Back to the Basics #3: Server Operating Systems

In the third part of our “Back to the Basics” series, we will look at the operating systems that power today’s servers. Just as there is a diverse amount of hardware available on the server market, so too are there a great number of operating systems. They are not all equal in all aspects of web hosting, and they are certainly not all alike.

Deciding on the best operating system is not simply a matter of preference. You should carefully consider numerous factors, including:

  • the type of hardware you will use
  • the system requirements for the software you want to install
  • the programming languages and databases you will use for your web applications
  • your budget limitations for software
  • the purpose and goal of your server (i.e. for business, recreation, community, or no-profit)

Once you begin to answer these questions, you can start checking off the operating systems that fit your requirements. For example, if you require a particular software package from a specific vendor, that vendor may only make their software available on Windows. That would limit your options unless you look to virtualization. When it comes to budget, you may prefer a free operating system like CentOS over one that requires licensing, like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, even though the two may be equal in actually performance.