting: Find Out Which Is Best For You

An operating system (OS) is the core software that tells a computer how to run. For desktop computers, the popular operating systems you’ve probably heard of are Microsoft Windows, Macintosh OS, and Linux.

However, the server that hosts a website also needs an operating system. The most common web hosting OS is Linux or another version of UNIX. Another common host OS is Windows.

The OS running your desktop and the OS running your website aren’t connected in any way. So if you are running Windows or Mac on your desktop, you can still choose any host operating system you want for your website.

Need some help figuring out the different web hosting options for your OS? Learn about the most popular operating systems and the best questions to ask when choosing a hosting service.

Quick Guide to Windows vs. UNIX Web Hosting

/ Norman Brauns

Which kind of server is best? How does this affect you when building your site? If you're not sure which way to go, read our short guide to choosing your operating system here.

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Popular Host Operating Systems

The most popular operating systems for web hosting are Linux and Windows.

Linux (and other UNIX-based): Most websites in the world run on Linux or some other UNIX-based operating system such as FreeBSD. Likewise, most software that runs on websites assumes you are using Linux or another Unix-based OS. Linux is open source and free to use.

Microsoft Windows Server: The version of Windows required to run a website is called Windows Server. If you need or want to run Microsoft web software then it’s easiest to run Windows Server on your host server. Microsoft web software includes the ASP and .NET programming frameworks, and the MS Access and MS SQL Server databases.

Ask yourself the following questions when choosing a hosting OS:

  • Which web applications and technologies do you want to run? Many popular apps like WordPress don’t require much technical knowledge, and so the OS you choose many not matter. Other popular applications such as the MySQL database assume Linux--they will work with Windows but often require additional tweaking.
  • What is your technical skillset? If your website requires a lot of specialized customization or programming, determine the technical skills that you and your developers will need to be familiar with.
  • How much does cost matter? Linux is free, as are many of the applications and programming tools that work with it. On the other hand, Windows Server requires a paid license. The programming tools and databases for Windows also require paid licenses.

Considering these questions will get you on your way to finding the ideal operating system for your website.