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A Windows-driven hosting solution can provide significant advantages for those using ASP and .NET scripts or Microsoft Exchange (at a premium price).

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Why Choose Windows Hosting?

Most low cost hosting is provided on Linux servers, but a Linux set-up isn't suitable for everyone. If you design your site using ASP and .NET, you'll need a Windows host to properly support it. And there are some other good reasons to reject Linux hosting, too.

Let's get one myth out of the way: You don't need a Windows server just because you have a Windows PC or laptop. Web hosting is completely independent of your own set-up at home or in the office.

Choosing a new hosting plan is a complicated process. As well as different capacities and resource allocations, you'll also come across different platforms: Windows and Linux. There are various versions of both to choose from. Before signing up, you will need to decide whether Linux hosting will be the right option for your site, or whether you should invest in Windows hosting.

The majority of the world's websites are hosted on Linux servers. (Here's why.) While Linux is a great general purpose operating system, you'll need Windows for specific applications and technologies.

  • You'll need a Windows server for anything that requires the .NET framework. Specifically, Windows is required for anything written in ASP (which stands for Active Server Pages, so the clue is in the name) or ASP.NET.
  • You will also need a Windows server if you're working with Visual Basic (VB), ColdFusion or C#.
  • Windows is required if you need to hook into any products in the Microsoft stack, such as Exchange, or if you're working in SharePoint. This includes designing content in SharePoint Designer.
  • If you need to host legacy content built in Microsoft FrontPage, it is advisable to use a Windows server for this, as Microsoft will continue to support the required FrontPage Extensions until July 2015. Read more about FrontPage Extensions on our blog

When Windows Won't Work

If you need to use PHP, CGI, Perl or Python, Linux is a better choice because it's more of an all-rounder. And while WordPress can be installed on a Windows server, it's much wiser to go with Linux because there's far more support and documentation available to help you resolve any problems.

In terms of databases, check with your host to see what they offer. Linux tends to use MySQL, while Windows servers usually run MS SQL (and MS Access, to some degree).

If you know you'll need to SSH into your server, you will need to go with Linux hosting.

Control Panels

Hosting control panels vary from host to host, and we recommend sticking with what you know. If you know how to use Plesk, and you find it productive, you'll find that many Windows hosts support it (as will some Linux hosts). However, if you prefer cPanel and WHM and want to stick with those applications, you must host your site on a Linux machine.

There are some other control panels on Windows servers alongside Plesk. DirectAdmin is one of the more common.

One handy feature of Windows hosting is the ability to use Remote Desktop direct from your Mac or PC to your server. This is normally only allowed on dedicated server plans.

Pros and Cons of Windows Hosting

All web hosts will allow you to get a simple website online. However, we recommend that you choose Linux hosting unless you have a specific reason to choose Windows. Why?

On the plus side, Windows:

  • Is easy to use, and requires less interaction with the command line
  • Is arguably easier to manage and update than Linux, particularly if you're not experienced with hosting
  • Supports the specialized scripting languages we've already covered
  • Is just as stable as Linux, if managed correctly by the host

But beware of Windows hosting if:

  • The script you need is written in PHP; it's generally easier to use PHP on Linux boxes
  • You don't know your way around WordPress. Support for WordPress on Windows is not easy to come by, and it may require custom configuration
  • You want the cheapest shared hosting you can find. Windows is always more expensive, and a few extra bucks will quickly mount up over a monthly subscription
  • You want to stay loyal to particular hosting company. Not all hosts provide Windows hosting
  • You need Apache, or a specific Apache module
  • You want the flexibility to customize your server

For those willing to pay a little more and tinker a little less, Windows-based hosting provides a stable platform for building robust Internet applications and web sites.

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