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Grow Your Business Technology

What Is Linux Hosting?

image for PrathanChorruangsak / Getty Images
PrathanChorruangsak / Getty Images
  • Linux is the most popular operating system due to its open-source platform. Open-source systems allow code to be modified and redistributed without restriction.
  • Linux users often rely on cPanel to mange web development tasks. Although providers may include cPanel, it is a third-party application.
  • Windows and Linux have many similar features and are compatible for most key tasks.

Linux, an open-source operating system, is the most popular OS among web hosting providers. Open source means the source code can be used, modified, and redistributed freely in both commercial and noncommercial capacities. Web hosting providers prefer this to the more restrictive Windows platform because it allows greater customization in server capabilities and user options.

Few hosting services offer Windows-based hosting, and those that do charge a higher monthly fee than Linux-based hosting. Historically, Windows has struggled as a hosting platform in terms of stability, but recent iterations of the product place it on a similar playing field to Linux.

Linux hosting is the preferred type of hosting agent for those in the field of web design. Many developers rely on cPanel to manage the hosting platform. The cPanel feature is used to simplify operations on the Linux platform. With cPanel, you can easily handle all of your development tasks in a single place. According to WPBeginner, cPanel relies on two separate interfaces: the user interface and the web host manager. With cPanel, you can publish websites, manage domains, create email accounts, store files and more.

Users do not automatically have access to cPanel with Linux. cPanel is a third-party application, but hosting providers may include it in their host packages. For instance, GoDaddy offers a package that provides Linux hosting with the cPanel interface. You also have the option to install WordPress with cPanel.    

Comparing performance, stability, security and ease of use won't give you a clear indication of which platform is better. The real reason many web administrators pick Linux as a hosting platform is the type of files and functions they expect to use. If a website uses ASP, .NET, Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Server files, its hosting will need to be based on the Windows platform. 

All other file types – PHP, Perl, WordPress, MySQL, etc. – run much more easily on a Linux-based web host. These files still run on a Windows web host, but the Linux platform is designed to work specifically with these data types.

Both platforms still use HTML files and read them in the same way, which means most standard websites will work without any difference in performance. The only difference in using Linux versus Windows is several file types, but when it comes to price, Linux is the most popular option among web hosting providers.

Anyway, users don't typically have the option of choosing their web hosting provider's operating system. In most cases, that choice is made for them, and it is a Linux-based hosting package. However, in some instances, you can find web hosting providers that offer a Windows-based platform, which prompts the question of which is better.

The difference between the two ultimately comes down to the capabilities offered to users. Picking one over the other is not a matter of compatibility or ease of use. Some users fear that using a system on their home computer other than that of their web host will result in compatibility issues and render the website unusable, but nothing from the web hosting system will be required to run on your computer. Features that run on a Linux website must be specially crafted to run on it and will not be the same applications that run on a home computer, so you don't need to already be using Linux.

If you have traditionally been a Windows user and think it'll be easier to get a Windows web hosting account, this is an incorrect belief as well. A web hosting account running on Windows doesn't mean you'll see a start menu button or desktop icons. A web hosting server doesn't look anything like that, even if it does run Windows. The user interface on a Linux hosting account will be the same as a Windows account.

Linux hosting options are everywhere, so it's difficult to distinguish the best provider. The best Linux hosting option depends on your specific needs. For instance, if you only need a small amount of bandwidth, you can choose a low-cost provider that has adjustable packages. Providers often consider web traffic, RAM and disk space for their pricing models.

These are a few Linux hosting options to consider when shopping for a new provider:

  • SiteGround: SiteGround is a solid choice for its diverse packages. If SiteGround doesn't have the right package for your needs, the developers provide the option to create a custom hosting package from scratch. The company's cheapest monthly package provides a lot for minimal cost – free daily backups, unlimited emails and databases, cPanel, SSL encryption, and HTTP/2-enabled servers. The company is also available 24/7 for technical support.

  • Hostinger: Hostinger is an economical hosting option for Linux designers and developers. The cheapest plan provides 10GB of storage and 100GB of bandwidth monthly. The cPanel interface is available through Hostinger, and there are numerous customization options. The company offers 24/7 live chat support.

  • InMotion: InMotion was created to accommodate those new to Linux. It bundles website builders, website migration and daily backups into all its packages. Operating systems are customizable, with choices such as CentOS, Ubuntu and Debian. Round-the-clock support options are available from InMotion.