An operating system is the backbone of your computer because it is the program that enables you to interact with your network, software, email, and files. When you are ready to purchase your business website, usually one of your first decisions can include selecting the web operating system that your website will use as its platform: Unix® or Windows®.
Over the last few years, I have noticed that most consumers tend to want Windows as we often have an innate affinity with that parent company. Others think they need it to support their email. I also noticed that people automatically associate UNIX with a programmer or someone who writes code and will tend to avoid it. That is not exactly true, but UNIX is an option for these folks who want to write their own code. In reality, most websites use UNIX because of its flexibility with software applications and the usual business person does not need to know how to write code.
I did not want to debate which operating system is best. In my opinion, both are similar enough that this should not influence a web hosting plan purchasing decision. Instead, the decision should be based on the software you need to run your business.
Many applications can be supported by both UNIX and Windows, but if you have specific requirements, then the following lists should help you decide. I referenced some of the most popularly-used programs specific to each operating system.
When to choose Windows as your operating system
Are going to use:
- Microsoft applications such as MS Access databases or MS SQL?
- Silverlight or Server Side Includes (SSI)?
- .NET/.asp (Active Service Pages) for delivering dynamic content?
- Visual Basic Script files for site enhancements?
- Windows media files such as videos and audio? (Flash, MP3, Shockwave, Real Audio/Video)
When to choose UNIX as your operating system
Are going to use:
- Advanced programming other than basic HTML
- Unix-based scripting languages such as CGI, Perl and PHP
- MySQL database
- Flash, MP3, Shockwave, Real Audio/Video
- No specific Windows products
Aside from the above list, web hosting companies provide preinstalled software. You can check their website for a list of what’s available, but if you don’t see something you need, do not hesitate to call and ask. I want to note that if you are going to use your website for selling on line, then you should choose your ecommerce product first as it may lead you to a specific operating system.
If all things are equal and you don’t require any of the specific Windows applications, then a UNIX web hosting solution might be the better recommendation.
If you are still confused, then I suggest you consider a web hosting provider who doesn’t require you to make that platform decision. For example, when you order an AT&T Website Solutions website plan, you don’t have to select your operating system. The platform used is intelligent and flexible enough to automatically detect what file you need and simply execute it for you. I can’t wait until more hosting providers take this approach. It makes ordering a website plan so much easier!