To get your site up and running, you need to choose the right web hosting plan. For many fast-growing businesses, nothing can beat the performance, flexibility, scalability, and cost of a virtual private server (VPS).
But the decision doesn’t stop there. Your VPS will then need an operating system (OS), and here you have two choices: Windows and Linux. Together, these operating systems power over 60% of all websites, but they both appeal to very different target markets.
In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between a Linux VPS and a Windows VPS, and go through their pros and cons to help you choose the best one for you.
What is a VPS?
Before we can dive into the Linux vs Windows VPS debate, we’ll need to briefly define what a VPS is: a virtual compartment that exists on a physical server. To turn a dedicated server into a VPS, virtualisation software is used to split the server into separate compartments with their own allocated resources for each customer.
What is a Windows VPS?
A Windows VPS is a virtual private server that uses Windows as the server’s operating system. This means that it relies on Microsoft solutions for website management and database tools.
Generally, larger businesses are more likely to use a Windows OS, especially if their teams are more familiar with Microsoft-based technologies. A Windows VPS can be more expensive than Linux, so only large organisations typically have the budget.
What is a Linux VPS?
A Linux VPS uses Linux as the server’s operating system. This means that it relies on Linux’s open-source web development and database tools.
Linux is popular among small and medium-sized businesses and individuals such as gamers, bloggers and web developers. There’s no licensing fee to pay as Linux is open-source and free-to-use, which makes it very appealing to those with smaller budgets. This also means that the Linux source code can be freely edited and customised for any project, giving individuals more control over how their server is set up and managed.
Linux vs Windows
Windows and Linux both power a similar percentage of websites, but the people who use these operating systems generally have different requirements.
Overall, there are plenty of pros and cons for both types of operating systems, so your choice will mostly depend on which factors are the most important to you, such as cost, performance and ease of use. There are many reasons to choose a VPS to begin with, but let’s dive into the various reasons why some may prefer a Linux VPS over a Windows VPS, and vice versa.
As mentioned earlier, a Windows VPS will be more expensive than Linux, which is why it’s much more common among large organisations. This is because the Windows OS has a costly licensing fee, which is passed on to the customer by web hosting companies.
On the other hand, there’s no licensing fee for the Linux OS. Open-source software is free to access, change and distribute, making Linux very popular among individuals and smaller businesses. Because Linux can be used for free, it’s instantly more accessible.
Due to the dedicated resources for each customer, VPS hosting can always offer a high level of performance no matter the OS, including super-fast speeds and a stable, reliable connection.
But, there are some small differences between a Windows VPS and a Linux VPS. Linux has a command-line interface, which means it uses less RAM and is therefore slightly faster. On the other hand, the Windows OS uses a graphical user interface (GUI), which consumes more RAM, and also experiences more frequent updates, which can slow things down. Typically, Windows will require more resources to ensure stability, and this can affect the overall performance of the server and make it more costly to run.
If flexibility is your priority, you may prefer Linux. With Windows, you’re limited to using Microsoft technologies and software, whereas Linux will give you more freedom to select different site management tools. And since Linux allows you to access and edit its source code, this will enable you to customise your server as you see fit.
Linux also offers more flexibility with control panels. While Plesk can be used by both Linux and Windows OS users, cPanel, which is one of the most popular and easy-to-use control panel software options, is compatible with Linux but not Windows.
Finally, Linux will offer you more opportunities to expand and evolve. If you outgrow your web hosting plan and need to upgrade your VPS, a Linux OS makes it much easier to add processing resources to keep your server running smoothly.
4. Ease of use and server management
The easiest OS to use will depend on your familiarity with different software tools.
If you’re familiar with Microsoft technologies, you may find a Windows VPS much easier to manage. Windows’s user-friendly GUI enables remote desktop access, allowing server administrators to manage the server from anywhere. This can make VPS setup and management much easier with Windows than with Linux, which doesn’t have remote desktop access and requires a text-based Secure Shell (SSH) protocol for remote login.
However, if you’re not confident with Microsoft technologies, Windows can be difficult to use. In this case, you may prefer the flexibility of Linux because you’ll be able to choose the software and tools you’re most familiar with.
Repelling cyber attacks and enhancing data security are top priorities for online businesses, so which OS is best suited for helping you meet your cybersecurity requirements?
Windows comes with a variety of built-in security features, but the main issue with this type of OS is that it’s a common target for cybercriminals. Windows is always introducing new security measures to combat these attacks, but it’s still important to consider this risk.
Websites powered by Linux, in general, are targeted much less often, which makes it more secure overall. Linux’s user community is also very proactive with developing more security features, so if security is your top priority, Linux may be the best OS for you.
Advantages of a Linux VPS
To recap, here are some of the main advantages of a Linux VPS:
1. Cheaper than a Windows VPS
The Linux OS is open-source, which means it’s free to access, edit and distribute. This makes it much cheaper than Windows, which requires a licensing fee to use.
2. Very reliable and stable
The Linux OS is often praised for its stability because it rarely suffers from crashes, which means it has excellent uptime.
3. Targeted by cybercriminals less often
Hackers target websites hosted on Windows more often because this is the most common OS, particularly among large corporations. Plus, Linux’s strong defenses keep out most viruses and malware, especially since users can edit the source code to find and fix vulnerabilities.
4. Can configure access from different locations
You can access your Linux server remotely via SSH if you want to manage your server from a different location.
5. Flexibility when choosing software to install
The Linux OS is compatible with many different software packages, so you can often choose the tools you’re most familiar with.
6. Great performance
Linux is known for its fantastic performance and ability to host multiple users without issues. It has superior processing power and agility compared to other operating systems.
7. Fantastic scalability
With a Linux VPS, it’s easy to use the control panel software to add extra resources whenever you need them.
The Linux OS gathers much less information about its users, making it the better choice for those with privacy concerns.
Disadvantages of a Linux VPS
Of course, there are some disadvantages too. Here are the main ones:
1. Technical knowledge is needed to set up a Linux VPS
If you’re not experienced at setting up servers, getting used to Linux can be a bit of a learning curve.
2. Can be more complicated to use than other operating systems
Since more people are familiar with Microsoft technologies, Linux can be seen as more complicated and confusing in comparison.
3. Not all software is compatible
Linux is viewed as more flexible than Windows because you’re not limited to using Microsoft software, but bear in mind that not all software packages are compatible with a Linux OS. Make sure you check what’s compatible with your preferred software before deciding on an OS.
4. Lack of commercial support
You can often get advice from Linux’s community of users, but there’s a lack of official support from a commercial team (like Microsoft).
Advantages of a Windows VPS
But what about a Windows VPS? Here are the main advantages:
1. Easy to use for those who are familiar with Microsoft technologies
If you don’t have the time or the technical knowledge to learn how to use Linux, it may be much easier for you to stick with a familiar operating system like Windows. It’s also much easier to opt for a Windows VPS if you already use Microsoft software because everything will be compatible.
2. User-friendly interface
Again, Windows is commonly used and therefore familiar to most people. Also, since Microsoft tools are popular and well-established, there are plenty of guides and tutorials online to help you..
3. Remote desktop access
With Windows, you can use remote desktop access (found in ‘Settings’) to quickly and easily access your VPS from wherever you are. Remote desktop access isn’t available for Linux (which has a command-line interface rather than a GUI) unless you set one up from a server administrator.
4. Frequent security updates
Although Windows websites are more commonly targeted by hackers, the Microsoft team is constantly introducing new security updates and measures to tackle this issue.
Disadvantages of a Windows VPS
Let’s look at the downsides too:
1. Not as lightweight and flexible as a Linux VPS
All of the software and updates included with Windows can slow it down, whereas Linux is much more agile and has superior processing power. You also won’t be able to download as many different types of software tools as you would with Linux.
2. Commonly targeted by cybercriminals
A downside to Windows’ popularity is that cybercriminals are more interested in infiltrating this OS due to its widespread use.
3. Need technical expertise with Microsoft software
Although the reliance on Microsoft technologies is beneficial if you already use them a lot, it can be a disadvantage if you find this technology confusing.
4. Much more expensive than Linux
Unlike Linux, the Windows OS charges web hosting companies a hefty licensing fee, and these costs will be passed down to the customer.
What should I choose – Linux VPS or Windows VPS?
In general, any VPS will provide fantastic performance, security and scalability for your website, but your choice of operating system can have a big impact on your server management and setup experience.
So, which operating system should you choose? Your decision will ultimately depend on your unique needs and circumstances, but as a general rule, Windows may be better for large companies with extensive IT budgets and teams that are very familiar with Microsoft software. Linux could be better for small businesses, gamers, bloggers and developers who want a cost-effective and flexible hosting solution, or anyone who needs to be able to fully customise their server and use their preferred software.