Linux Web Hosting : The All You Need To Know
By Rodel Garcia
Linux web hosting is so named, based on the operating system on which the web server software, database, and coding conventions reside. The functionality and robust nature of Linux has definitely made it a very viable alternative to Microsoft and Unix-based operating systems. Linux is now recognized worldwide as an enduring network, file/print, and web server operating system. Endearingly called a LAMP server, the Linux web hosting model is based on the server having a LINUX operating system, an APACHE web server application, a MYSQL database, and a PHP server markup coding application. As time has proven, the Linux/LAMP server continues to be a strong option to reliably serving web pages and running web-based applications. Per netcraft.com, "Apache continued to take market share from Microsoft servers" during a March 2005 web server survey of 60 million web sites.
The advantages of Linux-based web hosting surround the premises of reliability, security, functionality, and price.
In the case of reliability, there have been documented cases of Linux servers running for one year without technical difficulty or downtime! This is amazing, considering the fact that web hosting servers with Microsoft operating systems are notorious for needing scheduled reboots to refresh system resources.
Security is a bittersweet advantage. While out-of-the box installations may have known security vulnerabilities, Linux is continually evolving patches to make the operating system more bullet-proof, and overall, provide a greater degree of security than most Windows-based installations.
Functionality is another asset of Linux. Having evolved from almost a "hobbyist" operating system, to one which has vested interests from IBM, Sun, and other major companies, Linux web hosting now possesses phenomenal power and respect.
Lastly, price is a major advantage of Linux based web hosting, as distributions and flavors of Linux come in affordable ranges. Since Linux is available in these open source distributions, savings are generally passed to the customers.
Linux web hosting has the drawback of not being able to accommodate Windows-based applications and coding conventions. ASP coding, modules, and extensions specific to Microsoft generally cannot be run from Linux web servers. This can make a website coded specifically for a Windows platform obsolete, if attempts are made to host the site on a Linux platform.
While most Linux web hosting plans have evolved web management consoles, the "shell-based" views of Linux web servers may be intimidating to novice Linux web hosting customers. Furthermore, administrators of dedicated web servers must often read through obscure, extensive documentation to learn how to perform certain administrative tasks. Luckily, the increasing provision of great administrative consoles and documentation continues to evolve and make Linux server use easier and more ubiquitous.
The type of development and code in which the site is written will determine the basic operating system, on which the servers are operating. This will directly affect the decision to choose a Linux/Apache web hosting account, versus a Windows/IIS shared server.
The Linux web hosting advantages and technical benefits surround cheaper hosting fees, more reliable servers, readily available free programs and scripts, greater access and control of files and permissions, and ever-evolving control panels for administrative utility.
On the contrary, Windows-based web hosting is generally easier to get started, well supported overall, and of course, integrates better with other Microsoft applications including FrontPage extensions, ASP generated pages, and SQL server installations.
Overall, many web hosting companies will offer a variety of plans and packages. Become familiar with the basics to make an educated judgment on your Linux web hosting accounts and how the accounts will serve the needs of the coding project at hand.
More about the Linux Web Hosting Environment
As mentioned earlier, the Linux Web hosting environment is most commonly seen as a LAMP box. This neat acronym stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, and is the basis for one's decision in choosing a Linux web hosting provider. Here is more information on each component.
Linux - There will be several variants of Linux offered by different Linux hosting vendors. From RedHat to FreeBSD, Linux offers a strong operating system solution through more and more flavors. Per Linux.org, "Linux is an operating system that was initially created as a hobby by a young student, Linus Torvalds, at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Linus had an interest in Minix, a small UNIX system, and decided to develop a system that exceeded the Minix standards. He began his work in 1991 when he released version 0.02 and worked steadily until 1994 when version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel was released. The kernel, at the heart of all Linux systems, is developed and released under the GNU General Public License and its source code is freely available to everyone. It is this kernel that forms the base around which a Linux operating system is developed. There are now literally hundreds of companies and organizations and an equal number of individuals that have released their own versions of operating systems based on the Linux kernel. More information on the kernel can be found at our sister site, LinuxHQ and at the official Linux Kernel Archives. The current full-featured version is 2.6 (released December 2003) and development continues"
Apache - Per Apache's website, "the Apache HTTP Server Project is an effort to develop and maintain an open-source HTTP server for modern operating systems including UNIX and Windows NT. The goal of this project is to provide a secure, efficient and extensible server that provides HTTP services in sync with the current HTTP standards" Furthermore, per the Netcraft Web Server Survey of February 2005, it was recorded that more than 68% of the web sites on the Internet are using Apache.
MySQL - As the recipient of the "2004 Developer.com Product of the Year", MySQL has become the world's most popular and efficient open source database. Per MySQL.com, "over six million installations use MySQL to power high-volume Web sites and other critical business systems - including industry-leaders like The Associated Press, Yahoo, NASA, Sabre Holdings and Suzuki . Its award-winning speed, scalability and reliability make it the right choice for corporate IT departments, Web developers and packaged software vendors."
With PHP and Apache experiencing explosive growth, and while both applications have Windows and Linux-based distributions, Linux is generally the most conducive operating system to extract all utility of these applications. This furthermore validates the importance of Linux web hosting.
How to decide:
The decision to choose a Linux web host is dependant upon the track record of the company, as well as factors such as value, hardware branding, uptime, bandwidth, and the ability for growth.
More specifically, the major decision is related to operating system fundamentals i.e. Windows versus Linux. Again, this is based on the coding conventions of the site, the website database needs, and the need for reliability. The following table very generically lists the differences between Windows and Linux Web Hosting to assist one in making a general decision to pursue Linux Web hosting.
Features Unix Windows
MS FrontPage 2000, 2002 x x
Flash x x
Shockwave x x
Real Audio/Video x x
CGI Scripts x x
PERL x x
PHP x x
SSH (Secure Telnet) x x
Web-Based Control System x
Anonymous FTP x
Web Site Graphical Statistics x
Web-Based Email System x x
Visual Basic Scripts x
Miva/XML x x
Cold Fusion x x
ASP (Active Server Pages) x x
Windows Media x
SQL 2000 x
MS Access x
As seen here, Linux web hosting is a very sound choice for hosting needs. The ready availability of open source software and architecture has been a real asset to making a very reliable web hosting option affordable. One should heavily consider the benefits of Linux web hosting when initiating project plans on the web.
About the Author
Rodel Garcia is a freelance programmer and web developer. Owner and webmaster of
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