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Should it be Windows or UNIX? Or should it be Linux? This is a question that worries most webmasters. They know that the selection of the right operating system will make a big difference to their business plans.

The Windows servers integrate Microsoft programs such as FrontPage, Access and MS SQL used in back office operations. They also offer specific programs such as Active Server Pages (ASP), Visual Basic Scripts and Cold Fusion that make web hosting a breeze.

Most important, Windows servers can be easily managed and multiplexed due to .NET technology. They provide excellent levels of support, security and integration for the Microsoft family of products. Their special features make them a good option for both shared and dedicated hosting. However, all these services come at a cost, which may be prohibitive for small businesses.

The UNIX platform similarly provides a large number of hosting solutions. Their most important characteristic is that they can handle large volumes of traffic, are robust and capable of hosting multiple sites. Moreover, they are very flexible and webmasters can customize their services in real time from any computer. Also, unlike Windows, UNIX system is not limited to special remote administration program. Any computer connected to the Internet can access a typical UNIX system without special or costly software.

Many webmasters choose UNIX servers because of the server uptime. It is not that Windows servers do not promise 99 per cent uptime. But to achieve it the web host has to be extremely capable and proficient in Microsoft systems. This is not a limitation in the case of UNIX servers.

For a person who is new to this filed, selection of one among the many UNIX hosting plans, is the best option. However, those who are comfortable with Windows applications like FrontPage, Microsoft Access or MS SQL should prefer Windows. This makes integration easier. Fortunately, today most hosting firms support MS FrontPage server extensions on both Windows and UNIX platforms.

Also today, Linux, which is a variation of UNIX, is another option. This operating system has grown out of the free software movement and provides reasonably robust facilities. It is also much cheaper priced than Windows. Webmasters too find it easier to learn and adapt to Linux environments because the Linux code is securable online.