ChannelLife NZ - Hosting: Microsoft vs Linux

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Hosting: Microsoft vs Linux

Which platform best suits your client’s web hosting needs.
Your client has come to you with hosting needs and wants your expert opinion on whether to choose a Linux or Microsoft platform, which do you choose?  Is it as easy as looking at their current operating system or what applications they’re running or planning to run?  Yes and no.  In this article we will look at the different end-user types, what platforms they typically choose and finally what criteria to use to make an ultimate platform decision.
End User Types
End users can typically be separated into three groups: basic, advanced and corporate users.
 
Basic

The basic users generally consist of those who would like to be online but don’t want to spend the time and money to create an elaborate site.  The main concern for this group is simplicity and price point.  As a result they tend to prefer static pages over the time and cost associated with dynamic ones.  Their understanding of the hosting environment in general is limited and therefore issues of server performance and features aren’t at the top of their list.  Their primary goal is to have a site up and running, not what the site’s going to be scripted in or what platform it will be on.

This group generally chooses packages according to their operating system, so Microsoft Frontpage is often a favourite as it’s familiar and doesn’t require HTML understanding.  A common misunderstanding here is that customers believe they need Windows hosting because they have Windows at the office.  However, as most of these basic users are only using FrontPage for static pages, they could easily use Linux-based hosts and not pay the premium of hosting on a Windows system.  With that said Linux-based servers are limited in what Frontpage features they’ll execute (i.e. the Frontpage-based user administration feature). So it really comes down to features used and current/proposed situation for this group of basic users.

Advanced

The advanced group tends to have sites that incorporate databases and dynamic pages.  A sample user might have a content management system, forum or blog on their site-all of which require a database and necessarily scripting language to connect to the database.  These users tend to select the platform that will best support the particular application they are deploying and also look carefully at the capability of the hosting company’s system administrators.

If the user’s software requires ASP or ASP.NET, an MS plan is best, whereas if the application is written in Perl or PHP a Linux server may be preferred.  Again there are implementations of PHP and Perl on Windows servers and ASP on Linux servers, but they rarely work as they would on the server they were created for.  In a nutshell: Microsoft works through a ‘drag and drop’ mind-set via Frontpage, .Net and Share Point.  Linux allows for a greater degree of freedom to build and tweak through scripting and automation with the advantage that most free Web software is developed in Perl and PHP.  With so much invested in their site this group is necessarily concerned with the susceptibility of hackers and will require the assurance of security from the hosting company before making a final decision.  

Corporate

Finally there are the corporate users with sophisticated back office applications running on their site.  The majority of these will most likely be looking at a dedicated server versus a shared hosting plan.  The costs associated with internal support is a high priority with this group-specifically the staff time spent on ongoing support, administration, and management of IT systems.  This group is looking for a more analytical approach to their solution and is interested to know whether the total cost of the system (hardware, operating system, layered infrastructure software, applications software and support) is justified by the business benefits of a planned application.

According to a survey conducted in November 2005 by The Advisory Council, “The choice of applications software can have a huge impact on the revenue and profitability of a business.  The selection of application software should lie with the business managers who are going to depend on that application.  The choice of server platform should depend upon the application software, not vice versa.”  Notwithstanding, the platform decision for corporates involves an assessment not only of current company applications, but of future endeavours as well.  There is of course the opportunity to run multiple platforms, but then there are the additional costs of skill sets, patching, security processes, etc.

A similar rule applies to databases.  While many applications (especially Open Source applications) have the ability to connect to a number of different databases (mySQL, PostgreSQL, MS-SQL) some applications will require a specific database in order to work properly.  Again if your client wants an application which relies on MS-SQL, then you’ll be looking at a Microsoft Windows platform.  PostgreSQL and mySQL on the other hand, can operate across the different platforms, but are found primarily on Linux hosting platforms.

As the IT expert, your clients look to you to provide them with direction as they strategically plan their business application software and hosting needs.  In an effort to make your job easier, WebFarm has designed its reseller program to accommodate both Microsoft and Linux hosting needs.  With WebFarm you have the convenience of purchasing either Microsoft and/or Linux hosting in the form of shared, dedicated, and co-located hosting for your clients.  In addition you have the convenience of being able to swap platforms should your client’s needs change without having to change providers.  This allows you to adapt to your customer’s needs and offer them the trusted service of WebFarm that New Zealanders have depended on since 1996. 

To find out more about becoming a WebFarm reseller go to www.webfarm.co.nz  or call 0800 WEBFARM.

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