On the Internet there is a tremendous amount of argument over which operating system is the best for web hosting. There are anti-windows haters; there are FreeBSD fanatics and more. But which is the best? The truth is it depends on what you are doing.
The servers that run the web sites and the server software, all run on a computer program known as the operating system. If you are running a personal computer chances are that you are running Windows ME, XP, NT or some other similar computer program. That is the operating system of your computer. With web hosting servers they also need an operating system and there are essentially three different competing versions.
The first version is Windows. Microsoft makes an operating system especially for servers. This operating systems allows true integration with Microsoft’s products and also allows web sites to run Active Server Pages (basically computer scripts for dynamic web site content). Microsoft’s server also allows integration with its SQL database, one of the more powerful databases. The downside of Microsoft’s server software is that it costs several thousands of dollars for each server.
The second version is Linux. Linux is actually a common name for a variety of operating systems. Linux was, and is, developed by a community of individuals which come together to commonly write the main part of Linux. After this main part is developed, and continually refined, additional parts are added to the program to customize it for whatever purposes the end user wants. A variety of companies market Linux and you might have heard of a few: Red Hat, Debian, Slackware, etc. Linux is good in that it is compatible with the popular programming language PHP. It is also favored by some web hosters in that in general it has a good security record and tends on average to be a stable operating system. Linux software is free.
The third version is Unix-based operating systems. The last version mentioned here is very close in comparison to the Linux versions. In fact there are probably more similarities than differences. The main difference is the history of how the two versions came into being. Linux is an offshoot of the Unix operating system, where the Unix-based operating systems are refinements of Unix itself. Linux basically is a cousin to Unix-based operating systems. The main Unix-based operating systems are FreeBSD and OpenBSD. The selling point of these operating system is that they tend to be very stable once installed. The down point is that they are very technical to install. OpenBSD also has the reputation of very secure in that in the last six years it had only one security hole in the software itself. But OpenBSD does not allow everything; that it you have to sacrifice some flexibility for security. These operating systems are free as well.
So which is the best? Well it depends on what you need. If you want the tightest security you can get then OpenBSD is probably for you. But it is very technical to install and you will not have a lot of frills. How about compatibility with all of Microsoft’s products? Well then Windows is the best for you, but be prepared in that it will cost a lot–the other operating systems here all are free. How about compatibility with PHP? Well then look at Linux or FreeBSD. You see it is not so much as which operating system is the best, but rather which operating system is best for what I need to do.