Although Windows remains the most well-known of the operating systems, Linux has quietly become one of the most vital to the Internet's infrastructure. Linux, the open source operating system (OS), is one of the most popular systems when it comes to building and managing servers for a variety of reasons. For one, there are multiple variations of the OS designed for a multitude of unique needs, and it is incredibly lightweight. Even so, Linux remains a scary concept for many beginners and small businesses due to the seemingly higher learning curve. Windows’ user interface is point-and-click, but Linux is known for its reliance on scripts and manual operations. However, Linux hosting has made it a moot point thanks to its many advantages. Instead of the complex coding previously required, most Linux-based servers today already come set up and give you as much or as little access to your root as you prefer.
Moreover, thanks to its lower licensing costs, Linux hosting is also more affordable, making it ideal if you’re just starting out. Before making your decision, read on below to learn more about Linux web hosting, and browse our reviews to locate the best providers in the market.
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What is Linux Hosting, and How Does it Work?
Linux hosting refers to web hosts that use a Linux-based OS for their infrastructure. Linux is an open-source OS that has become widely popular around the world because of its versatility—there are hundreds of variants for specific uses—and its customizability—you can access the root systems and modify them to fit your specific needs. More importantly, Linux hosting offers a more affordable option for hosting as its licensing costs are much lower than an OS such as Windows. Linux hosts are simply those that use Linux as a foundation for servers. Today, the majority of web hosting providers offer some form of Linux OS as a base option (indeed, they offer other OS options as alternatives, and not the main features). Because of this, you can usually find a Linux hosting service that is more tailored to your specific needs.
When Should I Choose Linux Hosting?
One of the best things about Linux website hosting is that it is so useful in a wide range of situations. The many available Linux-based operating systems mean that you can use Linux for everything from ecommerce to data analytics with very little adverse effect to your website’s user experience. Moreover, Linux’s customizability makes it ideal if you’re searching for a hosting option that gives you more control over how you set up your website’s back end. Another big reason to use Linux web hosting is affordability. If you’re not tied to the Windows development ecosystem, and you prefer a cheap web hosting solution, Linux plans are usually a few dollars a month more affordable than their Windows-based counterparts.
Types of Linux Operating Systems
The different variations of Linux (known as distributions) offer unique advantages. Here are some of the most popular Linux distributions:
CentOS is a highly popular option for enterprise level companies and smaller ones who want access to Red Hat Enterprise’s tools but without the costly trademarked materials. This Red Hat variant is fully open source and is ideal if you’re setting up a larger scale website.
This variant’s open source nature and wide usage make it a highly popular choice. Ubuntu, originally developed in South Africa, is completely free and one of the newest distributions available, but the Debian variant is highly compatible with third party tools and incredibly easy to use.
One of the older and most stable Linux distributions, Debian is an excellent tool if you’re more experienced using Linux and script-based OS. Debian is known for its fully open source components, which has some benefits but offers limited compatibility with some third-party tools.
Based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint supports its own unique user interface and graphical tools, as well as a variety of specific apps. It’s known for its ease of use, as well as its broad compatibility and accessibility for beginners.
Arch Linux is targeted more specifically at experienced Linux users, and it is generally considered a niche distribution. It’s not as widely used as Ubuntu or CentOS, but it offers outstanding optimization and fine-tuning features.
Fedora is another open source version of Red Hat (which is sold commercially). This means that Fedora offers many excellent business tools to go along with a powerful security suite and is great for both beginners and more advanced users.
This server-specific Linux distribution is one of the most popular available and is known for its outstanding administration tool as well as its impressive and extensive printed documentation.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)
One of the best-known commercial distributions for Linux, RHEL (or Red Hat, as it’s usually called) offers one of the most stable Linux environments and is meant to be used by companies looking for an enterprise-driven OS.
The Main Benefits of Linux Hosting
You Can Configure the Back End
Perhaps the biggest advantage Linux hosting offers is the ability to fully configure your hosting to meet your website’s needs. This lets you better manage resources, structure directories how you like, and build a website that is more responsive.
Amazing Load Speeds and Uptime
Linux website hosting is known for its lightweight nature, which delivers several important advantages. Chiefly, you can achieve much faster loading times since there is less to load, and uptimes are significantly higher due to most server-base Linux distributions’ stable releases.
Linux distributions used for most servers today come with powerful security tools and are customizable enough to let you establish your own protections. Additionally, you can use existing tools that offer excellent security features out of the box.
Things to Consider When Looking for Linux Hosting
Even though Linux is generally more affordable for hosting, there’s still a wide variance when it comes to individual companies. Look for Linux hosting that starts on the lower end for base plans, and can scale based on your usage, not set limits.
Because Linux is a more complex OS for most than Windows, having support is important. Make sure the hosting provider you choose offers 24/7 support and extensive educational resources.
Site Dependent, or Not on Microsoft Store
Linux has the unique challenge of compatibility. While most distributions work well with third-party applications, it’s worth making sure that your chosen host uses a distribution that gives you the flexibility to install tools you need.
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How to Choose the Best Linux Hosting
Determine Your Linux Expertise
Unlike Windows’ standardized ecosystem, Linux offers a wide range of tools based on skill. Understanding your comfort level will help you make a better choice.
Make a List of Your Needs
Next, make a list of the things you need from your hosting services, as well as which features you’d like to have included. This will start narrowing down choices based on operating systems that don’t fit your requirements.
Choose Your Hosting Type
Linux hosting gives you more than one option, ranging from shared to VPS and dedicated hosting. Make sure you choose a host that matches your budget and requirements.
Check through our expert reviews for deep breakdowns, and see what others are saying in our user reviews to find the right Linux hosting solution.
How to Install Linux Hosting
Luckily, most hosting providers you see today already offer Linux hosting ready out of the box when you subscribe. Even so, you can still install your preferred Linux distribution on some servers using their built-in installers, which will usually guide you through the process. To install the tools you need, most will already include one-click installers such as Softaculous.
The Top 3 Linux Hosting Plans
Hostwinds offers the standard shared Linux hosting plans, but where it really stands out is its dedicated options, which are fully unmanaged. This gives you full control over your server and lets you customize it to your specifications. Additionally, you can choose your Linux distribution from options that include CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and OpenSUSE. With quality-of-life tools that include Softaculous and cPanel, Hostwinds is one of the top choices for good reason.
Known for its combination of affordability and ease of use, Bluehost is great if you’re just starting out or have a little more experience. The company provides free domains and SSL certificates, along with 24/7 support and an extensive knowledge base. Bluehost hosting comes preconfigured to get you started easier and gives you both reliable uptimes and relatively fast speeds.
A2 Hosting is perhaps best known for its uptimes and its blazing fast load times, which are some of the best in the industry. The company supplies both shared and dedicated Linux hosting, and lets you choose from a variety of distributions, including Red Hat, CentOS, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, and CloudLinux.
Linux Hosting For Free
If you’re on a shoestring budget, Linux hosting may provide a perfect solution thanks to its affordability and open source roots. There are several companies that offer (albeit limited) fully free hosting solutions that let you start building a website and growing your audience. Once you’re ready for more traffic and volume, you can start considering paid options.
Final Thoughts on Linux Hosting
Despite the public’s fascination with Windows and Apple’s MacOS, Linux remains one of the most popular and widely used web hosting OS. Thanks to its versatility, sheer number of distributions, and many benefits, it remains a top choice in most situations. Read more in our expert reviews, and see what others are saying in our thousands of user reviews.