Should Hosting Be On A Windows Server, L.A.M.P. Server, Or Other? Part 3 of 4

Evaluating Website Technologies

Should Hosting Be On A Windows Server, L.A.M.P. Server, Or Other? Part 3 of 4

Revised August 9, 2017
Originally Published November 11, 2008

Part 1 of this series discussed what type of website needs to be built (a CMS, Shopping Cart, or other custom application.)

Part 2 of this series discussed technologies best to implement the new website. Will it require the use of HTML 5, javascript, Ajax, PHP, or even some other technology?

Part Three - Where should the new website be hosted (stored online so that it can be accessed by users and customers around the globe)?

Part 3 of this series discusses where to host the website for people to access on the internet. Popular hosting service technologies available to serve and host a new website are Linux, Unix, CentOS, Windows Server, among others; each with different strengths and weaknesses.

Hosting Requirements

Storing a website on the internet is often referred to as "hosting" or "serving" a website. Hosting of a website is comparable to the land on which a house is built; a website must have a hosting account, or server on which to build the site.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a reliable host or server:

  • A host or server must be a computer that is hooked up to the internet 24/7/365 so that people around the world can find the website.

  • The host or server, must have plenty of speed and memory so that it can quickly process multiple requests to view the website.

  • The host or server should have plenty of "bandwidth" available for heavy traffic (bandwidth is the amount of data a website transfers to and from the server. Websites with a multitude of larger images and files to load and view will use more bandwidth than sites with fewer and smaller files.)

  • This host or server should have backup and redundancy systems installed:
    • Multiple power backups in case the power goes out
    • Multiple connections to the internet in case one or multiple internet connections fail
    • Redundant, secure, local, and cloud backups of the website data; in case the website or hardware fails and needs to be restored

Most of these hosting requirements can be fulfilled when utilizing large, multi-million dollar data-centers for hosting. Data-centers are large facilities with the necessary infrastructure to take all the necessary steps and precautions to ensure constant power and connection to the internet are maintained.

The cost to maintain constant power, multiple internet connections, and redundant backups are quite high. This is rarely something a single company can do without literally spending millions of dollars. By utilizing a datacenter for hosting, a company can normally be assured 99.9% website uptime and connection.

Often hosting a website, in-house, is not normally advisable or feasible. For a small office to come up with the resources required to match that of a datacenter and keep a website live and fully operational 24/7 with 99.9% uptime is expensive. This is normally a cost best farmed out to a company specializing in such resources.

Types of Servers

Deciding upon a hosting company based on reliability and uptime is only part of the equation. The other factor in the hosting equation is the type of operating system that will be used to host the website; Windows Server, Linux/Unix Server, other?

The following are the two of the more well known types of servers systems, as well as factors affecting usage:

Windows Servers

Windows Servers can be used for most any website solution, but are sometimes required in circumstances where a website will be using a Microsoft proprietary software such as ASP. The following are some pro's and con's of Windows Servers:

Pro's of Windows Hosting Plans

  • Windows servers are relatively easy to find
  • Windows hosting plans are usually inexpensive
  • Provides hosting to Microsoft proprietary softwares

Con's of Windows Hosting Plans

  • Windows servers are often targets of security issues & known for security holes
    • This is due to the fact that Windows servers are setup with a multitude of open PORTS to allow connections of various types, versus locking PORTS down, and only opening when needed; such as the UNIX systems noted below.
  • Windows servers can be sluggish due to extensive code and queries required to process transactions in a GUI environment
  • Windows servers are based on Microsoft proprietary software thus:
    • Making it more difficult to find bugs and security holes to begin with since it's proprietary and not open-source
    • Patching security holes once found as the patch must come from Microsoft and can't be fixed by just anyone
    • Renewals and upgrades may require additional licensing fees

Using a Windows server should only be considered if using proprietary Microsoft software, or if no other means are available. Otherwise, the following UNIX-Based servers are normally ideal for security and reliability.

Linux / CentOS (UNIX-Based) L.A.M.P.

Linux / CentOS servers are all based on a variation of the UNIX language and operating system originally developed by AT&T years ago.

L.A.M.P. goes a step further and specifies some of the better technologies discussed in Part 2 of this series and uses Linux, Apache, PHP, and MySQL as the technologies with which to run the UNIX-based server.

The following are some pro's and con's of UNIX-Based Servers:

Pro's of UNIX-Based Hosting Plans

  • Linux & CentOS servers are relatively popular and easy to find with most any hosting service
  • Linux & CentOS hosting plans are usually inexpensive; while Linux & CentOS used to be more expensive then Windows servers, today costs have become more comparable
  • Linux & CentOS hosting plans are open-source technologies that allow programmers to make changes, upgrade, and customize as needed without additional licensing fees or other costs
  • Linux & CentOS based servers are known for being more reliable, secure, and robust than Windows servers
    • Linux & CentOS servers are rarely susceptible to the same bugs and hacker attempts as Microsoft Windows products due to a lack of open PORTS for safer coding and usage
    • With Linux & CentOS systems, PORTS are opened on an, as-needed basis so as to avoid open doorways for hackers to access when not in use
  • UNIX based servers are faster due to streamlined code and processes

Con's of UNIX-Based Hosting Plans

  • Other than Linux & CentOS servers noted above, custom UNIX-based servers such as Apple, Sun, or any number of other server technologies can be difficult to locate as not as many companies use these technologies
    • However, this is slowly changing when it comes to Apple Servers, as Apple is making a headway in the server market
  • Other than Linux & CentOS servers noted above, the price to manage UNIX-based servers such as Apple, Sun, or other UNIX systems can be more expensive to utilize due to a limited number of experts in the industry

Using a Linux or CentOS (or L.A.M.P. based) server is the ideal hosting solution when balancing security, power, reliability, and price for the average business requiring secure hosting.

Using an Apple, Sun, or other UNIX-Based server can be the most secure and ideal solutions in situations where there are available resources, knowledge, and funds to properly maintain the system.

Summary

There are numerous hosting technologies available, many based on reliable UNIX technologies. However, the most popular, easy-to-find server hosting solution with affordable pricing are the above mentioned Linux & CentOS (L.A.M.P. based) systems.

Windows Server based hosting should only be used in special circumstances where required due to proprietary software by Microsoft due to security holes (open ports), and reliability.

Finding a quality host to utilize other technologies, such as Apple or Sun servers, can be accomplished if needed. However, it's important to note that often the cost for such server solutions will be higher than the cost for more popular and widely used solutions, like Linux or CentOS hosting systems.

Part 4 of this series will discuss what to expect after taking the new website live. There are many factors to consider from on-going maintenance, product versioning, evaluation, overall analyzation of the site, its performance, and what can be improved upon in the future.

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