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What Is Microsoft Server 2008?

When you choose a web hosting provider, one of the things you'll need to consider is your choice of server operating system (OS). While Linux remains the most common choice, Microsoft Windows Server has grown in popularity. Windows Server 2012 is the newest version, but Windows Server 2008 continues to enjoy widespread support.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 provides the environment for all the other software and applications that run on the server hardware. These include Microsoft ASP and .NET for application development, MS SQL Server or MS Access for data storage, and Microsoft Exchange Server for email. Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) is the other and maybe the most important piece of software. It is the Microsoft equivalent of Apache Web Server and it allows Windows Server to provide Internet connectivity and web hosting.

Windows Server 2008 was announced on May 25, 2007, and it officially launched on February 27, 2008. It was the successor to Windows Server 2003, which was released five years earlier. On July 22, 2008, Microsoft released Windows Server 2008 R2. R2 increased security and productivity, and reduced administrative overhead.

Windows Server 2012 was introduced by Microsoft on September 9, 2011, but it did not become generally available until November 1, 2012. Windows Server 2012 R2 was released together with Windows 8 in October 2013. In April 2014, Microsoft released a service pack, which it named Windows Server 2012 R2 Update.

Why Choose Windows Server 2008?

The first question to ask yourself when choosing a host is which web hosting package you want to go with: Unix (typically Linux) or Windows? The answer to that question may not be what you think. Simply put, you will need Windows Server:

  • for anything that requires the .NET framework (anything written in ASP or ASP.NET)
  • if you are programming with Visual Basic (VB), ColdFusion or C#
  • if you already use any products in the Microsoft stack (for example Exchange) or you're working in SharePoint
  • if you have a preference for Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Access over MySQL
  • if you have legacy content built with Microsoft FrontPage (Microsoft will support FrontPage extensions until July 2015)

When Windows Server Won't Work

If you need to use PHP, CGI, Perl or Python, Linux is the better choice because it supports all these well. And even though you can install WordPress on a Windows server, it's not a good idea because help is in short supply. When you go with Linux, you have far more support and documentation available to help you resolve problems.

When it comes to databases, check with your hosting provider to see what it offers. Linux tends to use MySQL. Windows Server usually runs Microsoft SQL Server (and sometimes Microsoft Access).

Windows Server 2008 Technologies

Windows Server 2008 incorporates many technologies. These are some of the more important ones:

Active Directory Services- Windows Server Active Directory Services manages public key certificates, users, domains, user authentication, and digital rights.

Application Server - Windows Server Application Server is an integrated environment for server-based business applications built with Microsoft .NET. It supports applications that use COM+, message queuing, web services, and distributed transactions.

Networking - Windows Server Networking includes core technologies such as TCP/IP, SNMP, Telnet, DNS, DHCP, Windows Firewall, access authentication, connection management, and network diagnostics.

Security and Protection - Windows Server Security and Protection technologies include AppLocker, BitLocker Drive Encryption, Kerberos, Windows authentication, password management, and others.

IIS Web Server - Windows Server Internet Information Services is a unified web platform that includes IIS web server, ASP.NET, Windows Communications Foundation, and Windows SharePoint.

How Do I Install Windows Server 2008?

Installation and management of the operating system on the web hosting server is generally the responsibility of the hosting provider. And if you choose a shared hosting package (the most common type), you may never need or want direct access to the root files on the server. But if you use custom applications, want to manage the server's configuration, or need to activate an ASP.NET or other Microsoft component, you will need to know your way around Windows Server.

Points to Consider

Pros

  • It supports ASP.NET, Visual Basic, Cold Fusion, and C#
  • It is just as stable as Linux if it's managed properly by the host

Cons

  • If you like WordPress, support for WordPress on Windows is not easy to come by
  • Windows hosting is almost always more expensive than comparable Linux-based hosting plans
  • It does not support Apache

How Much Does Windows 2008 Cost?

Like all web hosting operating systems, Windows Server 2008 is included in the price of your hosting package. But be aware that Windows hosting is slightly more expensive than comparable Linux hosting packages and that you need to factor this into your monthly hosting budget. You may also want to talk to your hosting provider about compatibility issues. These issues may mean having to add other features or applications, which could add up to more costs.

The Verdict & Further Resources

Choose Linux hosting unless you have a specific reason to choose Windows.

Read more, and compare hosts that specialize in Windows & ASP.NET hosting.

Windows 2008 Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the requirements for running Windows Server 2008?

    Minimum 1 GHz (x86 processor) or 1.4 GHz (x64 processor), with 2 GHz or faster recommended. Minimum 512 MB RAM, with 2 GB RAM or greater recommended. Maximum for 32-bit systems is 4 GB (Standard) or 64 GB (Enterprise and Datacenter). Maximum for 64-bit systems is 32 GB (Standard) or 1 TB (Enterprise and Datacenter) or 2 TB (Itanium-Based Systems). Minimum 10 GB disk space, with 40 GB or greater recommended.

  • Can I Use PHP on Windows Server?

    Yes, you can use PHP on Windows Server. PHP runs a site dedicated to supporting PHP on Windows (windows.php.net). You can download PHP distributions for Windows from the site and get help on which version you should use.

  • I like WordPress but I don't have the option of choosing Linux hosting. Can I run WordPress on Windows Server? If yes, where can I get help?

    Yes, you can run WordPress on Windows Server. Microsoft has created a product called WebMatrix that makes it easier to install WordPress on Windows. Use Microsoft Web Platform Installer to install WordPress, WebMatrix, and any pre-requisites on IIS. To download these and get help, go to the Microsoft/web site on microsoft.com. To get help from the creators of WebPress, see the WordPress Codex on wordpress.org.

  • Will Microsoft continue to support Windows 2008 now that 2012 is available?

    For a while. How long the support will continue can’t be guaranteed, but considering they continued supporting Windows 2003 until mid-2015, it makes sense that they would continue to support Windows 2008 until roughly 2020. That’s probably okay if you’re selecting a host that is currently using Windows 2008. But if you’re looking to self-host, 2020 may come faster than you expect.

  • What is ASP.NET?

    ASP.NET is a web application framework developed my Microsoft for creating dynamic websites, web applications, and web services. While originally a proprietary framework intended to be used with Microsoft Visual Studio, it has since been made open source and can be developed on any platform.

  • What is Visual Basic?

    Visual Basic is a programming language based on BASIC and developed for use with Microsoft Visual Studio. It is an object-oriented programming language designed for building GUI-based Windows applications.

  • Which platform is friendlier for the user? Windows or Linux server?

    This will depend on who you talk to. Linux enthusiasts will undoubtedly argue that Linux is easier because it gives administrators complete control of their system and their code. Of course, complete control and ease-of-use are not the same things. Windows has dominated the desktop computer scene for decades because no other desktop platform offers the mix of user-friendly controls and mass support. Likewise, Windows Servers, while capable of complex operations and customization, are also perfect for users with little-to-no programming background who never want to get their hands dirty with command line and think plug-ins are things that make your home smell nice.

  • Do my users have to be on Windows too?

    No. Users can access your server from any machine. However, if you plan to use Windows 2008 as a file-sharing computer or for your company intranet, some users may not have access to Windows-only software from non-windows machines.

  • Is there any training available for Windows 2008?

    Absolutely. Classes are available just about anywhere, in person or online. They are offered through Microsoft, as well as through a number of third-party testing groups. Certifications are also available for a variety of server-based roles.

  • How do hardware requirements compare for Windows 2008 versus a Linux server?

    In general, Windows servers require more from their hardware than Linux servers. Even given the age of the OS, you should still expect to need a higher-end machine than if you were to select a brand-new Linux server. And you need to consider the age of the OS. If you are going the Windows server route, you should consider going with 2012 instead, or wait until 2016 is released. Both of those, of course, will have even higher demands in terms of hardware.

  • Is it true that I can now run .NET applications on Linux too?

    Yes. As Microsoft continues to move its focus away from the operating system and toward applications, and in particular winning mobile users on other platforms, they have made their full server-side .NET stack open source. This includes ASP.NET, the .NET compiler, and the .NET Core Runtime, Framework, and Libraries.

  • I built my site in FrontPage, what happens when Front Page Extensions are no longer supported?

    You can continue to use your website, but some of the functions may no longer be available, such as direct upload via HTTP, FrontPage-managed online forms, and FrontPage reports. For a complete list, you should contact your host. Better yet, this may be the perfect time to bring your website out of the aughts.

  • What are the system requirements for running Windows 2008?

    You will need at least a 1 GHz x86 processor or a 1.4 GHz x64 processor, 512 MB RAM, and 10GB available hard disk space. Of course, those are minimums. For best performance, you should shoot much higher, particularly if you plan on using the Enterprise or Datacenter versions.

  • How much RAM does Windows 2008 support?

    That depends on your version and system configuration. If you are running Windows 2008 on a 32-bit system, you are limited to 4 GB for the Standard version and 64 GB for the Enterprise or Datacenter versions. On a 64-bit system, you can go up to 32 GB for Standard, 1 TB for Enterprise and Datacenter, and 2 TB on Itanium-based systems.

  • I don’t know how to use Linux. Should I buy Windows hosting?

    The operating system you use for your daily computing should not in any way influence the hosting package you pick. If that mattered, the army of dedicated Apple users would all be out of luck because you won’t find a Mac hosting plan. Or an iOS hosting plan for that matter. The user interface you’re familiar with doesn’t matter, because your interaction with your web server is going to be through a web-based control panel, a web development program like Dreamweaver, or an FTP client. And if you plan on using a CMS platform, such as WordPress, it’s going to look the same regardless what server you are using. Pick your server based on how you plan to use it, not what you’re familiar with.

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