When choosing a server, it is important to consider the operating system it is running. Deciding between a Linux server and a Windows server is a situation developers often encounter.

This article will help you compare the two widely used solutions and decide which option is best for you.

Linux Server vs. Windows Server

Linux Server vs. Windows Server: The Main Differences

ARCHITECTUREcentered around the Linux kernelbased on the Windows NT architecture
COSTfree, open-source softwareowned by Microsoft, includes a licensing fee per user
SECURITYhighly secure against malware and cyber threatsmore prone to hacking attempts and cyber threats
SUPPORTlarge community supports that can answer commonly asked questionscommunity and long-term customer support, along with great documentation
MODE OF OPERATIONcommand linegraphical user interface
USER EXPERIENCErequires an relatively experienced Linux administratormore beginner-friendly
DATABASE SUPPORTMySQL, PostgreSQLMicrosoft SQL, Microsoft Access
SCRIPT SUPPORTPython, PHP, Perl, and other Unix languagesASP and ASP.NET

Linux Server Overview

A Linux server is a server based on the open-source Linux operating system. It is a popular choice due to its low cost, strong community support, and open-source code.

Many distributions are built around the Linux kernel – Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, and others. Each offers an OS that is stable, secure, and flexible. Due to these features, Linux servers are widely used for hosting web services, network and system administration, database management, and other critical application requirements.

Although it offers distribution versions with a graphical user interface, Linux is mainly operated through a command line. Hence, it requires some knowledge about running operations through a terminal (or time to master doing so). Because it is primarily based on the command line, it offers excellent flexibility when interacting with the server. Additionally, it allows modifying configuration without rebooting the system.

Linux server overview compared to Windows server.

This server option has no licensing fee. Unless you are the administrator, you will need to pay technical staff for installing and maintaining the server, but there is no additional cost for the server OS. Using open-source software is definitively cost-efficient but has the disadvantage of lacking official support. If you run into an issue, you will have to rely on the community of Linux users. While this popular OS solution has a large group of community supporters who are highly involved, you may have to dig deeper to find the answer for your specific use case.

System administrators have great flexibility and freedom with setting up the Linux server. This type of server has integrated remote administration and backend accessibility allowing admins the opportunity to optimize the system from anywhere.

Running a Linux server allows you to use and integrate other open-source software seamlessly. Although running Windows applications on Linux is possible, it requires additional software or even a VM machine. Linux servers support MySQL and PostgreSQL databases and Unix programming languages (PHP, Perl, Python). So, if you are planning on utilizing these tools, Linux is the preferred option.

Advantages of Linux Servers

  • No additional licensing fee as the operating system is free.
  • More reliable - it rarely experiences malware, cyber threats, or other security errors.
  • Not demanding on the client hardware and lower resource consumption.
  • Due to its low infrastructure requirements, it shows excellent performance rates.
  • System administrators have the freedom and opportunity to customize the system.
  • Seamless use of open-source software on the server.
  • Supports cooperative work without exposing the program’s core.

Disadvantages of Linux Servers

  • Operating via a command line instead of a GUI requires some learning or experience.
  • Not all versions have long-term support.
  • Updating from one major version to another can sometimes be complex.
  • Some third-party and professional programs may not have support or require admin privileges.

Learn more about Linux ransomware attacks, what are the most famous ones and what you can do to protect your system.

Linux Server Pricing

Linux is a lightweight OS that demands less hardware resources for handling more workload, which means it doesn’t usually have a high infrastructure cost. As mentioned above, there is no licensing for Linux distributions, except for Red Had and SUSE (platforms used for enterprise-level companies). An important cost to consider is having an in-house administrator competent to deal with Linux configurations and any potential issues.

Windows Server Overview

Windows Server is a commercial server solution created by Microsoft and powered by the Windows OS. They represent a popular beginner-friendly solution that is robust, reliable, and low-maintenance.

The term ‘Windows Server’ is a brand name encompassing Microsoft’s server operating systems, first released in 2003. The latest full release was in August 2021, when Windows Server 2022 was introduced.

Unlike Linux servers, Windows requires purchasing a license per user to use its services. Therefore, if you are renting a Windows server, the vendor will add the licensing fee to your overall bill for hosting and maintenance. The upside to using a paid OS is the long-term support it offers. Windows Servers have five years of maintenance plus five years of extended support from Microsoft.

Windows server overview compared to Linux server.

Most beginners opt for Microsoft servers because of their user-friendly interface. Each release offers a complete GUI desktop experience that is very intuitive and polished. Additionally, this solution includes easy and optional automized system updates and the opportunity to solve technical issues through system recovery. Therefore, admins with less experience or time for maintenance find this out-of-the-box functionality very useful.

Windows Server can seamlessly integrate Windows applications and should be your first choice if you plan to use Microsoft SQL, Microsoft Access, or any other Microsoft program.

Advantages of Windows Servers

  • Beginner-friendly due to its intuitive graphical user interface and out-of-the-box functionality.
  • Guaranteed five years of maintenance + five years of extended support.
  • Supports third-party applications and is compatible with Microsoft applications.
  • Requires less admin monitoring and maintenance thanks to its robust approach and automated updates.

Disadvantages of Windows Servers

  • Higher costs due to the obligatory licensing fee for the OS.
  • More prone to malware, cyber-threats, and other security-related errors.
  • Its mandatory GUI makes it more resource intensive.

Windows Server Pricing

Windows servers require more resources and, in most cases, have higher infrastructure costs compared to Linux. Also, they include a licensing fee which differs depending on the edition and vendor. The latest Windows Server 2022 Standard Edition (used for physical or minimal virtualized environments) starts from $1,069, whereas the Datacenter Edition starts from $6,155. For cloud configurations, the licensing price is usually paid year in and year out. When it comes to software support, Windows servers provide Microsoft Software Insurance which can be included in the purchase plan or paid as an additional add-on.

Linux vs. Windows Server: Which One to Choose

When deciding between a Linux server and a Windows server, bear in mind three important aspects:

  • COST

If you are searching for a more cost-efficient solution, Linux is undoubtedly the better option as there is no additional fee for running the operating system.

On the other hand, if the server administrator has no experience in managing and maintaining a server through a command line, you are better off paying the license for the Windows server. Not only will you have to spend less time monitoring and configuring the server, but you will also have access to Microsoft’s official support.

Finally, take into consideration what you want to run on the server. As Linux has PHP and MySQL support, installing WordPress is easier on a Linux server. Also, it offers easier access to HTTP, Apache, and other site-creation tools, JavaScript and NodeJS environments, and Perl and Python programming languages.

However, if you plan to develop web pages using a Microsoft framework, such as ASP or .NET frameworks, it is much simpler to use them on a Windows Server. The same applies to programs like Microsoft SQL, SharePoint, and Microsoft Access.

If you want to learn more about Server operating systems, read our article and find out what are the different types of Server OS and how to choose.