When you’re in the market for web hosting services you’re going to have a lot of options to choose from, and a ton of decisions to make.
You not only have to find a quality hosting provider, but choose the right type of hosting for your website. With each hosting type, you’ll find a variety of different options and features you’ll have to decide between as well.
One of those decisions will be which operating system is going to run on your server. Your operating system will influence the different applications and software that you can run, and that your server can support.
The most popular choice of server OS is Linux. But, some website owners will require the unique functions of a Windows server for their sites to function properly. If that sounds like you, then this post is for you.
Below you’ll learn what Windows hosting is, the unique advantages and disadvantages it offers your website, and what to look for, so you can choose the best Windows hosting for your needs.
What Is Windows Hosting?
Chances are you’ve heard of the Microsoft operating system Windows. You might even be using it on your computer right now. Well, just like there have been multiple releases of the traditional Windows OS, there are different versions of the operating system that are built for specific purposes.
One of those is Windows hosting. This form of hosting was built to run on server environments, namely Windows Server. The use of Windows as a server operating system is on the rise, and for some website owners, it has become the preferred option.
Linux still remains popular and widely used, but the name recognition of Microsoft Windows alone is helping Windows hosting rise in popularity.
When you see the term “Windows web hosting,” it refers to the fact that the server hosting your website is using Windows as an operating system as opposed to Linux. You might also see Windows hosting referred to as ASP.NET hosting.
Most of the other common hardware features will be the same with either form of hosting. You’ll have variations of storage, bandwidth, disk space, domain management features, and more, depending on your web hosting plan. The biggest difference is simply the operating system you’re choosing.
Keep in mind that you won’t need to choose Windows hosting services just because you’re running Windows on your home PC. The two are completely unrelated. You can host your site with Windows hosting even if you’re running Linux on your home computer!
Why Windows Over Linux?
The choice between the Windows and Linux operating systems is just one of many choices you’ll have to make when finding the ideal hosting provider. So, before you move forward with your web hosting decision you’ll need to choose between the two.
If you’re in the market for a shared hosting plan, then you’ll find that most servers only run on Linux. But, Windows options are available, depending on the hosting provider.
One of the biggest reasons to use Windows hosting services is if you’re building your site using ASP.NET. That framework requires a Windows host to properly support the site.
Here are some of the most common reasons you’ll want to choose Windows hosting:
- Your website is built with, or requires, programming that only works with Windows
- You’re building your website or application with the ASP.NET framework
- You’re working with Visual Basic, FrontPage or MS SQL
Basically, if you’re utilizing a Microsoft application to build your website, or if you require a Microsoft application for the ongoing use of your website, then Windows hosting is going to be a necessity.
Some people will also use Windows hosting, so they can utilize the Plesk control panel to manage their sites and server environment.
The Plesk control panel will help you manage and deploy websites and applications, configure email accounts, and a lot more.
The Pros of Windows Web Hosting Services
Windows hosting can offer your site specific advantages if you’re a certain kind of website owner.
Here are some of the biggest advantages to using Windows hosting:
1. Flexible Server Solution
Windows hosting can afford you a lot of flexibility. For example, you have the ability to run Apache server software or even Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). You also have the ability to use the ASP.NET framework, Visual Basic, or if you need to use MS Access or MS SQL for your databases.
Also, if you developed your web app or site using .NET, then you’ll need to use Windows to host it.
Same goes for using a program like Microsoft Exchange or Outlook. You’ll need a server configuration that’ll support any existing web applications or services you’re using through your website.
For those who have built their websites or web applications with Microsoft supported applications and tools, Windows hosting will be a great option that can help you get the highest level of performance and functionality.
2. Easy to Use
A lot of people who choose Windows hosting do so out of familiarity. They use, know, and understand the Windows OS, so it makes sense for your server to run the same software as well.
If you are going to be involved in running your server, then this knowledge might come in handy. If you’re running a Linux server, then you’ll need to understand how to use the command line and engage with the server in a different manner.
Now, you might just be using the Plesk control panel to manage your Windows server, but the OS familiarity can be a benefit for some users—especially those who want to access their servers using the command line.
3. Windows Platform Compatibility
Since your web server environment will be running Windows, you’ll also see compatibility with a variety of other Windows platforms and technologies.
For example, if you use Outlook to manage your email, then you should be able to configure Outlook to work with your server environment as well.
You’ll also find support for other software applications that have been designed specifically for Windows.
If you want to use other software on your server, you’ll still find compatibility with commonly used open-source languages like PHP, Apache, and MySQL. However, keep in mind that these languages and technologies might perform better on Linux machines.
If you’re unsure if the underlying technologies used to create and run your site or application will be compatible with a Windows host, then you’ll want to reach out to customer support before you sign up with a host.
4. Consistent Software Updates
Like most other Microsoft products and services, you’ll receive a steady stream of updates with Windows hosting.
With regular operating system updates, you can ensure that your web server will be protected against the latest security risks that are lurking online. Plus, since they’re official company updates and releases, you may receive a higher level of support than what other open source solutions can provide.
Being able to access a team of Microsoft technical support specialists can be very valuable for some website owners.
The Cons of Windows Hosting
Windows hosting won’t be the right fit for every kind of website owner. Some people will be a better fit for a Linux-based server.
Here are the most common drawbacks of using Windows hosting:
1. System Reboot Issues
One of the biggest downsides to running a Windows server is the frequent system reboots. If you currently use a Windows PC, then you’ll know about this issue. Now, the server edition of Windows you’ll be running will reboot less than the traditional operating system, but it does happen more often than with a Linux-based server.
This can end up affecting your site’s reliability and performance. However, you can expect web hosts with long running Windows hosting packages to have the majority of these kinks worked out.
2. Can Be Less Stable
Windows hosting can be less stable than a Linux-based server environment. Generally, a Windows server will be less streamlined than a Linux server. Simply because there’s more going on with a Windows server, there’s also a greater chance of things going wrong.
The chances are higher that you’ll experience reliability and stability issues with a Windows server. If server stability is very important to you, then you might want to explore different web hosting options.
3. More Expensive Hosting
If the price of hosting is one of your biggest decision-making factors, then Windows hosting might not be the best option for you. Windows hosting isn’t the most expensive form of hosting you’ll find, but it is more expensive than a shared server running Linux.
Since Windows isn’t a free and open source OS, the hosting company has to pay a licensing fee to install it on their servers.
If you’re looking for the cheapest hosting possible, then you’ll probably end up going with a Linux-based server environment.
What to Look for in the Best Windows Hosting Provider
If you’re looking for the best Windows hosting provider, then your options are going to be relatively straightforward.
Beyond ensuring that the hosting plan you’re choosing supports Windows servers, there are a few additional features you’ll want to take into account.
1. Support for Required Software
If your website requires certain software, languages, or scripts, then you’ll need to make sure that it’s supported by the Windows host you choose.
The worst thing you could do is go all the way with signing up with a Windows host, only to realize they don’t support the software that your site requires to function.
If you’re running non-Windows software, programming languages, or platforms, then you’ll need to double-check that the software is supported.
2. Plans Within Your Budget
One of the most important factors in choosing the best Windows hosting for you is finding a host that fits within your budget. Now, if you’re looking for quality, price alone shouldn’t be the biggest factor.
Instead, you should look at the total value of the host. Do they provide the hardware and software you require? Are the servers high-performing? Do they provide Windows-specific support?
Try to find a Windows host that fits within your budget, while also offering additional hosting benefits beyond strictly running the Windows OS.
After all, your operating system choice doesn’t matter a whole lot, if it doesn’t have the additional features you need, or you end up with a poor-performing website.
3. A Quality Support Team
A customer support team isn’t something you’ll need to rely on all the time. But, when you need it, you want a support team that you can count on and trust.
Make sure that your hosting provider offers support via a channel you prefer, whether that’s via phone, email, or even live chat.
Since you’re running a Windows server, you might also want to look for Windows-specific support. While running a Windows server should be less involved and easier to manage, a quality support team is always important to have.
4. Easy Site Management
If you’re relatively new to hosting your site online, then you’ll want to look for certain tools and applications that’ll make your life easier.
For example, ensure that your Windows host offers the Plesk control panel. This control panel operates similar to cPanel and offers you an intuitive graphical interface that’ll help you accomplish technical server and website tasks.
You might also want to look for a bundled application installer that can help you quickly install dozens of applications on your server environment.
Is Windows Hosting Right for You?
Chances are, Linux hosting is going to be a better fit for most website owners. However, users who are building their sites with ASP.NET, or another Windows framework will require a Windows server to host their sites.
Overall, Linux servers are more common, but Windows hosting does cater to a portion of the market who will require a Windows server for their site to function properly.
Even if you’re an absolute beginner, a lot of hosts offer dedicated technical support, along with the bundled Plesk control panel for easy site and server management.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what Windows hosting is, the types of circumstances you’ll want to use Windows hosting, along with the benefits to hosting your site on a Windows server.