An operating system consists of all the software necessary to make your computer’s hardware available to the applications you want to run. There are two leading server operating systems: Linux and Windows. Both are capable of running both the databases and middle-ware WordPress requires. Both are popular with enterprise IT departments. Which is best for your hosting needs?
There are two major reasons Linux is so competitive in the server space. The first is its popularity with developers. UNIX was originally engineered for programmers, and was the original native platform for the C language. Linux has inherited most of the power of the UNIX platform while making a massive volume of quality software available. The LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack is still the gold standard for web development, especially when combined with legendary world-class tools like vi, Emacs and WordPress.
Windows has had a long history of building all-in-one development tools. Its primary strength is integration between the server platform and the developer’s tools. This has traditionally been the area where Microsoft has invested most of its research and development efforts and the results speak for themselves. If you are looking for a vendor-supported vertical development stack, Windows and its various flavors are the clear choice.
From the client side, Windows and Linux are largely indistinguishable. WordPress and other CMS platforms install and run on either platform equally, and are able to support the overwhelming majority of plugins and middle-ware add-ons. The entirety of the WordPress control panel, installation utilities and various add-ons and plug-ins can all be accessed and configured through a standard web browser. Both Linux and Windows support all popular browsers natively.
Linux and Windows start to diverge dramatically when it comes to customization and the development of a toolset for your particular hosting needs. Linux is a platform designed and built by software engineers for software engineers, so the variety of development options is considerably wider on Linux.
Windows, on the other hand, was developed as a consumer operating system and designed to sell more PCs, so when it comes to tools, developers are generally limited to what Microsoft makes available. For experienced programmers this is rarely a problem, but it is something web site operators and developers should be aware of before they get too far into their design and launch strategy.
Both Linux and Windows are great for WordPress based sites. The key to getting the most out of either platform is to recognize their various strengths and weaknesses and to do the necessary research to learn as many of the details as possible.