What Operating System Should You Use On Your Dedicated Server?

Server systemDedicated servers are pretty powerful pieces of hardware – but to truly get the most out of them, you need the right software. For that reason, one of the most important (and most difficult) choices you’ll need to make after you’ve committed to having one is what operating system it’ll use. There are two choices available to you here: Windows Server, and Linux.

Of course, there are a ton of different flavors of Linux, each with its own pros and cons. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to assume this is dichotomous. Trust me, it’s for the best – we could be here all day if we started talking about the different distros.

Instead, we’re going to take a look at what each operating system is generally meant to achieve. Because at the end of the day, neither one really dominates the other. It’s all about what you need.

With that in mind, here are the questions you’ll need to ask when you’re considering your options.

  • Where do I stand in terms of flexibility vs. ease of use? Generally, speaking, the Windows Server OS is a lot easier to use than Linux, but this ease of use comes at the cost of configurability when one compares the former to the latter. You need to decide which one is more important to your business.
  • What development languages will I be working in? If your business is planning to use ASP or ASP .NET as their development language, the decision here is already made for you – you’ve got to go with Windows.
  • What applications do I need to run? This one’s closely-related to the above, and it’s basically the same story. If you need SQL Server or Microsoft Access, Windows Server is your choice. While you certainly might be able to find open-source alternatives to these on Linux, they aren’t likely going to be as functional as the genuine article.
  • What sort of access to my server will I have? Do you prefer SSH or TelNet access over bog-standard FTP? If so, a Linux box is going to be a better option for you, generally speaking.
  • What’s my budget? While some enterprise distros will run you a pretty penny, the majority of Linux installations are completely free. Windows, on the other hand, tends to cost a bit more – and that cost is something you’ll need to account for in your decision-making process.
  • What sort of server footprint can I support? Linux usually tends to be a bit lighter than Windows – so if your resources are already at a premium, this could well be the deciding factor.

And there you have it. Now that you know what questions to ask, you can make the correct choice for your server’s operating system. The one that best fits your needs, whether that’s Windows, Linux, or something in between.