One of the first decisions to make while choosing web hosting is – what platform to opt for? Windows or Linux? PHP or ASP?
First of all, note that sites with static pages such as blogs can run on either Windows or Linux hosting platforms. These only use HTML and CSS, which are supported equally well by both operating systems.
When you require dynamic content on your website, such as eCommerce facilities, forums or other forms of scripting, then you need to pay attention to your hosting platform.
Traditionally, Linux servers are used for scripts based on PHP or Perl. These scripts include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and many other blogging or content management systems. Windows servers, on the contrary, are used with scripts written in ASP, ASP(dot)Net or Access. MySQL works equally well with both Windows and Linux. Today, cross-platform scripting – that is, scripting with PHP/Perl on Windows or with ASP/ASP(dot)NET/Access on Linux – is permitted by some ISPs. However, cross-platform scripting will never give the smooth performance that a program does when run on its native platform – it is a bit like using emulators to run programs that are not native to the OS. There is one exception here, though – PHP runs equally well on Windows and Linux, so Linux-based hosting is no longer essential to run PHP-based scripts and applications.
Most computer geeks will advise you to go for Linux hosting, as Unix – on which Linux is based – is a far more secure and stable platform than Windows’ alternative. While this is demonstrably true – think of the millions of viruses for Windows systems, and the rare bug that crops up in Linux – it is also true that efficient server administration can render a Windows system as secure as a Linux one.
Speedwise, there is no clear winner between Windows and Linux. Some things work faster on Windows, while others work faster on Linux. So to choose between operating systems, cost and security would have to be the deciding factors. Linux here is substantially cheaper, as it is an open-source system, and most of its applications are also under GNU public licenses – in other words, free. Windows hosting comes with the added cost of the OS, and certain applications that the hosting company has to continually pay for.
As for the ASP-PHP comparison, ASP is almost universally the winner where speed is concerned. However, the learning curve in ASP or ASP(dot)NET is much steeper than in PHP – something that can backfire for advanced users looking for greater control and freedom. PHP, however, is still one of the most popular scripts around thanks to its versatility and the solid, useful applications being written using it.
In the end, choosing between Windows ASP and Linux PHP as hosting platforms becomes a matter of individual preference and contingent need. Depending on your budget, security concerns and familiarity with the computer language, you can pick either of them and successfully run a dynamic website for a long time to come.