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What is Operating System (OS)?

We believe you are using Windows XP, Windows 98 or other versions of Windows.
Over 90% of personal computers are using Windows Operating System (OS). Operating System is the most important software for your computer. It takes care of many important tasks of your computer where in most cases you aren't even aware of. For example, your OS is responsible for booting up and shutting down your computer, handling your computer hardware (CPU, memory, disk, modem ...), allow you to install other software, plus many more. An operating system act as a platform for a computer. It needs to be installed in a computer before any other software because it is the core software.

Unix - Linux & FreeBSD

Since web hosting servers are also computers, they will also need an operating system. However over 90% of web hosting servers are not running Windows! Instead, they are using Unix as their operating system. All you need to know about Unix is that it is a FREE operating system created by volunteers and it is open source. Open source means the source-code (the programming codes) of the software are publicly available to anyone. Anyone can look at it, learn from it and even modify it. Since it can be modify freely, it actually evolved into a few variations. The 2 most popular variations are Linux and FreeBSD.
The word 'Unix' is now a common term referring to all such operating systems derived from the original Unix.

Windows Server 2003

Microsoft do have their own operating system designed specifically for servers, the newest is Windows Server 2003. But why do most servers choose to run on Unix instead of Windows? Unix is developed in the Universities for the purpose of research and has been focusing more on networking and speed. Windows is a commercial product developed and targeted to the home users. Unix is built to be more powerful, secure and fast while Windows is built to be more user friendly and easy to use. After so many years of development, Unix has been evolved into a very stable, secure and powerful platform for the servers. On the other hand, Windows (Microsoft Corporation) is consider to be a new comer to the server market.

Unix or Windows?

You should always go for a Unix web host unless you have some specific requirements that require Windows platform.
Not only Unix is more powerful and secure in networking but it is also cheaper because Unix is free! If a web host setup their servers to run Windows 2003, he will need to purchase the license from Microsoft and this will increase the hosting price.
You will need a Windows host if you want to use some Windows-only features. The most common are ASP, ASP.NET, ColdFusion, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, etc. If you have never heard of any of them, you probably won't need a Windows host. Cut it short, ASP, ASP.NET and ColdFusion are scripting language. Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access are databases.

Can I use a Unix host even if my computer is running Windows?

YES! What operating system you use is irrelevant to the operating system of the server. All you need to do is to upload all your website's files to the server. And to do this, you will be using a standard way called FTP (File Transfer Protocol), which is platform independent. If you design your website using Microsoft FrontPage and wish to publish you site with FrontPage, a Unix server is able to handle it without any problem as long as FrontPage Extensions are installed. You won't need FrontPage extensions if you use FTP to upload your files instead of FrontPage publishing tool. Nowadays, most web hosts will offer you a web-based file manager where you can upload your files without using FTP! All you need is your web browser! I will discuss more about designing your website and uploading your files in the "Build your Website" chapter.
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