When is a Windows Server Right For You?
In the web hosting world, most people advise picking Linux when you want to get a hosting package. This article is going to look at the why’s and when’s as to when you would choose a Windows hosting package.
Windows hosting natively supports a few Microsoft specific development tools, and in addition to this for day to day, hosting works perfectly fine. Most of the concerns around Windows are security related, but Microsoft has spent significant money and effort to improve in that area. So why and when would you pick a Windows server? Are the reasons you choose Linux hosting still applicable?
There are many reasons you might pick a Windows-based server package. One of the most straightforward reasons someone might choose Windows is that Windows Server offers an excellent GUI. The GUI makes it easy for novice system admins to accomplish simple tasks quickly.
Essential functions in Linux need to be done on the command line unless a GUI such a GNOME is installed which removes some of the resource/speed advantage running Linux gives you in the first place. Your comfortability with the server you are working with should undoubtedly play a factor in which hosting package you pick.
One neat feature new with Windows Server 2016 is the nano server installation. Nano Server is an extremely lightweight remotely administered server. It's suitable when you need to build a server for a specific purpose such as running IIS or running a DNS server.
While there are limitations to Nano Server, it removes one of the critical things that Linux advocates point to when citing advantage of Linux over Windows hosting. Nano Server is extremely quick, and light on resource requirements is making it on par with the Linux alternatives. The next revision of Nano Server will even have Docker support.
Another time when Windows Server is a clear choice is when you are running some of the more popular Microsoft exclusive technologies. Windows Server supports software such as Microsoft Exchange and Windows Sharepoint, which even if there is to a workaround to get it working on Linux, it wouldn’t be the ideal situation to run in a corporate environment.
Also if there are alternatives you could offer on the Linux side, many people are comfortable or prefer Windows-based software, especially Exchange. Anytime anything proprietary to Microsoft is involved, Windows Server should always be at the top of the list.
On that point, specific scripting frameworks such as ASP.NET are only available when using Windows servers. While there are plenty of open source scripting languages, there are advantages to ASP.NET and its used in many corporate environments. ASP.NET works with Visual Studio; everything runs server side, low development times, and high performance make ASP.NET popular.
The developers you are working with may need Windows Server. Need is the best reason to make any technology decision. If you are solving a need, you shouldn’t hesitate to recommend the correct tool for the job even if you’d generally prefer an open source solution.
Security is another common concern with Windows server solutions. In the past, Microsoft has had a poor track record when it comes to system security. In recent years Microsoft has made great strides with both their core OS and server offerings.
Windows Server 2016 has features such as Credential Guard, Device Guard, and shielded virtual machines. The push Microsoft has made in security has paid off, even if their old reputation still haunts them. Its worth noting that open source technologies such as PHP and even the Linux kernel have had their share of security vulnerabilities in the past, so regardless of which type of server hosting you choose you’ll need to adapt to a multilayered approach to security.
I hope you feel a little more comfortable that you know when you might want to pick a Windows server now. If you look online, you will find endless arguments about which one is better than the other, but often those arguments occur without any context whatsoever.
Knowing which technologies you need and picking the platform suited to those technologies should be how you make your choice. In my earlier arguments that people brought up in the past about Linux Vs. Windows servers like the IIS web server in Windows Server being worse than the Apache or Nginx web servers you would commonly find on Linux aren’t as relevant anymore. Since all three are excellent, things like that aren’t going to be the deciding factor anymore.
Interestingly with Windows Server 2019, this argument will continue into the cloud. Windows Server 2019 will have enhanced support for Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. In addition to this Windows Server, 2019 will begin supporting more container technologies such as Kuberentes as well as support the ability to run Bash scripts.
Shortly, we may find ourselves looking at two technology choices with very few functional differences as both server platforms will be excellent and provide an array of cloud-based services. The days of needing “just a server” are rapidly coming to an end as it's not enough to have a website to be cutting edge anymore, it needs to be a well-designed SEO optimized website, integrated with chat, video, and marketing services, all tied with a companies social media presence.
Whether you pick a Windows Server or a Linux Server, you will end up with a good server solution. At the end of the day, if you don’t mind paying a little more for a Windows server solution, it comes down to a matter of personal taste and needs. You may find it a little easier to get help for Linux servers and it’ll be a little cheaper, but the Windows server may be easier for you to use, especially if you are a novice.
There are good reasons Windows servers remain an option on the market, and you should always keep them in mind. If you’re looking for Windows server hosting take a look at the great hosting providers below: