Linux vs. Windows (about servers)


Servers are the computers that provide the interface between your computer and the wonders of the Internet. You have to use an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to access the Internet. The ISP Internet servers stand between you and access. If you own your own website or blog and use a web hosting service to publish it to the Internet, the web servers of your host provider is where your web site exists and you manipulate your web site via the link between your computer and their web server. The same goes for email. If you use the email servers of your email hosting service, it is done via the link between your computer and theirs. It is important to understand that as we talk about ISP, email and web server operating systems. Your host’s choice of operating systems might affect how well you interface with their web servers and the quality of the experience.

The other major consideration about web server operating systems is security. A computer is a computer whether it is your PC or the server of your ISP or web host. Servers are as susceptible to security issues as your PC is. Thus, the choice of operating systems of the web servers you interface with should concern you from that aspect as well. There are a host of myths and misinformation out there regarding the security of Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS) web server operating system and Linux. That is mostly because Linux is an open source operating system and IIS is a proprietary, closed source operating system. The programming code of open source systems is readily available to anyone that wants to modify it and customize it to their needs. Closed source IIS code is not publicly accessible and is tightly controlled by Microsoft. Thus, the myth that Linux is less secure than IIS. The truth of the matter is that Linux is more secure due to its modular, multi-user design that limits the impact and spread of viruses and worms than IIS’s monolithic, single-user design that does little to control the spread of a virus once the server is infected. IIS has recently undergone design changes to improve its security posture but the fact remains that its basic design is inherently one module of code versus Linux design, which is multi-modular with each module being independent of the other and therefore self-limiting in terms of virus or worm propagation. Linux is also easier to clean up after an infection occurs than IIS.

The huge mitigating factor to the security discussion is the fact that most PC’s that the public owns runs Microsoft Windows as it operating system. The best choice for a file, documents, and printer sharing server is Microsoft IIS, because it will be found that most of the client are using Windows operating system on their PC. Supporting and sharing files and printer with Windows IIS is very easy if the shared PC’s are running Windows operating system. It is possible to use Linux server to share files between windows PC’s but it is a very complex process and hard to maintain smoothly. On the other hand, to setup a server that does not interface directly to a user PC, such as an application server, a file server or one providing web services only would benefit from a Linux operating system since Linux server OS at its default configuration is more secure than the Windows IIS at its default configuration. The bottom line is that the decision is based on providing customer service at its best and making the experience a positive one for the customer.