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What Operating System Should I Use? 

The platform you choose depends on the skills of your technical team matched against the purpose of your site -- what kind of applications you must run and so forth. 

The first option you must select, when choosing a host, is what server operating system you want to use. The most common are UNIX (and all variations), Linux and Windows NT/2000. In addition to the operating system, the server requires a special software for rendering web pages on the Internet known as web server software. Most common web server software are Internet Information Services (IIS) for Windows and Apache for all platforms (Windows, Linux and Unix). 

In a virtual hosting plan, there is little interaction with the operating system. W hen it comes to shared web hosting, the differences between Linux and Unix clones are not anything you should worry about. But there are major differences between Windows and Linux/Unix servers. Not only in available technologies, but also in price, performance and security. 

Key factors to consider while opting for a particular Web Server platform are:

Choose an OS - Web server combination that best suits your company's skills. No matter which Web server platform you choose, be sure you are comfortable with its administrative handling and the underlying operating system. It will save you time, money and headaches in the long run. 

Another factor to consider is the ability to add functionality and features to the core Web server. Apache uses modules, whereas IIS uses plug-ins. Most Apache modules are free, and if you have a specific need such as load balancing or MP3 streaming, you'll probably find a module that meets it. IIS also accommodates third-party plug-ins from Port80 Software and other suppliers, but you'll have to pay for the additional functionality. 

Windows is recommended for most novice users because of the simplicity of the configurations and help available either from Windows or on the Internet. If you use Asp.NET, MS SQL or Access databases you need Windows hosting because those technologies are not available on other platforms. The support for traditional ASP is better on Windows and ColdFusion hosting is most common on Windows servers, even though ColdFusion runs just as nice on Linux. 

Cons: Windows server are more exposed to viruses and hacker attacks. Windows hosting is also more expensive, and takes more server resources than Linux, resulting on fewer hosting accounts on each server and higher prices. Windows servers tend to crash a bit more often. Portability of the applications to other platforms is a problem if using Windows. 

It is a mature platform and there are a large number of applications and development tools available. Because of its stability and reliability Unix is ideal for high-traffic functions, such as database servers, high-traffic Web servers and mission-critical servers. The servers can run for years without restart and memory leaks. Less vulnerable to security flaws and hacker attacks. It is used in almost all large and complex computer systems. The hardware that is best suited for Unix are provided by the hardware vendors such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. The servers from these vendors cost a lot of money. However, a free version of Unix, known as FreeBSD, is now available for small-scale web hosting needs on cheaper server hardware provided by Intel. 

Cons: Cost can be a factor for larger implementations of Unix servers. Server configuration and maintenance requires special knowledge and skills. 

With Linux, you get a stable server platform with high security and no threatening viruses. Linux is free, and does not take as much server resources as Windows, so Linux hosting is cheaper. With ssupport for the most popular free and open source technologies such as PHP, MySQL etc , Linux hosting is the best choice for most self-taught webmasters and businesses too. Due to increasing popularity, a lot of support is available on the Internet. 
Cons: Server configuration and maintenance requires special knowledge and skills. Available software for this platform is not as common as it is for Windows. 

In the end, the choice depends largely on your budget and what you want to do with your site. 

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