The fact that you are reading this article indicates that you have been looking for a web host, and will therefore have noticed by now that most web hosting companies off you either Unix (or Linux) Hosting, Windows Hosting or both – to some this is an unexpected decision to have to make, many unless they own a Mac will be largely unaware of the capabilities of any other platform than Windows. So what are the differences between the two systems and what are the advantages of each?
The first point to note is that you do not need Windows Hosting just because you have a Windows based PC, nor do you need Unix if you own a Mac, the HTML code or Java Script you upload onto the server is universal as is the server's output of that code, so your website will look the same on either. The difference lies in the software which is used to output that website.
Unix Hosting uses a Unix based operating system which was developed primarily for use on severs, Unix Hosting is generally cheaper than Windows because most web hosts use Linux – a Free Open Source version of Unix (which is used in some supercomputers) and consequently do not have to shell out thousands of pounds in licensing and support to Microsoft, a saving which is passed on to you the user. Another advantage of using free open source software is that anyone can make changes and improvements to the source code, and in doing so add functionality and updates without contravening any license, this factor has lead to Unix based systems naturally evolving over the years to become relatively bug-free. As a result Unix based operating systems are renowned for their inherent stability and their ability to run for years before a reboot is required, thus requiring less attention from technicians and reducing costs – an attractive feature for a server.
Windows Web Hosting as the name suggests uses MS Windows as an operating system and although more expensive and slightly less stable does have some benefits over it's Unix based conterpart. Primarily this has to do with what you want to host; if you want to use an MS Access database or upload MediaPlayer files such as music or Videos you will require Windows Hosting, (NB MP3, Quicktime, Shockwave, Flash and Real can be handled by either system).
Making the decision as to which is best thus comes down to what you want to do with your web space. Both Systems can host Multimedia both can host dynamic content and with PHP, MySQL and CGI, but the question becomes you need to run Windows based applications on your server? If so then you have no choice but to use a Windows Hosting solution, if the answer is no then can make your decision based on other factors such as choice of host, cost and reliability.