When figuring out which web hosting plan is the right choice for your business, you have two main server options: Windows hosting and Linux hosting. If you don’t know anything about what they are and how they’re different, you could risk making the wrong decision out of the gate, and face trouble down the line getting your website working the way you’d like.
To help you make the best decision for your business, we’ve put together this guide on what Windows hosting is, who it’s for, and what to look for in a Windows hosting provider.
What Is Windows Hosting?
Windows hosting is website hosting that uses a Windows operating system. Because the most common web hosting plan options operate on Linux, you can usually assume that anytime a web hosting company doesn’t specify a plan is Windows hosting, it’s Linux hosting.
But for a certain subset of website owners, Windows server hosting is the better choice and it’s important to seek out a plan that provides the particular features that come with it.
3 Pros of Windows Hosting
Windows hosting isn’t for everyone, but it offers some unique benefits for the businesses that it’s a good fit for.
1. It runs on the familiar Windows operating system (OS).
Windows is the most popular operating system in the world. The current OS version alone has over 400 million users, and some estimates put the total user base at more than 1 billion. The Windows system is familiar, and using it is straightforward for millions of people around the world.
That said, when it comes to web hosting, most website owners don’t access the web server’s operating system directly. With Linux hosting, you typically use the cPanel, and with Windows server hosting you have the option of the Plesk control panel.
But for anyone who plans to use the server user interface directly, Windows hosting provides a much more intuitive user experience than the Linux user interface.
2. It provides compatibility with other Windows tools.
For a lot of business, this is the main reason to choose Windows hosting. If your business depends on a number of other Windows tools, then choosing a web hosting platform that plays nice with the various other software products and solutions you depend on will make your life easier.
If your website was built using ASP.NET web hosting, then you’ll need to use a Windows server.. Companies that use a Microsoft structured query language (SQL) server for their website and databases will also need to stick with Windows server hosting. Same thing goes if your business uses Microsoft Exchange for your company’s email server and Microsoft Sharepoint for your project management and team collaboration.
Basically, the more your business depends on Windows programs, the more likely you are to need Windows server hosting. You can always trust that your web hosting platform will be compatible with all your other legacy programs. And notably, you can trust that whenever your OS and related programs have an update, you don’t have to worry about losing functionality of other programs that depend on them since everything comes from the same company.
Another point worth considering is that most businesses that use a number of Windows-based tools will already employ a lot of tech support professionals that are experts on using, maintaining, and updating Windows programs. The people that already know how to manage your Windows products will have no problem also using your Windows server hosting.
3. It comes with the easy-to-use Plesk control panel.
Where Linux web hosting has the cPanel, Windows hosting has the Plesk control panel (although it should be noted that Plesk is also an option available with Linux hosting, just not as commonly used with it as cPanel). While many users that are already familiar with the OS can directly use the Windows server hosting interface, those that want something a little more user friendly can count on the Plesk control panel to make it easier to make updates and changes to your website.
Plesk provides an intuitive user interface that lets you create and manage multiple websites and domains, set up email accounts, and manage reseller accounts. Unlike cPanel, it’s more specifically focused on the needs of commercial website and app owners. It’s compatible with content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
And Plesk offers a number of different extensions companies can use to add more functionality to the control panel, including many that increase the website’s security, improve website performance, or add new applications to the website.
3 Cons of Windows Hosting
While the benefits of Windows server hosting are significant, there’s a reason that Linux is the default for web hosting solutions.. Windows hosting is great for what it does, but it has a few notable downsides as well.
1. It’s not as secure as Linux hosting.
Websites that run on Windows have been the victims of ransomware attacks in recent years with more frequency than Linux ones have. For that reason, Linux hosting is widely considered to be the more secure option for websites.
For business websites, security is an important consideration, especially if you sell products through the site and thus collect sensitive financial information from your customers. But even if you don’t have an eCommerce website, if hackers take your website down for hours or days, it’s bad for business and for your overall reputation.
While Linux web hosting beats Windows hosting in the security category, which of the two you pick is just one of many factors that influence website security. Even going with Windows hosting, you can do a lot to keep your website protected from hackers by making sure the web hosting company you choose invests in basic precautions, adding additional security software or extensions to your website, keeping all the website software you use up to date, and being careful about the levels of access you provide different people working on the site.
2. It’s more expensive.
Windows hosting does cost a bit more than Linux hosting, but the difference is fairly minimal. For instance, HostGator’s Linux-based plans start at $2.75 a month, and our Windows hosting plans start at $4.76. For both types of web hosting plans, the costs do go up as the website’s needs increase, but even for an enterprise-level plan, Windows hosting only costs $14.36 a month.
For most of the businesses making a decision—especially for enterprise businesses that already depend on a number of Windows products and systems—those numbers should be manageable, even as Windows hosting costs more.
3. It can be less stable.
Linux servers are known for being extremely reliable. They rarely need to be rebooted and can smoothly handle many functions at a time. Windows servers, in contrast, tend to have a little more trouble consistently handling a large number of apps and tasks at a time without interruption. As with any technology on the web, Windows servers have improved in this area over time and can be expected to continue to do so, but they’re generally not quite as consistent in their performance as Linux servers.
That said, this is another area where choosing the right web provider can make a big difference. A Windows hosting company that includes a 99.9% uptime guarantee is promising they’ve taken all the precautions to keep their Windows servers working as consistently as possible. With the right attention to maintenance and preparation, a good web hosting provider can help overcome the difference in server reliability between Windows and Linux hosting.
Who Should Use Windows Hosting?
For most new businesses starting out on the web, getting a shared hosting or cloud hosting plan based on a Linux server makes the most sense because of its affordability and reliability. Where Windows hosting really makes the most sense is for businesses—mostly enterprise or other large businesses that have been around for awhile—that have built their website and other systems on Windows programs.
If a lot of your business’s tech relies on Windows, then Windows server hosting is the natural choice. It will work seamlessly with all the other programs you use, and won’t require you to rebuild or work on anything from scratch. And the tech professionals your company relies on to keep all your systems working properly will already know how to work with the Windows hosting OS.
In short, if Windows hosting is the right choice for your company, your IT team will likely have strong feelings on the subject. Make sure you bring them into the conversation and let their input determine your web hosting choice.
What to Look for in a Windows Hosting Provider
If you’ve determined you do need Windows server hosting, then it’s important to find the right web hosting company and plan for your needs. When researching your options, here are a few good features to look for.
Any Windows hosting plan should provide the proper compatibility you need for all your Windows-based programs and software, including:
- ASP Classic
- MSSQL (Microsoft SQL Server)
- MS Access (Microsoft Access)
- Visual Basic Development
- Remote Desktop
- Microsoft Exchange
- Microsoft SharePoint
If your business is reliant on any of these though, it doesn’t hurt to double-check that the Windows web hosting plan you choose will work seamlessly with them.
In addition, if you use a popular CMS, like WordPress, check that the web hosting plan is compatible with that as well. If you add website tools like Google Analytics and AWstats, or eCommerce software like Magento or Woocommerce for an online store, be sure to check those as well..
Often, web hosting companies will advertise compatibility with common software solutions on the website, but if you don’t find the information there, you can check with the sales team for more information.
While as previously mentioned, Windows hosting has a weaker reputation for stability than Linux, finding the right web hosting provider can make all the difference in ensuring your website works consistently. The thing to look for here is a promise of at least 99.9% uptime. That’s how often the company guarantees your website will be up and accessible to your visitors.
Some companies, like HostGator, even back that promise up with a money-back guarantee, so you know they’re serious. Even if Windows servers aren’t quite as reliable as Linux ones, the right company that knows how to take proper care of them can help make up the difference.
Every business has to prioritize website security. The stakes are too high not to. Windows hosting may have more vulnerabilities than Linux hosting, but by choosing a reputable provider with a strong reputation for security, you can avoid much of the risk. Look for a company that uses firewalls to protect their servers, and that provides SSL certificates as part of their offerings.
And check if they provide additional security software or other options to help you further protect your website from hackers.
Reviewing the different plans available from various web hosting companies and the promises they make is just one part of making an informed decision. Also look into their reputation in the larger industry. Check out websites with third-party reviews to gain an unbiased look at the company’s reputation and determine if it’s in line with what you’re looking for.
Even if you have a tech team full of Windows experts, you may occasionally need customer service help from your web hosting provider. Confirm that your web hosting choice offers 24/7 customer service. If your website ever fails, you need to be sure you can get it working again right away. And make sure they offer multiple ways to get in touch. You should be able to use the communication format of your choice, whether that’s phone, live chat, customer portal, or email.
Find the Best Windows Hosting Plan for You
If Windows hosting is the right choice for your company, make sure you find the particular Windows hosting plan and provider that offers what you need.
HostGator’s Windows hosting solutions cover all the bases we’ve covered here, and you can choose between two levels based on whether you’re running a SMB business or have a larger enterprise company. Either way, you can count on the compatibility and features you need at a reasonable price.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.