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With ASP hosting on a Windows-based server, you can run scripts using Microsoft’s Active Server Pages technology to create interactive pages, provide database access, and more.
Your web hosting provider uses an operating system (OS) to run their servers, just you run an OS on your personal computer. While Linux-run servers are the majority among web hosts, hosts with Windows-driven servers are becoming more common for some websites.
That’s due in no small part to the growing popularity of Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP). Now it its third iteration, ASP is a scripting language you can use to create dynamic and interactive Web applications.
ASP was created to work with Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS). IIS is a built-in Windows component that handles web server and other Internet functions within the Windows operating system.
What is ASP?
ASP is a versatile server-side scripting language. It can be used to create interactive websites, code standalone applications, access databases (such as MySQL or Microsoft Access databases), combine HTML pages, or even to perform simple user customizations like displaying the local date and time for each visitor to a page.
It’s important to keep in mind that ASP, now also called “ASP Classic," should not be confused with its successor, ASP.NET, which was first released in 2002. ASP.NET has many of the same features as ASP, but incorporates a more stable foundation based on Microsoft’s .NET server technology.
Both ASP Classic and ASP.NET languages still remain popular, though. Several famous websites, including Yahoo Music and Newegg.com, run on ASP Classic, as well as Microsoft.com. Anytime you see a URL ending in “.asp", you’re seeing an ASP-generated web page. Many other pages rely on ASP as well, but use URL redirection to masks its use.
Microsoft has promised continued support for ASP for at least a decade following the release of Windows 8, giving developers and users alike plenty of time to make any necessary upgrades to and replacements on their proprietary and hosted systems, and upgrade to ASP.NET if they wish.
Advantages of ASP Hosting
ASP hosting is a good option if you need interactive web pages and applications that are powerful, yet easy to create and maintain, especially if you use other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office Suite, with your web content.
Because ASP is a server-side scripting language, it requires a web server to execute its tasks. The web server is provided by Microsoft’s IIS, so if your site relies on ASP for its content, you’ll need a Windows server hosting option.
If you use other Microsoft web-friendly products like Office and Exchange Server, integrating your web content with your communication and collaboration systems is a snap.
And hosting plans that support ASP will quite often exclude extended support for ASP.NET as well, giving you room to expand and upgrade as Microsoft discontinues ASP Classic support in the next decade.
Choosing ASP Hosting
The vast majority of hosting service providers run their servers using UNIX or Linux-based operating systems, such as CentOS. While the reverse is true when it comes to personal computers, the lightweight, free, and open-source features of the Linux OS makes it an ideal choice for most web hosts to run their servers.
But Linux can’t do everything, and isn’t the ideal option for everyone. ASP-run websites can be a better depending on your website needs and preferences. And ASP can’t run on Linux—it requires a Windows-based server.
Windows-based servers are in the minority, and require more investment on the part of the hosting provider. For that reason, you can expect to pay a little more for hosting than you would for a comparable level of UNIX-based hosting.
But it’s worth the investment if you use Office and Exchange Server, or your site depends on Microsoft products or languages like Silverlight, Visual Studio or MS SQL (Microsoft’s proprietary version of the Structured Query Language used in database programming) for content distribution or data collection.
If you’re planning on running a website that relies on ASP, it’s a good idea to check with your potential web host to be sure they can support your website and provide all the options you need.