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How to Select a Web Server and Server Platform?

A website has to be hosted on a web server before it can be accessed by online users from the Internet. There is a wide range of web servers running on different platform to choose from within the web hosting market today. According to Netcraft, a company that keeps statistics on the leading web servers and the platforms on the Internet, the most popular platforms and web servers are:

  • Unix and Linux running Apache web server (60.17%)
  • Window NT/2000 running Internet Information Server (IIS) (30.78%)

Other web servers include SunONE, Zeus, WebLogic, iPlanet and etc. Given the widespread popularity of Apache (closed to 60% market share) and Microsoft IIS (approximately 30%), you can almost guarantee you can find these two platforms are supported by most of the web hosting providers.

All computers require an operating system (an important piece of software) to be installed before it can function properly. For example, most of the personal computers today have installed Microsoft Windows operating system: Win98, WinXP or Win2000. Likewise, all web servers need operating system to perform different functionalities and different web servers run on different operating systems (or so called platforms). One of the most commonly found platform is UNIX that comes in various varieties that are popular with web hosts, including FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and Linux. Another popular platform that has gained strong ground as a platform for web hosting market is Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003.

With so many different platforms to choose from, how do you choose your web hosting plan?

If your website is purely make up of static web pages (i.e. HTML files), then any web hosting platform will work fine for you. However, if your website allows dynamic content, you will most likely need to run specific server-side functionality such as CGI scripts, JSP, ASP, SSI or PHP. In this case, UNIX platform web hosting will be ideal for your requirement.

On the other hand, if you need to use specific applications that require Windows to run such as ASP, .Net, MS Access, Microsoft SQL server or Cold Fusion, then you will need to find a web hosting providers that support Microsoft's Windows NT platform. Otherwise, all other server-side functionalities such as PHP, Perl and MySQL can be supported by UNIX platform.

While common programs such as Perl, PHP, Flash etc run on both UNIX and Window platform. Many other free open source software programs are available only for UNIX than for Windows. As a result, UNIX hosting is less expensive than Window hosting. So, if hosting cost is a big concern to you, then you should consider UNIX or Linux hosting.

If you have already decided on the type of design on your web pages, make sure you can find a web hosting plan that support your needs by reading the full features of the web hosting plan before you sign-up.

 

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