Just like your desktop or laptop requires an operating system to work and run applications, your web server too needs an operating system that can manage various applications on both a multi-user and multi-tasking basis.
Unlike your personal computer, a web server has to deal with multiple users that may even run into thousands at a single point in time. To manage this load, these servers need to have operating systems that are crash-proof with the capability to handle large amounts of simultaneous data operations.
Two popular platforms that are generally used for web hosting servers are Linux and Windows. Both these platforms have their own advantages and drawbacks.
For hosting static web pages hosted in HTML the platform won’t matter. However, when you are planning to use dynamic database-driven elements on your website, like a content management system or a discussion forum, deciding between Linux and Windows is crucial.
Linux-based servers are more popular and they meet most common requirements that a website needs to operate. Linux runs on an open source model where there is an army of voluntary developers continuously working on enhancing the system. Linux is known to be more secure and stable, with capability of handling many more simultaneous operations as compared to Windows-based platform. Linux-based servers seamlessly integrate with other open source elements like – PHP (server scripting language), Apache web server and MySQL database.
There are few specialized areas where using Windows-based hosting becomes imperative in spite of its proprietary structure. Windows operates on its own set of elements such as ASP and DOTNET platforms that run at 100% of their functionality only on Windows-based servers. In case your website involves using applications that require ASP DOTNET platform, it is advisable to use Windows hosting.
For most generic purposes a Linux-based server works just fine, however if you are having a website that requires some specific functionality of the ASP DOTNET platform, Windows hosting would be the way to go.