Windows Web Hosting Explained
There is a common misconception that just because you use a Windows operating system on your desktop, you must use a windows hosting provider for your web presence. The two are unrelated. Just as your personal computer requires an operating system, which is more than likely a version of Microsoft Windows, so too does a web server. Microsoft just so happens to produce one of those as well - windows web hosting.
Though the OS on your desktop is not a determining factor, there are many instances where a windows web hosting company is necessitated. If, for example, you use .NET script to compose your website, you will need a windows hosting provider. If you use MS SQL or Microsoft Access databases, you will need a windows hosting provider. If you use ASP or ASP.NET scripts for server-side programming, you'll want a windows web hosting provider. If you use PHP scripts and MySQL databases, however, you may want a Linux host.
Windows hosting offers ASP, ASP.NET, and Access Database support, the MS SQL server database, a IIS server, and is PHP and MySQL compatible. Most people using a Windows web hosting server are running Active Server Pages (ASP) technology. Linux, however, offers greater support for Perl scripts and CGI programs.
If you use FrontPage to design and publish your website, you'll find better support on a windows hosting provider than a Linux or a Unix based provider - likewise, if you plan to have Windows Streaming Media on your site, or use Visual Interdev. If, on the other hand, you expect to use remote interactive access via SSH or telnet, you'll only find support from Linux servers.
Linux is also an open source code, rather than a proprietary code like Microsoft's Windows products, which gives it a versatility and malleability that windows hosting lacks. If you enjoy programming custom applications, or scouring the net for innovative, free web tools, Linux may be just your thing. But if you'd rather rely on the expertise and experience of a stalwart team in a highly competitive industry, if you'd prefer neatly interlocking, integrated modules with point-and-click simplicity and minimal programming knowledge on the part of the user, then windows web hosting is probably for you.
Although a windows server can be quite expensive, it has one of the simplest user-interfaces available, and is therefore a server of choice for new and inexperienced administrators. Windows hosting is also incredibly convenient in that it is compatible with most other Microsoft products.
Providers with the newest windows hosting version offer windows hosting clients a collection of third party applications called Web Site Starters custom designed for a Windows environment.
If, heaven forbid, your database technology and web-building tools are from different platforms (one Linux-based, the other Windows-based) then your first step is probably to determine which you prefer - Linux or Windows web hosting - and switch over any incompatible web software to the winning platform. Generic, cross-platform technologies offer you the most versatility, but often with limited functionality. It's worth doing a little extra research to find which software systems you prefer, because you'll get more for your money with a fully integrated web-presence package than doing it piecemeal. And you'll have a far easier time with the inevitable, constant updating involved in administering a website.