What Makes Linux the Preferred Web Hosting Choice?

Linux hosting? Still thinking?

This article explores the reasons why Linux-based Web hosting solutions are enjoying a larger market share globally, and why they are being hailed as more scalable, flexible and cost effective when compared to hosting on proprietary operating systems.

When it comes to server operating systems, proprietary platforms like Windows and the various Unixes, and Linux have been battling for the front spot for a long time now. Naturally, the same battle is on in the Web hosting domain too.

The good news, we all know Linux, is that Linux is definitely leading the pack by a wide margin in the Web hosting solutions’ space. Before moving on to the reasons that make Linux a popular choice, let’s first look at a few statistics that reveal how things are currently placed in the Web hosting OS market.

P Sridhar Reddy, MD and CEO, CtrlS

P Sridhar Reddy, MD and CEO, CtrlS, feels that "the availability of cheap Linux server solutions is helping fuel the growth of Linux in the Indian Web hosting industry."

The Linux dominion

In 2009, Linux’s share of the server market ranged between 20 to 40 per cent, based on the number of Linux servers sold by various companies. There has been a considerable growth in this domain since then. “Currently, Linux is estimated to have acquired about 70 per cent of the server market in India, based on the number of Apache servers in operation,” comments P Sridhar Reddy, MD and CEO of Ctrl S. And he believes that Linux will continue to dominate the server market in the coming years as well.

Factors that make Linux a popular choice

Considering the fact that researchers and developers are working incessantly to provide regular upgrades in the Linux and open source space, Linux hosting solutions are considered to be more in sync with the latest technical advancements.

Flavio Andrade, Web hosting manager at Go Daddy agrees with this view: “Because Linux is so popular, customers recognise it and feel a sense of trust. Because it is open source, there are always developments and new technologies becoming available. Linux has a strong ecosystem of development platforms, server components and applications that are very enticing to Web developers and site owners.”

Companies providing hosting solutions also prefer to work on Linux as it is compliant with a wide variety of hardware, affirms Reddy. “It is easier for independent developers to detect and fix errors on Linux, which means that problems can be resolved more rapidly. In theory, Linux has a good user-based technical support ecosystem, where users address their problems to the community, which invariably responds with fixes for problems.”

Reasons that give open source Web-hosting solutions an edge
According to Reddy, the top five reasons why companies prefer hosting on a Linux based server, as opposed to a Windows based server, are as follows:

  1. Licensing costs for Linux hosting solutions are lower than that for Windows hosting solutions.
  2. The servers that implement Linux hosting solutions can support a higher websites-per-server ratio, without any compromise in the quality of service.
  3. Linux hosting solutions are undoubtedly more stable than Windows.
  4. Linux hosting solutions are known for their reliability.
  5. Linux hosting servers are secure and fulfill client requirements efficiently.

The flip side of Windows

The biggest disadvantage of using Windows as the Web hosting platform is that since it is not open source software, a user is forced to rely entirely upon the manufacturer (i.e., Microsoft) to release updates and provide bug fixes. Unfortunately, these bug fixes and updates may even take months to arrive, leaving the Web hosting providers and their customers high and dry. “Linux, on the other hand, is open source and hence developers and users can view and modify its source code. This makes it easier to spot bugs or potential problems and report them straight away,” emphasises Reddy.

On the technology front, both Windows and Linux operating systems have been coded by some of the most talented programmers in the world, and are extremely powerful. Reddy agrees and observes, “Linux has the LAMP stack for Web hosting while Windows has its IIS solution, both of which provide very capable software systems for hosting, uploading, and managing websites. The final choice may revolve around whether you specifically need a .NET framework and ASPX support, in which case Windows hosting would be the preferable solution. However, if you require a flexible, open-sourced solution, Linux hosting is your answer.”

Web hosting on the cloud

Many Web hosting companies these days are offering solutions on the cloud. The two key reasons why cloud-based hosting services are being increasingly adopted are the cost and the flexibility that the services provide.

So, does the cloud affect the regular hosting market? “It does in different ways,” says Andrade. “For the shared hosting market, [the cloud-based services] affect it in a transparent way. Customers who take advantage of a hosting company like Go Daddy will benefit from intrinsic scalability, resilience and security. Nevertheless, if they remain with old-school hosting providers using single hosting boxes, they will be stuck in the last decade.”

Flavio Andrade, Web hosting manager, Go Daddy

Flavio Andrade, Web hosting manager, Go Daddy, shares that the number of its Indian customers for virtual dedicated servers is rising by the day.

Reddy adds to this comment, “An increasing number of organisations are able to integrate performance and availability monitoring of cloud infrastructure services with the monitoring of the rest of their IT environments. This equips them to maximise the benefits, as well as the overall performance and availability of the cloud services they use.”

Though the concept of Web hosting on the cloud has been relatively recent, Go Daddy claims it has been delivering solutions through the cloud for well over a decade, without actually referring to it as a “cloud” service. “In the last few years, the average end-user has started to understand the concept better, and there have been technological advancements in the virtualisation space that have enabled us to extend the concept to what our customers touch and see. Great improvements have been made in elasticity, scalability and hardware abstraction,” Andrade states.

But does this mean that the dedicated server market is shrinking? Andrade doesn’t think so. He contends: “More people will realise that to them it’s better to have a scalable platform that is fully virtualised than being limited to their own physical server. That doesn’t mean the dedicated server market is shrinking, though. Go Daddy sells considerably more dedicated servers today than we did a year ago. However, Go Daddy has seen growth in the virtual and cloud computing fronts as well.”

How does Linux fare in India?

If we turn our focus to India, Linux Web hosting solutions are becoming popular among Indian companies too, because these solutions are relatively cheaper than the proprietary options such as Windows solutions. “Cost is an important factor in the Indian Web hosting industry. The availability of cheap Linux server solutions is helping fuel the growth of Linux in the Indian Web hosting industry. The increasing use of PHP as the scripting language and MySQL as the database software is also increasing the demand for Linux Web hosting in India,” observes Reddy.

Andrade also shares that the number of its Indian customers for virtual dedicated servers is rising by the day. The company has in fact set up a data centre in Asia, especially keeping in view the requirements of customers who want their sites to be physically closer to where their visitors are.

In a nutshell

With the market dynamics changing more rapidly than ever, the rate at which customers are adopting open source related technologies and products has also been on the rise, globally as well as in India. With data centres also switching to Linux and open source tools and platforms, the end customer is reaping the benefits of increased efficiencies and lower costs. The overall cost of ownership has also been reduced significantly.

Considering all the advantages that Linux-based Web hosting offers, organisations that adopt these solutions will surely find themselves smiling at their decision at the end of the day!

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