Our Frequently Asked Questions on Linux gives you insight on what you can expect when choosing a Unix or Linux platform to host your site. Also included is a comparison of Unix vs. Windows Web Hosting features.
Unix is a computer operating system. Unix was created in the late 1960s, in an
effort to provide a multi-user, multitasking system. The philosophy behind the
design of Unix was to provide simple, yet powerful utilities that could be pieced
together in a flexible manner to perform a wide variety of tasks.
Unix was created in 1969 by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie at Bell Laboratories.
Unix, as we know it today, actually began as an exercise to port a game called
?Space Travel? onto a PDP-7 computer. The lack of required functionality required
the authors to create floating-point arithmetic routines, an assembler, and even
a file system. The ?Space Travel? effort therefore evolved into the creation of
a self-sustaining operating system with a local file system, on a computer that
could previously only load software from a paper tape.
Linux is a complete operating system that is similar but not identical to Unix.
It runs on a wide variety of hardware, ranging from Intel and AMD CPUs to more
exotic hardware such as Digital Alpha computers, PowerPCs, and Silicon Graphics
workstations. Probably the most unique characteristic of Linux is that it is freely
distributable. Freely distributable means that the source code for the kernel
and most software cannot be withheld. It does not mean that companies cannot charge
for it. By means of comparison, hosting a website on Unix or Linux is nearly identical.
A young student, named Linus Torvalds, from the University of Helsinki in Finland,
created Linux in 1991. Since it?s inception, Linux has been developed by thousands
of developers from all over the world. Developed under the GNU General Public
License, the source code for Linux is freely available to everyone, making it
an attractive alternative to the pricey Windows platform.
A majority of the software written for Unix and Linux is developed under the
same GNU General Public License as the operating systems. What this means, is
that it is fairly simple to locate and install the software you need with minimal,
if any, out of pocket expense. Compared to the Windows platform, this is a big
plus for the Unix and Linux markets.
Apache is the name of the software that allows you to run a web service on a
Unix server. Apache is very popular and provides access to most web sites on the
Unix has a proven track record of performance, stability and security. It has
been in a state of constant refinement since its inception 30 years ago, and is
based on open standards, allowing easy access to operating system features and
applications. Unix is, by default, text-based and does not use a graphical user
interface (GUI), which means it can dedicate the full power of the server to your
There are many options available when it comes to writing CGI scripts on a Unix
machine. The most common at the time of this writing are PHP and PERL. There are
many introductions, tutorials, and even sample scripts available on the Internet
when it comes to PHP and PERL.
That depends mostly on the web hosting provider you select to host your website.
There are many flavors of databases that run on Unix, but the most prevalent among
web host providers are mSQL, MySQL., and PostgreSQL. These databases are all relational
in nature, and allow highly optimized communication with your website for quick
retrieval of information.
That depends on what you mean by ?hosting your site?. If you plan to host the
site yourself, and you own the web servers or the software on them, then Unix
(or Linux) would definitely be a less expensive option. If you plan to sign up
with a web hosting company, and they own the servers and the software installed
on them, you will find that there are excellent hosting options available for
each platform at very comparable prices.
Here is a short comparison of key features, and which are available for the Unix and Windows
Glossary of terms:
Web Server software freely available for both Unix and Linux.
Common Gateway Interface. In Layman?s terms, a CGI program is a program that
can be executed as part of a web server process.
Special software package that simplifies the creation of database driven web
GNU General Public License
An agreement by the author of certain software to offer his or her software for
free, and to abide by the stipulations of copyleft. Specifically, the copyleft
philosophy stipulates that anyone redistributing free software must also pass
along the freedom to further copy and change the program, thereby ensuring that
no one can claim ownership of future versions and place restrictions on users.
The kernel is the essential center of a computer operating system, the core that
provides basic services for all other parts of the operating system.
Perl is a script programming language that is similar in syntax to the C language
and that includes a number of popular Unix facilities.
In Web programming, PHP is a script language and interpreter that is freely available
and used primarily on Linux Web servers.