Nowadays, the topic about privacy, user-friendliness and diversity of the operating systems is more relevant than ever. We have the Microsoft's Windows, the community driven Linux, the proprietary Android, Chrome OS, iOS and OSX (MacOS). Of course, each of them has its own dedicated fans and the dispute about the scalability and flexibility of the systems is ongoing forever, sometimes reaching escalation levels beyond the reasonable arguments.
I will not step into details about the everyday use of these operating systems, but rather will discuss their operational capacity for the small, medium and enterprise businesses - the server application of the software.
Currently, Linux and Windows have the major share in database centers, harboring clusters and nests of highly-efficient, power blended machines which are used for megaflops of calculations and analysis. There is the common notion and understanding among those who are not too deep into the matter or have no touch whatsoever to the IT industry sector that Windows has the major part in owning that ratio as a top player on the market. The truth is quite different, but I will discuss this below. And since these are the two most spread server OSes, I will try to explain their strengths, and the decision which one will be more useful to you or is better than the other, will remain a choice of your own.
The most common utilization of the servers today includes Web Server configurations, Public Cloud servers and Database storage (Data-centers). I will just scratch the surface with a basic explanation of the first two, backing up the information with some statistics. Database centers are only using the systems for containing important information and they do not need to be very versatile in terms of capabilities like streaming, authentication, ftp options, HTML 5 configurations, hand-shaking protocols, etc.
Let's start with some statistics on the usage of the OSes for the public clouds, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. (images taken from thecloudmarket.com)
And, of course, we have to mention the trend in the Web server business, latest of which has been studied in 2015. (image taken from a blog post in w3cook.com):
Here the situation is even more distinct as the share of the Windows system is less than 5%.
Of course, we cannot disregard the facts, but we have to explain why the distribution is so striking, even for those who are more open-minded and are used to adaptation and change. In several interviews Administrators and Cloud managers point out why their company has chosen Linux over Windows OS for the servers:
1. No viruses, optimized security and privacy - the UNIX base of the system does not lead to BSOD or any other "hanging" for 10, 15 or 30 minutes - to date only 40-60 viruses exist most of which require root access. It also deals efficiently with any concerns about user privacy and any data being stolen.
2. Ownership or FREEDOM as in FREE - the system is NOT owned by a large corporation which dictates the way it will be developed (with small exceptions and versions, which are still free - OpenSuse, CentOS - the free version of RHEL, Ubuntu). With Linux you get speed, both for free.
3. Customization and development - From developer's point of view Linux core could represent the paradise for the programmers. You can make your Linux look like anything else, do anything else, Linux can also be easily reconfigured to include only the services needed for your business. Linux provides better platform for networking. It's easy to set up/config networks on Linux. In addition, you even can build a cluster which is a lot more easier than you had might think. It is also used by programmers, developing for the MacOS environment ad both systems are UNIX based, which allows for better implementation. You can shut down services in the initial configuration and you can use the system as different server role simultaneously - Email server, Sharepoint server, Cloud service (Adobe cloud product). The latter are also available in the Windows server editions.
4. File system and stability - options to choose from: ext4,3,2 Xfs, jfs, fat, ntfs. You can access the files stored on Windows filesystems like ntfs, fat etc. but you can't do the same in Windows for the Linux partitions. Linux can run for years without failure.
5. Desktops and Software Center - options to choose from KDE, unity, gnome, xfce, enlightenment, etc. Which allows to modify the visual style according to your liking. The Center is the unique place to find software, so you do not have to look anywhere in the web … probably only in very rare occasions. Updates are delivered without the need of reboot.
6. Hardware compatibility and resources - From Basic Pentium PC to high end server chipsets - legacy hardware to advanced one, such as UEFI and Secure Boot protected Linux consumes less power
7. Software compatibility - You can install 20 programs using a single command, which is very useful from an Administrator's point of view. This is the most discussed and most abused feature of Linux core systems, especially by Windows fans. Of course, we have to mention that some of the programs, designed for the Windows OS will not be able to operate and that is the major flaw of the Linux core systems. Doubtfully, I cannot remember who exactly established the Windows system as a standard to which anything else should be compared. Perhaps, that is a result of the spread of this OS, which leads us to
8. Wine - An extra operational layer, allowing to start and install software, designed for the Windows ecosystem. Nowadays, you can run Microsoft Office, if you need it; Adobe Photoshop, as the most speculated incompatible program between the two OSes; Corel Draw still has some flaws and is not ready to operate in Linux environment; Games are mostly compatible with latest iterations of the program, if you need a break from coding.
And for the purpose of objectivity we need to point out When Is Linux the Wrong Choice
It was not easy to make sure about that topic, Windows Server is a great server OS but we prefer Linux. Please keep in mind that there are some scenarios where Windows Server is the right choice.
It is very obvious, if you need to use software like ASP, ASP.NET, MS SQL, MS ACCESS, or Visual Basic development tools, Windows Server is needed. You cannot run away from that … and the idea it was built upon shares the same principle.
You or your server administrator might be more familiar with Windows Server and the Microsoft ecosystem itself and you might not have the time and other resources to invest in learning to use Linux ecosystem. Making the pragmatic choice may well be what's best for your business. All is a matter of choice and cannot be regarded as an advantage for either of the systems, neither as a flaw of the other!
When choosing a service or a server for the long-term strategy of the company one has to foresee expenses, operational execution, roles, flexibility and reliability of the system and the eco-environment.
We do not engage in defining which of the two major choices will be more useful to you as we cannot bisect every business - that is the job of the executives in that company and they are the ones to decide the pluses and the minuses of each option. We have given less known facts about one of the candidates and did not engage in going over and over again on the other as they have received more than necessary attention in the internet and the different medias. For the purpose of fair play and informative choice, you as a potential client, should know what to expect from either side. That is one of the basis on which the "best practices" are built. There is no right or wrong answer - every service is made to respond to a certain role and demand - so whether you will choose the Windows Server editions or one of the many Linux core based editions - the most important is that the one you have opted for serves you well and profitable.
As a bonus I am including one of the less known hosting services for Linux servers of your choice.
Ultimately, the choice is yours … or of your company!